Looking for a sustainable, strong yarn great for baskets, rugs and textured weavings? Nettle fibers might be the perfect choice for you. I explore what nettle yarn is, and ways to use it for knitting.
I reviewed, fact checked and updated this post on May 16, 2023.
Table Of Contents
- What Is Nettle Yarn?
- What Do You Use It For?
- Common Blends Using This Fiber
- Where To Find It
- Interesting Facts
What Is Nettle Yarn?
Nettle yarn (nettle fibre) is a plant fiber. This special natural bast fiber isn’t popular because it’s not widely available. However, it’s sustainable, has a high-yield of fiber, durable, and long lasting. They hold their shape well. They’re also great for home décor items and sold at affordable prices. Color options brown, green or yellowish.
Where It Comes From
Nettle yarn is made from fibers of the stinging nettle plant. Its scientific name is Urtica dioica, and it’s also called the burn nettle, the common nettle, the nettle leaf or stinger.
There’s six subspecies of nettle: Urtica dioica, Urtica galeopsifolia, Urtica afghanica, Urtica gansuensis, Urtica gracilis, and Urtica holosericea.(1) The etymology is: Urtica comes from a Latin word meaning “sting”, and Diocia is derived from an ancient Greek word meaning “from two houses”, named for the plant’s structure.
How It’s Made Into Yarn
Nettle yarn is produced in the same way as making yarn from other plant fibers; through a process of preparation, spinning, and dyeing. First, the fiber-rich stems are dried and then combed. The end product looks like straw or hay. The straw is then spun into thin threads to be plied into yarn.
The fibers that are extracted are white and long. They’re hollow, which makes the fabric good for keeping you warm, but it also lets air pass through.
Here’s a video on the fabric-making process.
How To Wash Nettle Yarn
Here are the care instructions for nettle fibers.
- Hand wash in cool water.
- Don’t use fabric softener or bleach.
- Lay flat to dry away from direct sunlight and heat sources.
Always check the yarn label for instructions specific to the yarn you’re using.
Does It Shrink When Washed?
Nettle fibers are resistant to shrinking when washed — they don’t stretch or warp either. This makes them ideal for knitted garments and items you want to keep in shape long-term.
How To Soften Nettle Yarn
Washing it after you’ve finished knitting always helps!
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What Do You Use It For?
Wondering whether you should use it to make a project? Here’s why this fiber is used to make yarn. It’s often used for projects and things like home décor items like baskets or rugs, bags, or purses. It’s not really suitable for summer garments, read my article on better summer yarn options for knitting.
It often resembles twine and has properties similar to the flax plant. Pure nettle yarn is a little stiff and feels rough on the hands, so it’s not ideal for projects needing drape or an intricate design.
When blended with other fibers like wool and cotton it is possible to knit garments, socks, hats, scarves and shawls as it’s softer. Usually only a small percentage of the blend is nettle.
Common Blends Using This Fiber
Here is a list of common blends using this yarn, and why they’re created.
- Wool/Nettle – This blend is often used for a natural alternative to nylon for knitting socks. The wool adds softness, while the nettle provides strength and structure.
- Linen/Nettle – This combination makes yarn that’s strong, but also breathable. It makes great summer projects like hats and scarves.
- Cotton/Nettle – Cotton/Nettle is a good blend for garments. It’s lightweight, strong and flexible.
- Silk/Nettle – Silk/Nettle yarn makes luxurious yet sturdy projects, like shawls and sweaters. The silk adds shine and drape, while the nettle gives strength and structure.
Where To Find It
Here’s where to find this yarn: at a yarn store or craft stores in your area and in online brand shops. Here are brands or manufacturers of nettle yarns to try: Onion Nettle Sock Yarn, Classic Elite Yarns Woodland, and Ancient Arts Fibre Crafts Nettle.
What’s The Price Like? It’s moderately priced, and it’s great value for the quality and strength of this fiber.
Want to know some fascinating tidbits about this material? Impress your friends with these.
- Nettle yarn was frequently used in Europe a long time ago. People called it the ‘Poor man’s Linen’. Nettles were used to make thread and yarn, which made everything from ropes, sails and tablecloths.
- Nettles are also used for medicinal purposes and as a vegetable in soups and stews.
- They’re pollinated by butterflies
- It also makes a delicious tea!
- During WW1, the German Army had uniforms made with nettle materials
- It’s often used to make shampoo and conditioner
FAQS About Nettle Yarn
Is Nettle Yarn Safe For Babies?
100% nettle yarn is not safe for babies because it’s rough and stiff. If you’re knitting with a nettle blend it would be more suitable as the other fibers would add softness.
Is Nettle Yarn Ethical & Eco-Friendly?
The plant is sustainably grown, and it can be harvested without damaging the environment. Plus, using this fiber reduces waste since it doesn’t require chemical treatments.
What Can I Make With Leftover Nettle Yarn
You can make coasters, mini baskets or napkins.
Is Nettle Yarn Good For Clothes?
Yes, it’s good for clothes because it’s strong, yet breathable. Plus, it’s resistant to shrinking when washed.
Do Nettle Yarns Pill?
No, they don’t pill.
Can You Dye Nettle Yarns?
You can, but dyes don’t stick well to the fibers. When you blend it with dyed wool, the yarn has a mottled appearance. If you’re feeling adventurous, you can use nettles to dye yarn pale shades of green or yellow. Here’s a video explaining the process.
This helpful guide will walk you through the fascinating process.
Happy crocheting or knitting! Hope you enjoyed this article. Do you have questions? Please leave them below!
- Wikipedia contributors. 2022. “Urtica Dioica.” Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia. November 15, 2022. https://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?title=Urtica_dioica&oldid=1122028168.