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  • cdfleiner


It's nettles season again -- I have found a motherlode site where I can harvest about two dozen at a time, every other week. The best ones grow in the middle of the patch, as they have to fight with their neighbours for sun -- it means they grow a bit taller, and without as many side stems -- every second with leaves creates a tough little node on the stem, and that can affect the length of the nettle that one can harvest.

Below are some of the fibres I've extracted from nettles over the past couple of weeks.

I have taken an excellent workshop on nettles and extracting their fibre from Brigitte Kaltenbacher (who offers workshops all summer in the south of England), and have worked with them at Campus Galli.

I've got some nettles that have been in the back of my car for a year, and others that I process green -- right now I am also experimenting with retting them. There are so many different ways to get the fibre off out of them! It's much the same process as working with flax, although the good fibre in a nettle stem is a bit more challenging to extract.

At the moment, I have loads of stems retting, but every day when I am home I work with 5-6 to get to the fibre. It's a process of stripping the leaves (which I do on-site, as it puts the seeds and leaves back into the environment), opening the stem, breaking the stem, stripping the fibres from the woody centre, then scraping/rolling/carding the fibres to remove all of the woody bits.

Nettles laid out to ret:

Well-processed fibre can be finer than silk -- there are fairytales in which various princesses are tasked to make nettle clothing. I used to think it was punishment, given the sting (and during my last harvest, I took a particularly leafy specimen across the face), but rather when done properly, these are very fine fabrics indeed.

Here's Big bundle of nettles ready to go to the allotment to start their retting cycle. Happiness is when your next-door neighbour cuts the verges for the council and tells you where the big stands of nettles are (and mows around them <3).

That said, one doesn't half get some questions from passers-by when hip deep in a giant clump of nettles.

Big Unit is on hand to supervise.

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