Hemp requires significantly less water to grow, no insecticides, no pesticides or fertilisers of any kind, rejuvenates the soil it grows in and probably has the lowest carbon footprint among textile fibre crops. It solves many problems that the fashion industry is infamous for. But despite the increasing conversation around the goodness of hemp, you don’t come across hemp-made clothing in mainstream fashion. This is because hemp faces many roadblocks ranging from unclear regulations to high costs that makes it inaccessible. One such major challenge is non-compatibility of hemp with modern textile machinery. The best way to process hemp is ‘cottonisation’ of hemp. To put it simply, ‘cottonisation’ is the process of converting the hard bark of a hemp plant into a cotton like structure so that it can be used on dry spinning systems. The word ‘cottonisation’ is very loosely used across the textile/fashion industry and many people often confuse it with boiling and or opening of fibres. But it is a more holistic process which involves modifying the properties of hemp fibre to make it ‘soft’ and compatible for spinning. Again, there are many ways to cottonise the hemp fibres which involve either one or combination of enzymatic, chemical and mechanical treatments. The major challenge in the ‘cottonisation’ is to balance the process in such a manner that it makes hemp soft and spinnable without damaging the functional properties of hemp fibre. Another element in the ‘cottonisation’ process that needs to be considered is the sustainability of the process itself. From the amount of water used to the nature of chemicals involved, there are many factors that can impact its sustainability.
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