Growing Hemp in the Kootenays
Hemp used to be a crop that was grown in the Kootenay region of British Columbia. The Douhkobors and other settlers grew both hemp and flax and processed it for their clothing.
In a previous article, I have mentioned that in Canada, hemp is again legal to grow for commercial purposes. Recently, I was fortunate to have the opportunity to visit one of the new hemp farms in Grand Forks, BC. As farmers have not grown this crop for several decades, they are going through a learning curve, to know how best to grow and process this crop. With their combined efforts, it is hoped that we, as weavers, will soon be able to benefit and use their fiber crops. I visited with Lonnie Sagal as he showed me around his 30 acre crop of hemp. Unfortunately, I had technical difficulties with my camera, so don’t have photos of the field available.
The first crop was not as successful as hoped, due to a number of reasons. The Canadian government delayed in issuing the planting permits, causing the seed to be planted 3 weeks later than planned. Insufficient fertilizer was used and the seed was not sown closely enough for the stalks to grow as they should. The crop was grown for seed and the seed had been harvested when I visited in October. The cut stalks were laying on the ground, retting. I was fortunate in being able to obtain a handful of hemp stalk, to sample with. Thank you, Lonnie!
I learned that hemp that is grown for fiber use, should be picked in mid August, before the seed develops. The fiber is finer and more pliable. The samples I received are coarser and more suitable for rope than for fine weaving yarns. The retted stalks have now dried. The hemp fiber can be peeled off the stalks quite easily. I spun some of this fiber, and found it to be too coarse to use for fine weaving. I think it would be suitable for weaving baskets or mats, though. Next summer, I also hope to visit this farm a bit earlier in the season, and try again with finer quality hemp. For more info and places you can find hemp to spin or weave with, please check in our Library.
Warp: Hemp Yarn
Weft: I used the rough hemp hurds that I received from the Hemp farm that I visited.
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