Jewelry with a twist: How to make hemp jewelry
Hemp is a rather versatile material, with tens of thousands of uses -- from biomass fuel to fabrics. While currently banned from being harvested in the United States due to its relations with drug-related plants, we can still enjoy great hemp creations!
Lots you can do with hemp
What can you make with the stuff? One such creation that has been popular for quite a few years is hemp jewelry. A few features set hemp jewelry apart from other types of handcrafted pieces.
- Inexpensive: Hemp jewelry is low in price compared to the typical handmade metalworked jewelry.
- Durable: This is not the kind of jewelry to snap when you least expect it. Wear it to the gym, work, clubs, anywhere you desire.
- Environmentally friendly: If you get tired of your hemp, yes, it can be recycled.
While hemp jewelry is typically seen in stores catering more towards teenagers and young adults, don't let that fool you. The subtle textures and neutral color of natural hemp lends itself very well toward completing a casual ensemble. With dyed hemp, available in a wide variety of colors, you can mix and match your jewelry to your outfit.
Hemp is often featured with spring and summer colors, with colorful beads, often lampworked (a form of handmade beads), added along the length of the jewelry.
Hemp jewelry is available at a variety of retailers across the country, but the best comes from those that handcraft their jewelry from their own homes. Craft shows and flea markets are great places to find them since you can try on the pieces and avoid shipping costs.
While hemp, both handcrafted and in bulk, is available on the Internet, it's hard to determine if the piece is right for you just by looking at a picture. Factors like color, weight and feel all effect hemp jewelry purchases, and it something you can neither describe or emulate through text. However, many jewelry designers do make a great deal of sales through online venues such as eBay.
The absolute best thing about hemp jewelry is how fun and easy it is to make yourself. While there are certain weaves that take a great deal of time and practice to master, even the basic knots look great and are simple to create.
The following is a simple step-by-step project suitable for ages five and up. Try it yourself, or turn it into a fun afternoon projects!
What you'll need
- A ball of 20lb hemp
- Tape measure
- Masking Tape
- At least one bead for end knot (more if adding to jewelry design)
- Measure out two lengths of hemp, each approximately 3 yards and fold both lengths in half.
- Place one end (where the hemp makes a loop) on top of the other strand, making sure that none of the four strands are touching
- The middle two strands are referred to as carrier strands, meaning that they will carry any beads that are added to this project. The outer two strands are what will actually be knotted, forming the pattern of the necklace.
- The knot that will make up the majority of the necklace is called the square knot. Moving the outer strands down slightly from the loop of the carrier strands, keeping in mind that you will need enough space to fit a bead or end knot through the hole it leaves, begin by placing the right outer cord over the carrier strands and under the left outer strand (it will look vaguely like the number
- Leave the right outer cord where it is for a moment, this time moving the left outer cord under the carrier strands and through the opening made by the right outer strand (inside the 4, if you will). Make sure to pull the hemp tight.
- Cut off the extra hemp, gluing the end knot to make it stronger.Once you have finished the knotting, it's now time to make a closurefor the piece. There are a wide variety of ways to do this, but the simplest is using a bead that's slightly larger than your loop (remember, the one you made at the beginning?). Slide a bead onto your carrier strands, then tie an overhand knot using all 4 strands (take all 4 strands, make a loop with them, then pull them through the loop).
- If the hemp is scratchy when you put it on, run beeswax over the strands. This will eliminate most, if not all, of the irritation.
- If the project doesn't look exactly as you imagined it, keep in mind that hemp jewelry designers spent many hours practicing and perfecting their jewelry. This project is a basic one, taking 30 minutes to an hour for a beginner, but shortening to around five to 10 minutes if you really keep at it.
- For an alternate look, instead of switching between left and right knots, simply stick with one. This will create a twisting pattern that looks quite nice.
As you wear your jewelry, the fibers slowly merge more and more into each other, getting rid of the scratchy feeling that many people complain about, and making it a strong whole. Careful soaking of your jewelry can produce this effect faster, but too much water can make the fiber deteriorate and break apart. Many people will wear their hemp jewelry in the shower, which produces the same effect as targeted soaking.
Closely examine any pieces of hemp jewelry that you plan to buy. Pay special attention to the consistency of the hemp, and stay away from pieces that have multiple large chunks of fiber (called bunk) throughout the strand. This is a sign of poor quality hemp, although sometimes there is no choice but to leave bunk in, as unfraying it can threaten the integrity of the weave.
Paperclips are often used to bridge short gaps, and if you want a more elegant looking solution, you can knot additional links into the ends of your jewelry. Put tape at the top of the loop made by this knot, and also at the end of the two carrier strands, making sure that it holds the carriers tight. This will help keep your knots tight and make completed project looking great.
If you are interested in learning more about how to make hemp jewelry, and additional projects, take a look at these websites and books.
- Handcrafted by Elaine offers a great deal of information on knots and jewelry design techniques.
- A great resource for jewelry designers is Knoting Work's Jewelry pages.
- Hemp Masters: Ancient Hippie Secrets for Knotting Hip Hemp Jewelry by Max Lunger is the ultimate resource for knots, patterns, projects, and information about hemp, with numerous illustrations and advice.
- If you prefer to go the easy route and purchase hemp jewelry rather than make it, we like HemParadise.