Nettle fiber, nettle cloth

by Michael Smith (Veshengro)

nettleIn ancient times stinging nettle was used to make fiber and cloth similar to canvas and linen. In fact all three processes involve retting.

It would appear that, while many talk about bringing hemp back into cultivation, nettles are not looked at as to whether they might have the same properties.

The good thing would be that one wouldn’t have to cultivate nettles; they just grow, and that almost everywhere and anywhere without any input from us. Not even the need to water them.

Already, or maybe just because, in ancient times, including in Britain, stinging nettles were used to make fiber and cloth, including clothes. But then came hemp and flax (or the other way round) and nettle fell out of favor. But why? It is readily available, does not need sowing or planting, looks after itself, basically, all by itself.

The only thing I can think of, besides the fact that nettles are not as easy to handle, due to their stings, is that, probably, nettles cannot be processed mechanically, as can hemp and flax. But that is only a guess by me. Also, and that may be more the reason, nettles do not grow in neat rows on field but more in the wild, on marginal land, and more often on land that has had some human disturbance.

We, as gardeners, groundsmen and farmers continuously wage a battle against nettles. Should we not rather, instead, acknowledge their potential and make use of them, including for the production of fiber and cloth? I think we should. Instead of fighting a losing battle against the nettles we should make use of them. Aside from providing fiber the leaves of the stinging nettle are also edible and also make a great herbal tea.

Hemp, even the so-called commercial hemp, needs certain favorable growing conditions and watering and while it maybe, though who knows, superior to nettles they, the nettles, will grow and will grow tall, without any input by us. They need no watering and no other care. They just grow and don't they just grow, and that (almost) everywhere. And, most importantly, nettles have been used for fiber and cloth before in the very old days.

Considering this would it not be an idea whose time has come to actually try and use this resource. I am sure that with today's technology it could be worked commercially to a much larger extent than ever before.

© 2018