Naturally our featured book is “From Sting to Spin: A History of Nettle Fibre”
by Gillian Edom. The revised 2nd edition has been launched now (2019), and we have created a little website with more details about the book, and a few chapter previews.
The concept of using the common stinging nettle to make cloth comes from fairy tales and folklore, archaeology, historical fact and anecdotal evidence. This book brings together as much evidence as possible in order to show how nettle fibre was used in many countries around the world from the earliest times up until the Second World War.
It also attempts to unravel the confusion that has arisen from the fact that, world wide, there are many types of ‘nettle’ that are used to produce fibre. There are also a few basic tips for those who want to try removing the fibre from nettles themselves.
Gillian Edom also wrote an article for the Weavers, Spinners and Dyers Journal
The use of Nettle Fibre in Japan (2005)
Several wild fibre-yielding plants in Japan have traditionally been used to extract fibre. This article talks about the extraction of fibre from the nettle Laportea cuspidata (formerly L. macrostachya). (PDF link)
Bibliography – book references
General books about nettles (All written in English unless stated otherwise.)
Davis, B. N. K. (1991) Insects on Nettles (Naturalists’ Handbook), Richmond Publishing Co. Ltd.
Vickery, Albert Roy, (2008) Naughty Man’s Plaything – Folklore & Uses of Stinging Nettles in the British Isles, London: terrAPIN Books
Warren, Piers, (2006) 101 Uses for Stinging Nettles, Wildeye
Wheeler, Keith G. R. (2004) A Natural History of Nettles, Trafford Publishing
Bredemann, G. (1959) Die Große Brennessel, Berlin: Akademie Verlag (German)
Edom, Gillian (2010) From Sting to Spin: A History of Nettle Fibre, Urtica Books (Currently under revision)
Ford, Birte (2015) Yarn from Wild Nettles: A Practical Guide, CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform
Barber, E. J. W. (1992) Prehistoric Textiles, Princeton Universtity Press
Barber, E. J. W. (1996) Women’s Work: The First 20,000 Years Women, Cloth, and Society in Early Times, W. W. Norton & Company
Papers and other publications
Bouché, C. B., Grothe, H. (1884) Ramie, Rhea, Chinagras und Nesselfaser, Berlin: Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg GmbH (German)
Hald, M (1942) The Nettle as a Culture Plant, Folkliv 6, pp 28-49
Hald, M. (1980) Ancient Danish Textiles from Bogs and Burials, Copenhagen: National Museum of Denmark
Windler, R., Rast-Eicher, A., Mannering, U. (1995/4) Nessel und Flachs – Textilfunde aus einem frühmittelalterlichen Mädchengrab in Flurlingen (Kanton Zürich). AS 18, pp. 155–161 (German)
Sabrina Esposito et al. (2019), Therapeutic Perspectives of Molecules from Urtica dioica Extracts for Cancer Treatment (PDF link)
Dunsmore, S. (2006) The Nettle in Nepal: Tradition and Innovation, The John Dunsmore Nepalese Textile Trust
Academic papers – free for download – A-Z by Author
Summaries by Gillian Edom
de Virgilio, N., 2013: Stringing nettle: a neglected species with a high potential as multipurpose crop. (PDF Link)
Academic poster. Contains information about Urtica dioica and covers botany, plant characteristics and properties, propagation and cultivation, fibre yield, processing, applications.
Barber, E.J.W., 1991: Prehistoric Textiles: The Development of Cloth in the Neolithic and Bronze age. (Google book page)
A much respected and well referenced book recommended as a good background read. Also includes some interesting information about nettle fibre.
Bergfjord, C. et al., 2012: Nettle as a distinct Bronze Age textile plant. (Online article)
Interesting and important paper that illustrates recent developments in the identification of archaeological textile fibres, with particular reference to the Lusehøj Bronze Age Textile from Voldtofte in Denmark.
Peacock, E.P., 2001: The contribution of experimental archaeology to the research of ancient textiles. (PDF Link)
This is a most interesting paper to read. It is probably a little dated as it refers to slightly earlier, though still very valid, examples of experimental archaeology. No matter – these examples have provided the foundation and impetus for more recent discoveries. It is a tribute to John Peter Wild, who is and extremely knowledgeable archaeologist and a lovely man. It contains some information on nettle fibre.
Gatti, E. et al., 2008: Development of Urtica dioica L. Propagation Methods for Organic Production of Fibres. (PDF Link)
This seems to be just the abstract and references. It talks particularly about the cultivation of Bredemann’s Clone 13, which might be interesting, but is of limited value without the whole of the text.
Ammarellou, A. et al., 2012: Effects of different culture media on rooting of Urtica dioica L. stem cuttings. (PDF Link)
A short paper that would be of interest to those wishing to cultivate Urtica dioica, bearing in mind that the study took place in Iran which has a hotter climate.
Jankauskiene, Z. & Gruzdeviene, E., 2010: Investigation of Stringing nettle (Urtica dioica L.) in Lithuania. (PDF link)
A detailed paper about Urtica dioica propagation and cultivation in Lithuania.
Tavano, D. et al., 2011: Potential of dyeing and fibre plants in Apulia Region (PDF Link)
Information about the potential propagation and cultivation of Urtica dioica in the Apulia Region of Italy.
Composite Material Use
Agus Suryawan, I.G.P. et al., 2017: Study of stinging nettle (urtica dioica l.) Fibers reinforced green composite materials : a review. (PDF link)
A short paper which contains information about the characteristics and properties of Urtica dioica fibre, which would be useful to compare with other similar studies.
Bodros, E. & Baley, C.: Investigation of the use of stringing nettle fibres ( Urtica dioica) for polymer reinforcement: Study of single fibre tensile properties. (PDF link)
A readable paper with information about the characteristics and properties of Urtica dioica and might be compared with the above paper. The details about the historical use of nettle fibre have been taken from a limited bibliography.
Baltiņa, I., Lapsa, L., Jankauskiene, Z., Gruzdeviene, E. Nettle Fibers as a Potential Natural Raw Material for Textile in Latvia. Material Science. Textile and Clothing Technology. Vol.7, 2012, pp.23-27. This is a study into the fibre yield and mechanical properties of a high fibre nettle (Urtica dioica). (PDF link)
Uddeholt, Astrid (2010) Nässlor: användbara till mycket mer än nässelsopp, Uddeholts förlag
This is a general book nettles, including several recipes, and a small section on nettle fibre. Unreferenced but with very short literature list.
Bertrand, Bernard (1999) Les secrets de l’Ortie (vol 1), Éditions de Terran
Finnish (Master’s Thesis):
Suomela, J. A.,(2015) Nokkoskuidun tunnistusmenetelmät,
University of Helsinki, Faculty of Behavioural Sciences, Department of Teacher Education, Helsinki. (PDF link).
A summary of this work in English is contained in the following paper:
Jenni A. Suomela, Krista Vajanto & Riikka Räisänen (2018) Seeking Nettle Textiles – Utilizing a Combination of Microscopic Methods for Fibre Identification, Studies in Conservation, 63:7, 412-422. (PDF link).
Jenni is currently working on a doctoral dissertation on how to distinguish bast fibres and their cultural history in Northern Europe