Types, Properties and Uses of Hemp Fibre

What is Hemp Fibre?
Hemp fibre is a natural fibre that is obtained from the stems of the hemp plant, also known as Cannabis sativa. It is a bast fibre, which is soft, durable. Hemp fibre is one of the oldest cultivated fibres in the world and has been used for various purposes for thousands of years, including for making textiles, paper, rope, and other materials.

hemp fibres
Fig: Hemp fibres

Hemp fibre is also known for its versatility, as it can be blended with other fibres to produce fabrics with a range of properties. For example, hemp fiber can be blended with cotton to produce a fabric that is both strong and soft.

Hemp is the oldest cultivated textile grown throughout Europe until cotton became a major textile fibre. Now, China is the major producer of hemp. Its stalks may reach a height more than 10 feet and can be grown at height of around 8000 feet. As compared to flax it takes more time to grow, needs higher summer temperatures and can be grown for several years in succession in the same soil.

Chemical Composition of Hemp Fibre:
The chemical composition of hemp fibre can vary depending on various factors such as the growing conditions and the processing methods used. However, hemp fibers typically contain the following components:

Component Percentage (by weight)
Cellulose 50-70%
Hemicellulose 10-20%
Lignin 10-20%
Ash 1-5%
Protein 1-5%

Types of Hemp Fibre:
The stalk of the hemp plant produces two types of fibres: long (bast) fibres and short (core/hurd) fibres. Bast fibres can be cleaned, spun and then woven or knitted into many fabrics suitable for durable and comfortable clothing and housewares.

There are two main types of hemp fibre: bast fibres and hurd fibres.

  1. Bast fibres are the long, strong fibres that are found on the outside of the hemp plant stem. Bast fibres can be cleaned, spun and then woven or knitted into many fabrics suitable for durable and comfortable clothing and housewares such as rope, canvas, as well as industrial products, such as composites for car interiors and building materials.
  2. Hurd fibres, on the other hand, are the short fibres that are found inside the stem of the hemp plant. They are often used as a substitute for wood in the production of paper, insulation, and animal bedding, as well as for the production of composites for building materials.

Properties of Hemp Fibre:
Hemp fibre has a number of properties that make it useful for a wide range of applications:

a) Microscopic appearance: Under microscope it is seen to consist of cell elements. It is uneven in diameter. Longitudinally fibre shows joints and fractures (cracks) on the surface. In the cross-section, it is seen to be polygonal in shape with a pronounced lumen in the centre. The fibre ends are thick walled and blunt.

b) Strength: Hemp fibres are among the strongest and most durable natural fibres, making them useful for applications where strength is a key requirement, such as rope and twine.

c) Durability: Hemp is resistant to abrasion and decay, making them suitable for products that will be exposed to harsh conditions, such as canvas and clothing.

d) Versatility: These fibres can be blended with other fibres to produce fabrics with a range of properties, such as softness and flexibility, and can be used in the production of a wide range of products, including textiles, paper, and composites.

e) Lustre: It has high lustre equal to that of linen.

f) Absorbency: It has a high absorbency rate, making them useful for products that need to be absorbent, such as towels and cloth diapers.

g) Moisture regain: More hygroscopic than cotton. The moisture regain of hemp fibre is typically around 10-12%.

h) Antimicrobial Properties: Hemp fibres have natural antimicrobial properties, making them useful for applications where hygiene is a concern, such as clothing and bedding.

i) Biodegradability: Hemp is biodegradable, which means that they will break down over time, reducing their environmental impact.

j) Sustainability: Hemp is a fast-growing crop that requires very little water and pesticides, making it an environmentally friendly option for the production of fibre-based products.

Application / Uses of Hemp Fibre:
Hemp is primarily used in making ropes and twines and is woven into fabrics for sack cloth and canvas. Nowadays, hemp is being widely used for industrial purposes such as papermaking, bio-degradable plastics and health food. Poor quality hemp is used for medicinal purpose. Another purpose for which hemp is grown is in making marijuana (a drug). Some research work has been carried out to use hemp in making fuel, and it has met with some success.

hemp fibre products
Fig: Hemp fibre products

Hemp fibre has a wide range of uses in various industries due to its strength, durability, and versatility. Some of the most common uses of hemp fibre include:

  1. Clothing: Hemp fiber is used to make clothing items, such as t-shirts, pants, dresses, and jackets, due to its softness, breathability, and durability.
  2. Home textiles: Hemp is used in the production of bed sheets, towels, and other home textiles due to its absorbency and antimicrobial properties.
  3. Rope and twine: It is used to make strong, durable rope and twine for a variety of applications, such as marine and agricultural uses.
  4. Industrial fabrics: Hemp fiber is used to make industrial fabrics, such as canvas, which is used for a variety of applications, including sailcloth, tarpaulins, and bags.
  5. Footwear: It is used to make sustainable and environmentally friendly footwear, such as shoes and sandals, due to its durability and breathability.
  6. Accessories: Hemp fiber is used to make a variety of accessories, such as hats, scarves, and bags, due to its softness and versatility.
  7. Paper: It can be used to make high-quality paper products, such as books, newspapers, and packaging materials.
  8. Building materials: It is used in the construction industry to make strong, lightweight, and eco-friendly building materials, such as insulation and biocomposite panels.
  9. Automotive: Hemp fibre is used in the automotive industry as a reinforcement material in bioplastics, which are used to make car interiors and exterior parts.
  10. Personal care products: It can be used in the production of cosmetics, soaps, and other personal care products due to its moisturizing and nourishing properties.
  11. Food: Hemp seeds are a source of protein and other essential nutrients, and can be consumed whole, ground into a meal, sprouted, or made into hemp milk.


  1. Principles of Spinning: Fibres and Blow Room Cotton Processing in Spinning by Ashok R. Khare
  2. Fibres to Fabrics by Bev Ashford
  3. Textile Engineering – An Introduction Edited by Yasir Nawab
  4. Textile Raw Materials By Ajay Jindal and Rakesh Jindal

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