[DWJ] Nettle shirts

meredith at leemac.freeserve.co.uk meredith at leemac.freeserve.co.uk
Thu Aug 24 20:21:08 EDT 2006

A long time ago I went on one of these outdoor survival courses where we learnt to make rope and thread out of nettle. It was incredibly easy, but I hope I've remembered it rightly. First of all you get rid of the stings by holding the bottom of the nettle stem, where there are no stings, while the plant is still in the ground (you can do it bare-hand but gloves are recommended), then you keep your fist tight and run your hand fast up the plant to the top. Your hand is going against the direction of the stings, so you don't get stung, and you are basically flattening them.
Then you pull the plant up, strip off leaves etc, and thrash the thing against the ground until it has softened and the fibres begin to separate. Soon you can start to pull them apart with your fingers into separate threads. You keep thrashing the lot until it's as soft as you want, and you plait the threads into rope. Of course this is only the length of your plant, but if I remember, you can plait or twist another length into the top (or bottom) of the first length, and if you thrash that bit onto the ground it actually sticks together well.  
Before anyone trusts their life to a rope made like this I strongly recommend you double-check what I've remembered ....
cheers, Meredith

> Message Received: Aug 23 2006, 02:36 AM
> From: "Juliette Curtis" 
> To: "Diana Wynne Jones" 
> Cc: 
> Subject: [DWJ] Nettle shirts
> 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.
> You process the nettles in the same way you process flax to make linen. 
> You wet the nettle and let them rot until all the soft parts of the 
> plant are gone and only the long fibres in the stalks remain. The stings 
> are in the soft parts, so rotting (actually the correct term is 
> "retting") the plants gets rid of the strings. Then you pound and comb 
> ("hackle") the remains to separate the individual fibres, and then you 
> spin and weave them like any other fibre.
> Sorry for the lecture but sewing is one of my passions....

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