Textile innovator Camira Fabrics has stepped back into the supply chain to work directly with farmers who grow the innovative raw material input for the company’s sustainable bast fiber fabric Hemp. The fabric uses hemp cultivated as agricultural crops to provide 40 percent of the fiber blend; the rest comes from wool.
Camira’s hemp is grown as agricultural crops under license from the U.K. government on farms in England. This bast fiber plant—like nettles, flax and jute—contains naturally occurring textile fiber just inside the outer bark to give the stem both strength and flexibility. Hemp is sown from seed in the springtime and is one of the fastest growing biomasses known, reaching over 10 feet in just 120 days, without the need for agro-chemicals. After harvesting, the long stems are left in bundles on the field, while the leaves decompose and act as natural fertilizer for the following year’s crop. A process called dew retting breaks down the fibers inside the stalks, which are then baled ready for final separation. Mechanical decortication breaks the brittle, woody stems, which gradually fall away from the lighter, flexible fiber. The woody shive is used for biodegradable animal bedding, while the textile fiber is blended with pure new wool.
The wool hemp yarn is blended and spun locally near the Camira manufacturing facility in England. The fabric is woven on energy-efficient high speed dobby looms, and then piece-dyed in low liquor dye vessels using non-metallic dyestuffs and a natural water supply flowing directly from local hills. The combination of blending bast fiber with pure new wool makes an inherently fire-retardant fabric without the requirement for FR chemicals, post treatments or backcoating.