Remember this? I knit this back in February when I first got back from New Orleans. Carl had just returned from a trip to Copenhagen and brought me the soft, silky, drapey Onion yarn made from fine organic wool and nettles. I’ve been a little obsessed with nettle yarn since then and my current fixation with linen has only fanned the flames.
I’ve been wearing my Flying Geese a whole lot more lately than I care to admit…what with these consistent 35 F-ish mornings (Blech. It’s May. Enough already. ) so I’ve got nettles on the brain.
Nettles produce a bast fiber very similar to flax. The process for extracting spinnable fiber is pretty much the same as with linen. The labor-intensive drying, retting and scutching must be done with nettles too, but since the nettle fiber is softer and silkier, the heckling or combing process can be replaced with ordinary carding.
When you look at a product like Ecoyarns Natural Nettle Handspun, it’s easy to see a resemblance to linen and also to hemp. Its natural crispness make it an abvious choice for things like mats, brimmed hats and bags.
The fact that a fine, cotton-soft, sustainable fiber can be produced from a plant with a wicked sting is paradoxical, especially when you think about wearing it next to your skin! Ever bought something made of Ramie? I know I have, and I always thought it was a type of cotton. Wrong! Nettles!
I think nettle fiber is at its best when blended with other fibers. Wool, for example, adds loft and plumpness and absorbs dye differently. Look at the beautiful depth of color in this alpaca/merino/nettle blend by Onion.
Here, nettles are blended with superwash merino for a luxurious sock yarn.
As pleasant as the idea seems, we don’t have to go all the way to Denmark to find beautiful nettle blend yarns. Several North American brands make beautifully dyed, consistent nettle products available to us every day. Take a peek at this: Woodland by Classic Elite. This is stocked by EweKnits in Toronto:
If you’re really interested in the antique, hands-on process of extracting and spinning nettle fibers, you could take a trip to Perthshire to visit the talented Birte at Nettle Craft. Easter Auchnaguie, Tulliemet, this unbelievable stone cottage is available for vacation rental…hands-0n demonstrations upon request!