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The most beautiful hand-harvested, handspun and handwoven blended nettle and cotton textile made in India by skilled artisans.
This particular pattern is a neppy "diamond eye", with a varied texture and irregular pattern made during the handweaving process. The yarns are black and ecru so creating a warm appearance. Due to the hairy and slubby undyed natural nettle yarns, the look of this cloth is rugged with irregularities to the pattern, making it actually quite subtle. Despite it looking hairy, when on the skin it is instead comforting and almost padded. The cloth showcases the same pattern on both sides.
It has been finely spun and woven so that the weight and hand feel is suitable for garments, though it can also be used for accessories, and homewares and interiors. In terms of garments, we suggest jackets, heavier shirts, skirts, some style of dresses. You should not need to line your project due to how soft the fabric is, though for anyone with skin irritations it may help to provide a buffer. If you pull in all directions, this cloth has real integrity and durability, truly woven by skilled craftspeople.
The nettle yarn has been spun as a double ply giving it additional strength, and is further blended with cotton to combine their properties. The nettle is undyed, while it is the organic cotton that contains the colour (azo-free dye).
As the nettle yarn is natural and undyed, it has flecks of beige within it, and as we have discovered with this particular cloth, there is even some "chaff" - straw - from the nettle stalks. Note, it is best not to pull them out to avoid pulling yarn with them, and they should break down in washing anyway.
Requiring no to little chemicals to grow and process, nettle is a good fibre for the land, for farmers, yarn processors and for weavers.
The cotton is also grown locally using traditional organic processes, which means no chemical fertilisers, pesticides or herbicides have been used in the cultivation. It also means that the farmers are using their own seed, rather than GMO. This is beneficial for farmers and for the land.
The fabric is woven within a community of 75 female artisans in Uttarakhand, India. For 9 years they have been working to promote the craft and natural fibres of the area, by using locally-grown and foraged crops.
Green plants are harvested by men of the community November-December, with the outer bark peeled off to reveal the inner bark - or what is used as fibre. This is left to dry, bundled up and then stored in a well-ventilated room to dry further.
Once dry, the bundled fibre is softened by boiling it with wood ash or caustic soda, and then rinsed in running water while being beaten with a wooden hammer, again to help softening and to remove any excess outer bark. This is a task for the women of the community.
The retting process - either on the ground or in running water - will allow the gums keeping the fibres together to break down.
After retting and beating, the fibres are bleached using a solution of white clay, maize flour and rice chaff (broken stalk pieces) to make the fibres white and bring out the natural lustre. They are left in the sun to dry again.
Crushed limestone is then added to the fibres to make them a little greasy allowing for easier handling in separating out the longer and shorter fibres, helpful for spinning.
The fibres will then go for hand-spinning using either a spinning top or charkha (spinning wheel)
As this fabric is made of natural fibres, it is 100% naturally biodegradable in the right conditions.
Nettle is one of the oldest harvested fibres. As you may know from your own garden, nettle plants grow quickly and widely, but rather than being a weed, it has a long root structure that prevents soil erosion, fixes nitrogen and is a pollinator for butterflies. Himalayan nettle grows well in the high altitude of the Himalayan region, requiring no irrigation or watering, with all parts of the plant being able to be used for food, fibre and fuel. At up to 5 metres tall, it offers plenty for fibre and other sources.
Nettle as a fibre has been long used for its strength and durability, including in India as bandages for its known properties in healing wounds quicker than other fibres. It is a mildew resistant and odour resistant fibre. Blended with organic cotton, this fabric has softness and breathability too. As nettle is a hollow fibre, it will keep the wearer cool in summer and warm in winter, and again with the cotton blend, has a softness against the skin.
The dyes used for the organic cotton are azo-free and so are not coloured with any harmful substances. The nettle fibre is undyed and so the natural fibre colour.
To care for your product:
Suitable for the washing machine and tumble dryer, but we recommend cooler washing or hand washing, and air drying to prolong the fabric's lifespan.
Turn the machine down to 30 degrees for a more environmentally friendly wash. In Europe alone, if every household turned its washing temperature down to 30°C, we could save 12 million tons of CO2 a year. We recommend line drying as this reduces energy usage and looks after your textiles for longer. Use a mild detergent, light botanical refresher or even just steam the item you've made in your bathroom after a shower.
You should not need to iron due to the neppy texture, but if so, use a medium temperature.