23 October 2008

Spinning: The virtues of the nettle

Waking up this morning brought home to me that it is truly winter, and I smiled with glee! I love dark mornings, I love the wind, the rain, the cold... and the occasional need to bring a hot water bottle on the bus to work.

It's also, oddly enough, got me thinking about what lovely fibre opportunities I may be missing at the end of the growing season; notably, the untapped uses of the stinging nettle.

Nettles used to be a well-used source of spinning fibre, similar to flax. Apparently its preparation is the same, too. The fibres in a nettle are very long and strong. Nettles, I have learnt, have been used for over 2,000 years as a clothing fibre, only losing popularity in the 16th century thanks to the surge in cotton growth. Cotton, however, appears to be a nasty plant, guzzling water and requiring intensive spraying to control weeds and insects. This naturally end up in local water sources. Nettles on the other hand grow in abundance, provide food for wildlife without damaging the crop, grow in temperate regions and produce a soft, silky fibre.

For the record, they're also an excellent source of vitamin C, and make a very tasty tea. I found this great page and this one while having a root around the net.

Who could ask for more from their local demon plant?
I'll have to experiment with some over the coming months.


  1. Cool, nettles sound slike a relaly interetsing thinsg to spin with, especioally sicne they're regarded as a pest (I know that nettles try to suffocate most of our garden if left unchecked).

    Also nettles can be made into soup and paper i belive.

    just amke sure you have some dock(doc?) leaves on handy incase you get stung!


  2. Absolutely! Luckily, dockweed and nettles tend to live close to each other over here. But, even luckier, nettles don't have any sting later in the season. They're only going to hurt if they're young shoots. The old, woody plants have no fight left in them. : )



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