All the amazing things that can be done with hemp were on show at the 7th Spring Salon du Chanvre, at Noyal-sur-Vilaine in Britanny. Building materials, clothes, oils, soaps and salves, all sorts of foods including flour and beer, and hemp sandals and welly boots.
30 exhibitors spent the weekend extolling the virtues of this wonderful plant. Four local farmers growing hemp explained how they make hempcrete by mixing the fibre with lime and concrete for building, while an historical exhibition told how hemp came to Europe from Asia where it has been cultivated in China for around 4500 years. The French are much more educated about the virtues of hemp than the British says the sole British Exhibitor, Tanya Blonder, and hemp products are much more readily available in France.
Tanya who has a degree in aerospace engineering is pioneering the use of hemp yarns in the UK, which she is spinning and hand-dying in a wide range of colours. Her first hemp knitting pattern book is due out any minute. Asked about the change in career, Tanya says “Working with hemp is something you can believe in. I think the whole question of natural fibres needs a fresh look and the farming side needs to be changed to encourage the growing of hemp in Britain and Europe.”
Tanya and her mother, Jane Blonder, are pioneering the use of hemp at their studio at Beeston Farm, in Cornwall where Jane is using a combination of silk and hemp in her designs. Their House of Hemp clothes were the most colourful on display in Brittany. Beeston Farm welcomes visitors.to the studio and for workshops and retreats.