gather and grow

Homegrown, hand-spun living in the city

I’m spinning into thread the nettle fibers that nature grew and I harvested this summer. (Head over here if you want to read Part I about harvesting and processing stinging nettle fiber.)

What I had at the end of the summer was a bundle of wispy fibers extracted from stinging nettle stalks. Because I was doing this for the first time and had not figured out the ideal length of retting time, there was definitely still a lot of green plant matter (cellulose) from the nettle stalks adhering to some of the fibers. In August, over the course of a few evenings, I carded this silvery green mass using hand carders, and managed to separate a lot more of the fibers from the chaff.nettlespinning2In the end I held in my hands fluffy tufts of spinnable fiber from plants that I’d collected myself from woods and meadows on our family’s land!!!

Those who know me know that that’s the sort of thing that makes me almost burst with excitement, my face beaming and my heart pounding and way too giddy to go to sleep.

The actual spinning of the nettle fibers, it turns out, takes some patience. It’s quite comparable to spinning flax, in that the fiber lacks the crimp of wool, so having that analogy helped me to get the hang of it. I actually tried combining the nettle fiber with some silk, but in the end I went ahead and spun pure nettle thread. Since I hadn’t been able to get rid of all the green matter, now my nettle thread has light green color mixed with its linen-like off-white. Maybe the purists wouldn’t approve, but I love how it looks.nettlespinning3

nettlespinningWhat will I make with my nettle fiber, you ask? I may be able to spin enough to then weave into a scarf once I get the small loom I’m dreaming of. Or I could make a crocheted bra. Doesn’t every girl need a crocheted nettle bra? But whatever I end up making, it’s literally going to be clothing that grew in a forest.

9 thoughts on “Nettle fiber experiments, Part II

  1. A lady in my weaving /spinning group was describing spinning short fibers as “shoving it up the orifice” which gave me a good chuckle! Clothing from the Forrest just sounds so wonderfully dreamy, and that green colour just adds to the earthiness.

    1. Mari says:

      Ha! The not-so-easy-to-spin fibers are a good practice for patience, for sure.

  2. Pia says:

    Seriously cool! Did you try spinning it moist, like flax was supposedly spun? (remember the old ladies with a fat lip from the fairy tale – I hope there’s another method, lol)

    1. Mari says:

      Yes, in fact! I did have a little bowl of water in my lap while spinning, and that helped to “glue together” the fibers and control some of their fly-away tendencies.

  3. Dawn@CCH says:

    How wonderful! I get all excited about making things myself, especially if I grew it or harvested it from the wild. I hope you share whatever you end up making!

  4. Tracy says:

    So I just collected a small bunch of nettle in hopes of trying this. It’s only July 1 so I will go back in about mid-August and get some more. I’m in western New Jersey . For now I will rett this in the backyard using several wet-downs with rain/the hose over a couple of weeks. I have been making hand twisted cordage from dogbane (apocynum cannabinum) but I do medieval recreation so nettle is on my list of skills I want to try. It looks like you are spinning this like tow flax, not line flax. I have heard there is a lot of sugar in nettle which, if not retted out, will continue to ferment. How is your nettle experiment going? Write another post please.

    1. Mari says:

      Hi Tracy, thanks for your interest. Sounds to me like you know as much or more as I do by now! I’m not doing nettle experiments this summer because I’m fully occupied pursuing other things. But I’d love to hear how yours goes.

  5. Tanya Brauer says:

    Oh my goodness I am so excited about this! These are weeds in my backyard! Cannot wait for summer!!!

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