Friday, February 25, 2011

Beautiful, yet Sustainable

I continue my quest to find fabrics that are organic and/or sustainable that I can use to create batik, shibori and other hand dyed treasures.

My newest fabric is a 100 percent hemp linen. You'll also see it referred to as "summer cloth". This fabric has a threadcount of 54 by 54 and weighs about 4.5 oz every square yard. It has the feel and look of a medium weight flax linen.

My only gripe with hemp so far is that is it not easy to tear.  I am too lazy to cut lengths by hand with scissors or rotary cutter. The high threadcount cotton I use is a breeze to tear into lengths. This saves a lot of time. With hemp, you really need to put some muscle behind your tear, and you will have some threads that pucker.  Hemp frays easily, so washing by hand or by machine on gentle cycle is a good idea. I washed this piece before I dyed it.  I wrapped it around a pole, bound it, and dyed it in an orange dyebath. It came out a soft butternut orange.

In the picture above, you can even see where water droplets were trapped below the fabric. Really neat!

One thing I do like about linen -- flax and hemp -- is that when used in pole wrapped shibori, you don't see as big a difference in color from the layer closest to the pole and the layer furthest from the pole. Normally, with high threadcount cotton, you'll see a big difference in the value of hues.  I suspect this is because it is a denser cloth, and the dye has a harder time penetrating and bonding through the multiple layers. Hemp linen, being a lower threadcount, allows the dye the penetrate the layers more readily. For this piece, I accordion folded the fabric into four folds before binding it.

Hemp linen is about four times the cost of the conventionally-raised cotton I normally use. But sometimes you have to pay more to do the right thing.  It's priced pretty comparably to flax linen.  I did use some unscented softener on it after washing it out -- the fibers do get rather roughed up from the salt and soda ash in the dyebath.

here's the link to this hemp fabric in my store:

Hemp Linen Shibori in Butternut

Thanks for reading.

1 comment:

Willa said...

So beautiful!!
I have been wanting to learn natural dying and shibori but haven't found the time yet. I've only experimented once with a silk scarf. I look forward to purchasing some of your fabric for my handbags sometime!