Nettles were used to create fabric in Neolithic times and its usage pre-dates that of linen and wool. The stems of the nettle provide a fibrous matter that is the basis for the yarn that can form a fabric. Asian nettles can stand a soaking of up to 10 days, but you are more likely to harvest the wild nettles in Britain. These nettles cannot stand such a length of time in water. Follow the method discovered by Austrian Chemist, Professor Oswald Richter who found a successful method for processing nettles into fabric.
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Things you need
- Rubber gloves
- Wild nettles
- Plastic container
- Garden pond
- Rolling pin
- Garden rake
Put on the rubber gloves and fill the kitchen sink with cold water. Strip off the leaves from the nettle plan and cut off any roots. Save the leaves in a container. These can be used to create a dye.
Leave the nettle stalks to soak for 12 hours in the kitchen sink. Remove all the stalks from the water and then drain the water from the sink. Place the stalks back into the sink and run cold water over them without the sink plug fitted. The aim is to rinse the stems.
Proceed with the standard methodology for getting yarn from flax. Tie a string around a bundle of the stalks leaving spare length on either end of the string. Tie a stone around each end of the string. Drop your nettle stalks in the garden pond stretching out the stone on each side of the bundle so it is held down without being crushed. Leave the stalks in the pond for three days.
Remove the nettle stalks from the pond and lay them out on the ground in the sun for a few hours to get rid of excess moisture. They now need to be cured in a dry warm place, so you should spread them out on newspaper and then lay them out in the greenhouse, if you have one, or in the attic. Leave the stalks to cure for a month.
Lay out the dried stalks on a flat surface and run over them with a rolling pin. The aim is to get rid of the bark and leave the fibrous material within behind. This bast fibre will start to look like messy string.
Lay the garden rake on the floor outside and seize a bunch of the bast fibre. Put your foot on the rake handle to stop it moving and then run the bast through the rake head repeatedly. This will separate out the fibres. You will now be able to twist or spin this clump of fibres into yarn and then weave the yarn into fabric.
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