[DWJ] Nettle shirts

Minnow minnow at belfry.org.uk
Wed Aug 23 05:25:15 EDT 2006

Juliette wrote:

>FYI, it is perfectly possible to make wearable garments from nettles.
>Nettle fabric was still being made in parts of Germany as recently as
>the 1930s. I have never seen any but I have read that it is fine, soft,
>and pleasant to wear.

I was assuming that the lads had to suffer to be disenchanted, as well as
their sister having to suffer in the making.  I suppose as a child I felt
it would be only fair.  I have a feeling that in the version I was told,
they were turned into swans because she was for some reason preferred to
them and the witch or whoever it was wanted to get them out of the way, so
she felt responsible for their troubles.

I got this story mixed up later with the ?folk-song? about the impossible
tasks: the man demanding that his girl show her devotion by finding land
between low and high tidemarks on which to grow a very small crop of some
improbable weed, then use the weed to make him a seamless shirt, with
impractical-sounding tools for the cultivation and the preparation of the
cloth.  The jerk! thought I.  Why didn't she just dump him?  But if it were
to get him out of evil enchantment, as in the swans story, then maybe he
had a point and she wasn't just being idiotic if she went along with the
whole business.

(The lyric offers no explanation so I had to come up with one or else hate
the song, which would have been a pity because it has a good tune.)

The only trouble was that folk-songs don't generally have actual magic in
them, or so it seemed to me, and I couldn't understand how, apart from
magic, a random weed could be turned into fine fabric.  Now you've given it
a more practical explanation.  Thank you!  I suppose one might be able to
make a sickle out of leather, and use a very stiff feather for carding: it
would take a long time, but it might just be *possible*...

(That was a challenge, by the way, to ingenious characters.  *Could*
hardened leather be used to cut a harvest?)


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