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Re: [BKARTS] Hemp Cord

In a message dated 3/24/03 14:07:45, lehmann@xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx writes:

<< Does anyone on this list know how hemp cord compares to linen cord to
sew on? I've been given a sample of hemp cord. It seems very strong,
frays out very nicely, and claims to be 100% natural. I have no idea
though about its long term use. >>

An interesting question:
I don't know the long term difference between Hemp Fiber and Linen (Flax
Fiber), but, as far as I know, I think they are quite similar. In fact, in
some older books, we may be seeing "Hempen" cords instead of linen. The one
thing that I do know is that good linen cord should be "double-boiled and
washed" to remove the harmful "natural" agents/chemicals, like lignin, etc.
Maybe the same is true for Hemp. Chris Clarkson investigated linen cords some
years ago, and the double-boiling was an important factor.

I am also aware that our "so-called" "Unbleached" Linen Thread is most likely
bleached to "improve"(?) its appearance, and to remove some stuff.
Also, I have found that most modern flax is retted with an acid (oxalic?)
rather than the traditional "dew retting" or "_____ retting". Unfortunately,
we are at the mercy of the major fiber suppliers.
What is the long term affect of this retting process on the fiber,
especially, if it is not properly washed out or neutralized?
This is certainly a topic of interest to me. An article was published some
time ago in the Abbey Newsletter.
At the same time, I (and a few others) wonder if we would really be better
off using cotton fiber for thread and cord? Flax, by its nature, is a brittle
fiber. On the other hand, cotton, although not as strong in regards to
tensile strength, is much better suited for flexing, as in the cords --
Another interesting topic?

Bill Minter
William Minter Bookbinding & Conservation, Inc.
Woodbury, PA
fax 814-793-4045

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