Folk Art Nettle Fiber

Nettle, Hemp, Flex and Willow Fibers

NettleIn spring some stalks of grasses and nettle are broken by the wind or too dry in summer, some places have to exfoliate the top layers of the cortex, which contains the fiber. Their flexibility and strength is long appreciated by the birds for example, the crossbill or wren are always looking for it, for their winter nests. Sparrow fill the cracks in their previous nest that hangs over the water on a the branches of willow. The natural grass fibers are so strong that it is not destroyed for several years. I am sure these birds crafted and advised humans in ancient times to use the stronger elastic fibers like flax, hemp and nettle – the oldest fiber plants, which we have learned to handle.

nettleFrom long and strong fibers produced yarn for fabric on tailoring, sails and sacks. From it are woven carpets, ropes and woven fishing nets. On the western shore of Lake Ladoga was found by archaeologists ancient fishing nets, woven from the threads of nettle in the Stone Age. Many will recall Andersen’s fairy tale about how a girl rescued from the evil spell who turned into wild swans. On the advice of her fairy grandmother she took nettle, mashed its stems and strands, and then produced from them her clothing. In the fairy tale it reflected the old people’s pagan faith in the miraculous properties of the fabric of nettle fibers that can protect people from evil spells and the evil eye, and to heal various diseases. Wonders of nettle yarn to knit socks that are worn for rheumatic pain, belt, used for sciatica and migraines.

Gradually capricious stinging nettles pushed to the more compliant flax and hemp. However, the memory of nettle as a fiber plant is still preserved somewhere in the depths of our oldest villages and the consciousness, sometimes appearing in children’s games. In an ethnographic collection of the 19th century, it was reported:

“In the villages of the province of Ryazan, Russia, girls spun fibers from nettles to produce thread, which was made for the dresses of their dolls, the mother threads were not allowed to be used.” Perhaps, from a pedagogical point of view of the mother acted very wisely, not only because it reminded of the need to save, but because inadvertently teaching children to do needlework, crafting as an important ancient craft of women and way of life that contributes greatly to the community. How the girls became known to spin properties of nettle fibers, which adults had long forgotten is unknown… Iti s fair to say that nettle fibers were much more ancient but not forgotten by all adults. Even today, they are used for spinning yarn by the indigenous people of Kamchatka and the Amur regions.

Nettles should be only harvested in the autumn season and dried, then soaked for many months and again dried, to obtain finally the most trust (the so-called-dried and peeled stalks of fibrous plant), from which it is extracted for spinning fibers. And if you collect nettles and wait until winter and in the first half of spring, you’ll have nature’s rain, dew, frost, fog and winter thaw do the hard worked for you.

Nettle stalks should be well dried, spread out on the stove or next to a radiator or a fire. Then, remove the twigs and dried leaves. To check the quality of the resulting trusts, knead it with your fingers and breaking in several places and it should break apart in your hands with a slight crush of the fiber – separated from the woody parts of the stalk.

Not domnesh Mälk: (do not take the spinning wheel) warned the peasant proverb. Myalitsa or Mälk can be made for the treatment of a small number of trusts in the home and it consists of four parts. By the wooden base 20 mm thick attached screws E two boards with a saddle notch. From inside the cut out in each field plates mowed at 45 degrees. Lever or beater, slightly tapered bottom and fastened to Myalitsa with the bolt. In turn, strengthen the foundation of the Myalitsa screwing on the bench or any other stable support. For a time in the Myalitsa can knead just one handful of trusts, that is as much as can fit in the hand. Begin to trust press down with one of the ends, put her in the saddle-shaped cut-out with a raised arm. Each time you press and the subsequent lifting of this trust lightly rotate and advance forward slightly. So do as long as a handful of trusts will not be fully obmyata. Fig. 68


Obminanie trusts is more disputed if instead Myalitsa use homemade three-shaft or twin-shaft Mälk (Fig. 68 b). Although the work for them and one can, together still more convenient and faster. One lays the trust between the shafts and the other turns the handle and takes wiped stems.

To remove from trusts boon – the wooden part of the stem is broken down into small pieces – it swinging has the shape of a large wooden knife or mower. Trepalki (Fig. 69 a) are cut from solid oak, maple and birch. When applying frequent sharp blows, how to knock cleaner jammed in the fibers boon. Then put on a stump and carefully puncture. (Fig. 69 b). Usually after such treatment the remaining particles easily flake off. They just have to shake out, striking with a round wooden stick (Fig. 69) or the edge of the bench.


