[Sca-cooks] flax processing (was Bread labor)

Stefan li Rous StefanliRous at austin.rr.com
Tue Nov 13 22:51:18 PST 2007

Phlip commented:

<<< Thanks, Jadwiga. I think what I was remembering was that the fibers
were very coarse until more modern methods of retting, etc were
developed, so it was used primarily for cordage and rough cloth. >>>

Okay, I think you earlier had said that help wasn't used for fabric.  
I'm afraid I haven't had the time to reply in detail on this in the  
last few days. I'm glad Jadwiga did. Hemp cloth was definitely used  
for rough cloth. It was what the original "canvas" was made of.  
Notice the similar/same root as for cannabis. Cotton canvas takes  
it's name from it's similarity to the previous canvas, although it is  
not as tough nor does it withstand rough environment as well.  
Unfortunately, since almost all canvas cloth has to be imported to  
the US, it costs a bit more than cotton canvas. I had wanted to make  
my pavilion out of hemp canvas, but the cost, particularly because of  
the large amount needed, was too far out of my budget.

 From this file:
hemp-cloth-msg    (27K)  7/ 5/02    Cloth and clothing made with hemp  

Along with linen and nettle fabrics, several hempen textiles have been
excavated in Viking archaeological contexts.  The one I remember best  
is the
lady from mid-tenth century Birka (Grave 837) who was buried in a  
green repp
wool caftan lined with hempen cloth and trimmed with silk samite.   
Birka lady, from the early ninth century (Grave 619), was buried in a
garment that included a strip of beaver fur trimming that was lined with
another hempen cloth.

As for texture, these Birka hemp fabrics are at the high-quality side  
of the
range of fineness for linen fabrics at the same site in the same  
They are emphatically not burlap:  both the cloths mentioned above were
about the same fineness as silk noil in their thread counts (15x15  
and 20x20
per centimeter, compared with 20x20 per centimeter for the last piece of
good-quality silk noil I counted).

Like linen, hemp is hard to dye with most of the Viking Age dyes.  Very
probably, it was usually used like linen:  either undyed or dyed blue  
woad.  (One of the other hemp textiles from Birka was dyed dark blue.)

I myself would treasure a hemp garment--for its authenticity as well  
as its
modern rarity.

Carolyn Priest-Dorman                  Thora Sharptooth

This would also seem to contradict the idea that hemp cloth was just  
used for rough cloth, which was my feeling until I reread this. It  
also is one of the few bits of evidence I've seen that indicates  
linen (or hemp) can be dyed with period dyes. So I can use by modern  
dyed linen fabric for outer layer clothing for Pennsic's heat. :-)

<<< But, I've found a source of yarn, and am considering buying some to
play with- am currently dithering over plain hemp, or a hemp/wool
combo. >>>

Unfortunately the above file doesn't have that many examples of  
period hemp cloth use. What it does have are listings of a number of  
merchants of hemp cloth. So if you are weaving your cloth as a  
weaving experiment, then that is probably still worth it. If you are  
doing it simply because it was the only way you thought you could get  
some hemp cloth for other uses, then I would check out some of the  
sources given in this file.

THLord Stefan li Rous    Barony of Bryn Gwlad    Kingdom of Ansteorra
    Mark S. Harris           Austin, Texas           
StefanliRous at austin.rr.com
**** See Stefan's Florilegium files at:  http://www.florilegium.org ****

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