Group makes and sells hemp jewelry

by Cheryl Leschasin
Northern News Services

NNSL (Aug 15/97) - Four local women found a creative way to spend their summer this year.

Since returning from college and university last spring, Gli Edmonds, Sarah Nicholson, Natalie Langan and Kylie Healy have been making hemp jewelry together.

"We've actually (individually) been making the jewelry since around Christmas," said Nicholson. The group came up with the idea to try and sell it in spring.

"Folk on the Rocks was our first time selling it. We did very good -- people actually wanted our jewelry," said Healy.

The four decided to sell the various beaded necklaces, bracelets and knick-knacks after friends approached them, asking the group to make jewelry for them.

Hemp jewelry, especially when the beads are hand-crafted, is not a quick-and-dirty product by any measure. "It takes forever to do," said Edmonds.

Using macrame techniques, the actual bands take around an hour to make, depending on the length and pattern complexity.

The real-time consumer, though, is making the beads. "You can get bulk Fimo beads, but the handmade ones take a long time to make," said Healy.

The women create the beads by using Fimo, a plasticine-like substance that hardens once baked. The tricky part is to create patterns on the inside of the flat, circular beads.

Fimo is available at local craft shops, but the budding entrepreneurs must import their hemp from Calgary.

Sold in different thicknesses and textures, the hemp used for items like jewelry and clothing is far different from the plant used for recreational drugs.

"You can't smoke it," said Langan. In fact, hemp grown for fibre contains only extremely low levels of the psychoactive chemical associated with marijuana (THC).

Hemp grown for fibre actually has numerous uses and is extremely environmentally friendly.

For example, one acre of hemp, which takes four months to reach maturity, produces more than four times as much paper as one acre of trees.

Paper made from hemp also lasts longer than regular paper -- the U.S. Constitution is made of hemp, for example -- and does not yellow as easily.

Hemp fibre is more absorbent, longer-lasting and cheaper than cotton. Hemp also has the potential to be used as fuel, an edible oil, sailcloth and even railroad ties.