Unique Nettle Textiles from the Mountains of Nepal

The nettle plant ‘Girardinia diversifolia’ known as nettle occurs naturally at altitudes above 1500 metres and loves the partly shaded forests.  It has large coarse leaves with a fine down but also has vicious thorn like stinging hairs. This obviously makes the harvesting quite difficult.

The plant seeds freely and young shoots sprout annually from the roots.  These roots help to stabilise the soil: an important factor in the fragile mountain areas.

The inner bark of the stem yields fine strong fibres which are among the longest in the world.  Harvesting usually takes place often in the monsoon season.  A man can usually harvest 37 kilos a day.  They use vicious looking knives to harvest the nettle. .  Their hands are swaddled with cotton materials to help protect them when rubbing off the leaves and thorns. The nettles are then stripped, boiled and beaten to release all the strands.

For centuries the Rai people have extracted these fibres to spin and weave mats,

bags, sacks and clothing, also to knot fishing nets for their own use and to barter for trade.  To make these various items, they developed light weight spinners which could be used to spin the threadwhen at rest or walking.

Life is hard in the beautiful mountain areas but using the nettle/allo is helping them bring in income.  The products they make are often unique and are gradually finding international recognition.  What Linen became to Ireland or silk to the east, hopefully nettle/allo can become to Nepal.

Over the years many things have been made with the nettle/allo mterial.  But here in the west it is the handbags and shawls that have proved the most popular.  The netle/allo shawls when washed become beautifully soft and they take well to being dyed with natural dyes.

We are privileged here at nltEngland to be able sell some of these items.  If you are interested please do contact  us at info@nlt.org.uk