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History of Hemp Rope

Hemp rope has been used throughout history because of its ease of growth, high yields and long strong fibres. Traces of hemp rope have been discovered dating back as far as 8,000-10,000 BC in Asia, where Archaeologists discovered imprints of hemp cord on ancient Chinese pottery.

Here’s a few other instances of hemp rope throughout history, and around the globe:

  • • There is further evidence of hemp rope being used in China around 2800 BC.
  • • Hemp rope dating back to 600BC was discovered by archaeologists in Russia.
  • • Hemp rope is widely recorded as being used by the ancient Greeks and Romans.
  • • In the UK, Hemp ropes were discovered in a Roman well in Dunbartonshire dating back to between 140 and 180 AD. Thought to have been brought there by the occupying Roman forces during that time.
  • • Hemp ropes were used by viking sailors in the middle ages, and fragments of hemp rope have been discovered in viking burials in Norway.
  • • Before modern synthetic ropes, hemp was the preferred choice of naval fleets, explorers and seafarers throughout history! Its role and significance in our shared history cannot be underestimated.

How Hemp Ropes are Made

Hemp rope is made by twisting or braiding natural hemp fibres together. The fibres used in hemp rope are called the “bast”. This section of the hemp plant is below the outer bark layer, and surrounds the inner stalk. The fibres are strong and long, running the full length of the stalk. These long fibres are what gives hemp ropes their natural strength.

Hemp provides more natural fibre per acre than cotton or jute, and the fibres are easily extracted for making hemp rope. These ropes have been made using the same traditional methods for thousands of years. To distill the process to its most basic explanation; strip the fibres from the plant, and twist them together!

Hemp Rope Benefits

  • • It’s strong! The breaking strains of hemp rope are among the best of all natural fibre ropes.
  • • It has good abrasion and heat resistance.
  • • Takes dye very well. We recommend fibre reactive dyes that bond with the fibres at the atomic level. A world of colours is open to you!
  • • Excellent non-slip properties, make it great for tying knots.
  • • Can be softened for a luxurious feel against the skin.
  • • It’s all-natural, meaning that it’s a perfect environmentally friendly and sustainable rope choice!
  • • Hemp plants are a fantastic carbon sink. They remove more CO2 from the atmosphere than any other plants/trees.
  • • Hemp can grow in poor quality soil, and helps to improve soil quality.
  • • Hemp requires less water to grow compared to other natural rope materials (jute/flax/cotton).
  • • It contains no plastics! A BIG problem with synthetic / oil based ropes is that they leak microplastics (tiny plastic fibres) into the environment.
  • • It’s biodegradable. Hemp ropes break down naturally over time (if left untreated) whereas synthetic ropes remain in the environment for hundreds of years, disrupting ecosystems and causing harm to animals who get trapped in discarded nets and ropes.

Hemp Rope Uses

Modern uses of hemp rope vary massively, from decoration and craft projects, to industrial and heavy-duty uses. Hemp rope can be used for any number of purposes, including (but not limited to)...

Softening (Conditioning) Hemp Rope

Many people like to soften their hemp rope through a process known as “conditioning”, especially if the rope is going to be used directly on skin (as with Shibari rope bondage). It’s important to note that this process adds softness, but sacrifices of some of the rope’s strength. Conditioning hemp rope is a fairly simple procedure, but you’ll need a good amount of time available to invest in this process, as it can be a bit lengthy.

We’re not going into the details of how to do this today, as it has been covered by many others online. Since the process involves open flames and the not insignificant risk of ruining your rope, we’ll leave the instructions to others who have greater experience in these techniques. Search online for “how to condition hemp rope” and you’ll be sure to find instructions on how to do this.

How to Store Hemp Rope

Untreated hemp rope should ideally be stored indoors, in a dry environment with a consistent temperature to prevent it from rotting. Damp conditions are not great for hemp, as the natural fibres will begin to biodegrade. If you’re using hemp rope outdoors then we recommend a waterproofing treatment.

How to Waterproof Hemp Rope

Waterproofing hemp rope can be achieved with natural products by treating it periodically with natural pine tar such as “Stockholm Tar”. The advice is to heat the tar container in warm water, and then apply to your rope, either by dipping the rope in the tar, or applying liberally with a brush. This will provide a layer of protection against damp, which can lead to rot.

How Strong is Hemp Rope?

Hemp rope is one of the strongest natural ropes available. In terms of the best breaking strains it cannot compete with modern synthetic ropes, but is among the best natural and environmentally friendly options available. Each thickness has a different strength, and you’ll need to take a look at the product pages to find out the exact breaking strains for each rope.

How to Dye Hemp Rope

We recommend dyeing hemp rope with one of our low-impact eco fibre reactive dyes. These dyes bond with the atoms in the rope fibres to provide a long lasting rich colour that will not bleed. These dyes work particularly well with hemp rope due to it being a natural fibre.

Rope, Twine & Cord

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