Traditional Hemp

March 6, 2009 / Local Interest
traditionalhemplinen1The use of canapa (hemp) goes back thousands of years; in Italy it was a major source for clothing, burlap bags, ropes, sails…. as well as those beautiful hand-crafted and embroidered sheets that were an important part of every girl’s corredo (dowry).

The Museo della Cittá e del Territorio located in a 12th century round tower in Vetralla, is the venue for an exhibit opening on this Sunday, March 8th (Woman’s Day), extolling the work done by the mothers and grandmothers of the town.

traditionalhemplinen2The pleasure of sleeping on hemp sheets – cool in summer and warm in winter – are known to those lucky few who still have these handmade heirloom sheets in their linen closets. A collection of tools used in hemp cloth production are also on exhibit and include carding combs, spinning wheels and spindles of la Bella Addormentata nel Bosco fame. (Literally, Sleeping Beauty in the Woods).

Fortunately, awareness of hemp is not only retrospective but is also once again quite contemporary. Age-old knowledge of the quality and virtues of this versatile fabric is now being rediscovered by Italian and American fashion designers alike who are racing to create stylish collections produced from this amazing, historic organic material.

Auguri to them, and auguri for Woman’s Day!

Mary Jane Cryan

by Mary Jane Cryan

Mary Jane is a historian, cruise lecturer, author and publisher of books on Italian history and central Italy has been residing in Italy for half a century.

See her award winning website and weekly blog posts on 50YearsInItaly for more about central Italy and to order books directly from the author.

8 Responses to “Traditional Hemp”

  1. I was so happy to see this blog posted on twitter. I was given a piece of fabric to display at a hemp gathering where I live.

    made in 1912 by the mother of the lady who gave it to me, for her dowry, hidden from the Germans in the first world war and then brought to Australia where it was used for sheets, and even now reused her daughter for the granddaughter and great grandchildren.

    I was so honoured to be given apiece of this fabric to keep after returning the larger pieces to her.

    Would love to post this piece on my site if you are happy or that to happen.

    thanksyou, Diana

  2. Margie

    OMG! I still have several towels and sheets that were part of my mother’s corredo (dowry). They are beautiful. I still remember old ladies on their looms in my paese, weaving the fabric for these great creations! Thanks for the memories.

  3. MarioMeggie

    Humm, I have a few pieces of what I thought was old linen (nightgowns, sheets, dish towels). How do I tell if it’s hemp?

  4. the only way to tell for sure is by a flammability test. However nothing else will stand the test of time like hemp. In Italy it was called Canapa ( i hope that is correct) hemp sheets are also good for heavy night sweaters, as it absorbs moisture so well.


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