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Making Pliable Textiles and Fabrics from Stinging Nettles

stinging nettles

Spinning straw into gold? Not quite, but spinning the fibers of stinging nettles into textiles or fabrics to make clothing is indeed something special.

Stinging nettles are an exceptional plant. They are nutritious and an age-old food source. They can be used to make cordage for everyday practical or survival situations. And here, Allan Brown demonstrates that they can also be harvested and processed to make textiles or fabrics.

Brown has made a study of nettles, and is an expert on collecting, retting (rotting to soften the fibers) the plants, extracting the plant fibers, processing, spinning and ultimately weaving those fibers into various qualities of fabric.

It’s a fascinating process.

You might be saying to yourself that it requires a good amount of labor to process stinging nettles into fiber. That is a fair assessment. But bear in mind that Brown is approaching this as a primitive, pre-industrial skill. That is, he’s doing it the way our ancestors made fabric: completely by hand in every step of the process.

According to Brown there are still cultures in the world today that use nettles to produce clothing the old, primitive. hand-crafted way. His experiments and studies with the plant show that it can still be done. Given enough time, usable fabrics can be woven and turned into clothing or whatever you may deem fit.

Perhaps some engineering-minded entrepreneur will look at this and come up with a feasible and profitable industrial process using machines to turn nettles into fabric. In any event, should you ever find yourself in a survival situation and in need a loincloth or a pair of socks, perhaps stinging nettles will give you pause for thought.

I’m kidding! It’s much too labor intensive to be of practical use in a survival situation. But using nettles in this fashion as an outdoor hobby is realistic, and would be a very unique pursuit.

Like what you see here? You can read more great articles by David Smith at his facebook page, Stumpjack Outdoors.

NEXT: Primitive Skills: How to Make a Bowstring From Sinew

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Making Pliable Textiles and Fabrics from Stinging Nettles