How is Nettle fabric made?
Nettle fabrics have been used since roughly 2000 years ago. Around the 16th Century they lost popularity because of the introduction of cotton. Cotton was much easier to harvest and spin. The Nettle is a highly successful plant found all over the world. It can grow up to anywhere between 60cm and 2m and stings when it comes into contact with human skin. It prefers rich soils, but can grow almost anywhere.
The ‘Bark’ stem of the Nettle plant contains fibres that can be processed into textiles. In the Himalayas these fibres are still collected. The bark is then stripped from the stem and the fibres are laid out in the sun and dried for three days. They are then put into a pond for about 10 days and rinsed off. These can then be spun into rough yarns. This process doesn’t work for all types of stinging nettle; some kinds just disintegrate in water.
Nettles are a naturally hardy plant, meaning that they don’t need the sheer amount of pesticides and chemicals that fibres like cotton need in order to grow. Nettles also grow well in rainy climates and other areas usually unsuitable for crops.
Today, Nettle fabrics are produced by extracting the fibres from the stem by soaking them in water. The ‘bark’ outer layer is used to make baskets. Machinery similar to that used in the production of hemp is used to peel away any remaining stalk and extract the fibres. These are then spun into yarns which can be woven into fabrics either made entirely from Nettle of blended with other natural fibres such as hemp, cotton and wool. Nettles also produce a natural dye. The leaves make a green dye and the roots a yellow dye, so no part of the plant is wasted in production.
Properties of Nettle
- Finer than Hemp
- More eco-friendly than cotton
- Remarkable high tensile strength
- Soft and Silky to wear
- Naturally Fire-Retardant
End uses of Nettle fabric
- Strong white thread made from nettles is used for fishing lines and nets
- Cloth Paper
- Used in many Italian fashion houses
- Was used during WWI for German uniforms when cotton was scared. These had to be lined or they would irritate the skin.
- Jeans, Jackets, Shirts and Dresses
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