When you imagine a luxury tablecloth fabric, linen may be your first thought. Natural, long lasting and environmentally friendly too. But a worthy competitor is emerging to challenge linen for the top spot. Hemp. Yes .. hemp!
A quick overview of hemp and linen
Linen and hemp are both natural fibres that have been cultivated for centuries. These versatile materials have been crafted into everything from clothing and bedding through to rope, fishing nets and even paper.
Linen fabric is made from the fibres inside the stalks of the flax plant. Other parts of the plant are used for flax seeds and linseed oil.
Are you thinking that hemp and marijuana come from the same plant? Wrong. The hemp plant used for fabric is Cannabis sativa and is a completely different plant to marijuana. Hemp fabric is created from the outer fibres of the stalk of the plant.
Whether you choose linen or hemp, they both have significant benefits compared with synthetics like polyester and also outperform other natural fibres like cotton.
What do linen and hemp have in common?
- Strong, durable fabrics that last a lifetime.
- Soften with repeated use and after every wash.
- Natural and breathable.
- Highly absorbent so they dye easily to create beautiful printed designs.
- Antibacterial properties, resistant to moths, fungi, dust mites, mildew and mould. They are non-allergenic.
- Hollow fibres make them effective insulators – cool in summer and warm in winter.
- Biodegradable, so they get a big tick for being kind to the planet.
- Incredibly versatile as almost the entire plant is used resulting in very little waste.
- Linen and hemp are some of the most environmentally friendly fabrics in the world. They have a low impact on global warming, pollution of waterways and water scarcity.
- They can be blended with other fibres to add new beneficial properties.
- Due to their production methods and availability, both fabrics are at the luxury end of the market. They are often around twice the price of a similar product in cotton.
How are hemp and linen different?
- Even though both are more durable than other fabrics, hemp is reported to be up to eight times stronger than linen and has the longest shelf-life of any natural fabric. This is because hemp fibre bundles are longer than flax.
- The fibres of the plants are different colours. Hemp is a yellowish-grey to dark brown and linen yellowish-buff to grey. As they both dye easily, this is not noticeable in the finished product.
- Hemp is very resistant to ultraviolet light, so it won’t fade or be damaged with sunlight.
- The elastic recovery of linen is better than hemp. In fact, hemp stretches less than any other natural fibre.
- Hemp grows quickly and densely, so weeds don’t get a look in. Hemp is also naturally resistant to many pests so it can be grown without herbicides and pesticides. Weeds can invade a flax crop, so some herbicides may be used. However, this usage is still much lower than other crops like cotton.
- Hemp is a higher-yielding crop. For the same area of land, hemp will yield between 225 and 365 kgs while flax averages 150 to 200 kgs.
- Hemp is a very hungry plant and needs a lot of nutrients like nitrogen, phosphorus and potassium plus water to provide a successful yield. Flax needs very little water and nutrients, so is very eco-friendly to grow.
- Bees love hemp! Hemp is a valuable pollen source between July and September when foraging bees struggle to find pollen from other sources.
Hemp vs Linen – The winner
Hemp and linen are both gorgeous fabrics that are eco-friendly and beautiful to own for a lifetime. They are both kind to the planet and lovely fabrics to have in your home. Surprisingly, they are so similar in many ways that it is hard to pick a clear winner. Linen is certainly the more established fabric in the luxury market, but high quality hemp is now jostling for equal billing in designer homewares.
Perhaps the final decision isn’t about which fabric is intrinsically better. What’s most important may be what has been created with the fabric. Which product or design do you personally like the most? Discover our exquisite range of tablecloths and table runners and make your own choice. Either fabric will be a winner.