Sewing With Hemp #2

I just finished sewing a batch of sprout bags for a soon-to-be non-profit organization that I love, Plenitud PR. To see the story on how I got involved in this and the prototype bags of hemp cloth, go to my prior post We went through several styles and tags for the sprout bags, and finally settled on this:

shows their website,

shows their website,

The folks at Plenitud in Puerto Rico hold workshops on sustainable living, and sometimes put up displays at events like Earth Day celebrations. They demonstrate how to grow sprouts by putting seeds in the hempcloth bags and watering them a few times a day for about 5 days, resulting in a harvest of fresh green salad fast food. Perhaps you’ve read that a bill has recently passed in Colorado, making hemp-growing legal in that state. Here’s an interesting article by a proponent of hemp as a sustainable building material, Jason Lauve, “Team Hemp House.”

I used the hemp 7 oz. summer cloth from Hemp Traders, the one that Plenitud staff members like best, and made a drawstring for the bags out of 100% hemp twine 3 mm thick. On the website,, I found that one can order scrap hemp cloth by the pound, so being the remnant-seeker that I am, I asked for a pound of scrap. What they sent me was a heavy, long, skinny canvas-like piece of hemp cloth that had what looked like burned-off ends. No problem. I eventually decided it looked like the right size and shape to make a yoga mat carrying case.

I usually keep my yoga mat in the car so I don’t forget it, but this one was in the bathroom since I brought it home from the gym the other day after having smashed a cockroach on it during practice (so much for ahimsa, eh?) and I wanted to rinse it off in the shower before using it again. I wrapped some of the hemp scrap around it to get a rough measurement, cut a rectangle that seemed fitting, and machine embroidered a border motif on it (from Embroidery Library). Then I cut some circles that roughly correspond to the wound-up ends of the mat, and sewed them on. I put a little hem on the unfinished ends in case they want to unravel some day.

snap closure

snap closure

I left most of the hemmed edges open, they’re just sewn together at the ends where the circlepieces connect. After breaking a couple of needles, I switched to one for sewing leather, with better results. I really hope I didn’t screw up the alignment on my needle sewing through thick layers of this very heavy, but seemingly breathe-able cloth. One of the properties of hemp cloth is that it’s supposed to resist mildew. Sometimes after practice I wipe the mat with those wet-wipes they dispense at the gym, to get the foot-germs off, but it’s never soaking wet after practice.

The mat fits very snugly in this bag, so I don’t think it would ever fall out while carrying it, but I sewed on one snap in the center. My DH felt that velcro would have been a great closure, but oh my goodness, no. You just don’t know the overall demeanor of my group. The sound of someone ripping open a velcro seal in class, shudder! It is not welcome, as they’ve been known to announce. Ditto, the sound of someone snapping their mat out of its roll and flopping it casually on the gym floor. We’ve been asked not to make unnecessary noise when coming in to class, especially if we come in late and everyone is already sitting in a meditative pose with their hands folded in prayer position or facing up. And don’t leave your smelly tennis shoes on the floor anywhere near the nose of your neighbor, put those bad boys over by the wall. I think it’s funny, every time they announce that, my eyes involuntarily roll up into my head and I try to guess which of the ol’ ladies it originated with. I know it’s not the tall skinny lady with the Eleanor Roosevelt hair-do because her trainers are more often than not right there next to her mat. And I refrain from adding loudly to the announcement, “And for heaven’s sake, don’t fart! Don’t even think about farting!”

Ahem. I digress.

I added a strap to carry it on my shoulder. I’ve seen lots of bags with various kinds of straps, and I think they are pretty cool.

all bagged up and ready for down-doggin'

all bagged up and ready for down-doggin’

off to the gym

off to the gym

Sewing with Hemp

I recently took advantage of an opportunity to sew for a non-profit organization that gives workshops on sustainable living practices such as organic gardening, building, vegetarian cooking. Plenitud Iniciativas is located in the mountains of Puerto Rico. Part of their organic farming/vegetarian cooking workshop includes growing sprouts inside bags made of hemp cloth. When you are thinking of fast food–that is, real food–how does 3 to 5 days from seed to harvest sound to you? You have fresh, organic salad food loaded with nutrients, and you grew it yourself by doing nothing other than soaking and rinsing your seeds-in-the-bag a few times, and letting them hang in the bag to drain. I’ve been growing the seed mix they sent me, anticipating a salad with fresh sprouts for our Thanksgiving feast on Saturday.

I found a great site with loads of details, showing how this blogger BeStrixed accomplished such an amazing healthy harvest. She made a large sprout bag; the ones I made are smaller. You can buy sprout bags from lots of internet sources, usually for 8 or 10 dollars, not including shipping costs. Hemp cloth can be a bit pricey but more economical if you can get it in larger quantities. Hemp Traders says the fabric is “shipped directly from our overseas factories.”

Can it be that hemp fiber is shipped from overseas because it’s against the law to grow hemp here in the US? Maybe that will change, given the results of the recent election that legalized marijuana in two states. Who knows, maybe hemp will be America’s crop of the future, a big boost for our economy? Hemp has been grown in Canada as a commercial crop since lobbyists were able to convince the government that it’s possible to distinguish it from marijuana. At one time, the US government knew there was a difference, too, according to David P. West’s Hemp Myths and Realities. See this article by Small and Marcus for more info about hemp. Hemp is an amazing fiber. It is strong, durable, grows very quickly, and can be used to make some of the same things we now cut down trees to make, like paper. And here’s a unique source for buying anything from hemp sprout bags ($1 off the $9.95 price if you order 12 or more) to hemp-fabric wedding attire for bride and groom:

sprout bag

A particularly good property of hemp cloth, ideal for sprout bags, is that it is resistant to rot and mold. Plenitud’s staff chose Hemp Trader’s Summercloth, a variety of 100% hemp linen, for the sprout bags. It has a wonderful heavy linen-like feel to it. Hemp Traders also sells light-weight 100% hemp linen (CT-L3) that’s soft and sheer like cotton or linen lawn. Hemp Traders will gladly send you samples along with a price list. Besides hemp linen, they sell hemp jersey knits, cotton and hemp blends, spandex stretch blends, and hemp/flax blends.

98% hemp, 2% lycra rib knit

Here’s a pic of a 2.5 yard piece of Stretch Hemp Rayon I bought from For a hint of how rayon was first made by DuPont, after its scientists studied the cellulose in hemp, scroll almost to the end of this informative rant by the Hemp Historian.

If you’ve been distracted by all the info given in the links herein, you probably now know a lot more than you planned to know about hemp! It’s easy to sew and to iron; in fact I made sprout bags with my serger since my sewing machine was in the shop. I am thankful for nice fabric and a project such as this to keep me realizing what a beautiful and amazing earth we live on. Don’t we owe it to ourselves, our posterity, and Mother Earth to find more sustainable, rather than destructive, living practices?

[Added 11/25/12]
Here we have a picture of our sprouts. Only 4 days ago they were just a tablespoon or less of tiny seeds.

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