Today I had a wonderful meeting with a papermaker. We talked about hemp, flax, and how the papermaking group is transforming invasive species into useful things. I'm hugely impressed with their work.
The conversation turned to nettles. I had some nettle skins I had stripped in years past that I forgot to hide out of sight. So we got to talking about it. One of the things with making paper is the difficulty in separating the fibres from the woody part of the plants. Stripping the skins of the nettles solves this problem.
I sent some home with her to test. Things are busy, so it will probably be a few months before we hear the results. But the method sounds a lot like how some places process nettle fibre for yarn. Boil the material in an alkali solution remove anything, not cellulose. Then process the results into the desired form.
I'm so glad I found this thread! My crafty friend heard about nettle yarn and told me aboutbit and now I'm taking some baby steps in play with them.
I just harvested a bundle - maybe 20 or so stems - last week. They were about 4 feet tall and sun-grown. Still early in the season too. Having not researched fully beforehand (I browsed this forum and watched the Russian man's amazing video), I dried them on our metal roof. I think in the future I'd go for processing green, though I'd like to try dew-retting and we have a beaver-dammed stream that might be perfect for water retting.
I'm a little nervous about how to proceed with this batch, but then again it's not like I have a scarcity of nettle plants to work with!
Super short summary of the story: King marries evil stepmother-queen. She's jealous of his eleven sons and one daughter. So she turns the princes into swans (they are only human during the night), and makes the king think the princess is ugly and so he casts her out. Princess reunites with her 11 brothers. And, then she dreams of Morgana:
“Your brothers can be released,” said she, “if you have only courage and perseverance. True, water is softer than your own delicate hands, and yet it polishes stones into shapes; it feels no pain as your fingers would feel, it has no soul, and cannot suffer such agony and torment as you will have to endure. Do you see the stinging nettle which I hold in my hand? Quantities of the same sort grow round the cave in which you sleep, but none will be of any use to you unless they grow upon the graves in a churchyard. These you must gather even while they burn blisters on your hands. Break them to pieces with your hands and feet, and they will become flax, from which you must spin and weave eleven coats with long sleeves; if these are then thrown over the eleven swans, the spell will be broken. But remember, that from the moment you commence your task until it is finished, even should it occupy years of your life, you must not speak. The first word you utter will pierce through the hearts of your brothers like a deadly dagger. Their lives hang upon your tongue. Remember all I have told you.” And as she finished speaking, she touched her hand lightly with the nettle, and a pain, as of burning fire, awoke Eliza.
I copied that from:https://andersen.sdu.dk/vaerk/hersholt/TheWildSwans_e.html (which has the whole story, though my version names the princess Elise). I really didn't feel like trying transcribe it myself!
The princess manages through great trials and lots of rashes and hard work to make the 11 coats of nettle mail, and saves her brother. So, it looks like spinning flax into gold isn't the only magical spinning in fairy tales!