Tuesday, March 17, 2009

hops and hemp (and fiber, too)

Hey Beadnik! your hops guess was a good one, because that was going to be my next “guess this photo”


Here it is, coming up self seeded in the pots by my outdoor shower.

Now, I have always read that hops are difficult to get started, but that has not been my experience. These came from the Whitewater River in South Eastern Indiana. Hops grows wild all over the river banks there. Introduced by the early German settlers, I would imagine. This would be the rampant, wild type, not the fancy, highly sought after beer making varietal types. When I lived in Metamora, I had a large (and exclusively) container grown garden, having no yard to speak of. I had hops in a pot growing up the porch railing. When I brought some of the potted perennials back down to Tennessee with me, the hops seeds, prolific and hidden in the dirt, came along too.

Each year I train them up the posts of the outdoor shower and collect, dry and jar some of the hops (female flower cones, called strobiles) for tea for when you can’t sleep. I emphasize the training part, cause these rampant, weedy vines are very scratchy, and they can cut you, cut you bad, if they nod over onto your naked body while you are showering.

You are probably asking what this has to do with fiber. Well, hops and hemp are in the same family (Cannabaceae) and both are paper making candidates. Home scale paper making is is one of those arts that appeals to fiber people, but others get that little wrinkle in the middle of their forehead and have to wonder why…

Anyway, I am back on hemp and during research stumbled on this interesting page from the hemp museum on the chronology of paper making. I found the notes that “by the 1860’s America used more paper than france and england combined” really revealing as well as that in this time period 88% of the content of paper was still made from recycled rags. If you are like me and into chronologies, this is fascinating stuff…


  1. years ago, I remember reading that a careful gardener could graft a hops body to a marijuana (hemp) rootstock and grow the intoxicating weed without attracting the unwanted attention of law enforcement types. I never tried this, but was always curious. Now, as an older woman, I wonder what if there would be a fiber benefit either way, i.e. grafting hops to hemp or vice versa.
    fun to think about, though.

  2. Hey beadnik! That is completely unheard of and fascinating to me! I, too, am too old for the effects, but I have often thought that if the hops fiber in the vine was "just a little stouter" it could be harvested abundantly and easily as a spinning fiber crop. Seems like grafting it would be tricky, kind of like grafting one mint variety on to another, very tender stem and all, not like grafting trees...hmmm, a person could practice grafting with mint, though, couldn't one?


Welcome to Spindolyns At Cady May's Corner

Frequently Asked Questions   Etsy Store