To understand the essence of this method, you need to pick up a small bunch and fray the nettle and tightly clenched fingers, rub against each other (Fig. 70 a). Usually they immediately begin to separate and fall down the smallest fines. Freed from these fibers they become clean and silky. If you have to handle a considerable amount, bundles are comfortable to hold without hands, and tongs (Fig. 70 b).


Forceps consist of two birch slats connected by a strip of sheet steel. Oshmygivanii At one end of the beam can be clamped in povesma Myalitsa lever-Bill. However, much more convenient to use for this purpose a special clamp to the roller-cam (Fig. 70). Especially because this clip you will need in the next stage of processing fibers – carding. Fixed fiber grab tongs near the clamp. Obshmygivaya section by section, moving gradually from one end to the other. In the next step the fiber bundle is inverted and secured to the other end of the clamp. Now there is only the end of the forceps handle released from the clamp and move on to the carding fibers.


Prepared by carding fibers called sliver. Nettle and hemp sliver composed of long, medium and short fibers. The longer the fiber, the thinner and longer the yarn. To separate the long fibers of the medium and short in the old days we used the large maple ridges on a pedestal. But it is especially long and clean the fibers obtained after the re-carding so- called mykalkami – small combs and brushes made of pig bristles. The process of combing and smoothing or lobes, called closure. It demanded a lot of patience, perseverance; and I had carefully combed and smooth out every single strand of fiber. Hence the famous expression “roam”, “Woe to knock about. Nettle fibers set out in the clip, you can comb the conventional metal and plastic combs, commercially available.

The fabric obtained from filaments went into dresses, shirts, tablecloths, towels, bedding and other products. From finished yarn that runs on a rough canvas to sewing quilts, bags, all kinds of capes for the carts. Out of the same fibers were spun and then woven fabric with a rare weaver spindle used for household needs. Fig. 71

Of coarse fibers that were not treated and scratched or combed, can be used for the ropes and cables, used as a tow to reach between the crowns of log house, as well as caulking grooves between the logs. Canvas, woven from yarns bleached in the dew and snow, and digested in the wood ash. Ropes, twine, burlap, and other similar products sometimes soaked day in  oak bark to increase the strength and resistance to spoilage microbes. Sometimes soaked in oak would stain it in black. To this end, the rope and burlap dipped in water or a rusty iron sulfate solution. These ancient methods of bleaching and coloring can be successfully used now, along with the modern.


Willow The willow contains salicylic acid, the precursor to the aspirin. In 1897, Felix Hoffmann created a new drug from the willow, named formally Acetylsalicylic… But before this,  Willow was often called “wild hemp” and in the ancient days of the Willow, herb fibers were called Willow Ropes and the matting  produced horse harness, some burlap and more. This emphasized the similarity of its fibers and hemp fibers, cultivated in Russia and Belarus in the ninth century.

Quite often used and other fibrous plant growing on vacant lots and burned areas – Cyprus uzkolisty, popularly called Willow-Tea. With stalks of harvesting willow – tea, carefully remove the peel, divide it into fiber, dried and removed for storage. Part of the harvested material are stained broth collected in the swamp moss rusty containing iron oxide black. To make fibers gloss, staining solution added to fish oil. Alternating in a certain order light and dark fiber, masters decorate the surface of articles in geometric patterns.

Hemp & Flax

Nowadays Hemp its used and manufactured by the Military, of marine rope, canvas, tarpaulin, fire hoses and all the uses of the government. But because of the narcotic substances contained in the plant we suppose the government chose to push that aspect so they could use the plant for themselves, telling us peasants and textile people that hemp was a narcotic disgrace. There is a return to nettle and the uses of hemp back into the cultural life again in greater numbers, but for now, following the example of our ancestors is always the first and second steps.

Strong and durable threads go on weaving bags, baskets and a variety of boxes. In the manufacture of traditional products they used willow twigs, wild rye stalks (tuveyki) and elm along with nettle threads to bind them together.

Application of Burlap – “Sacking (ryadnina) this “rough rustic canvas”, is a sparse manner and with the lightest surf (reeds)”. The production of burlap is made from the natural plant fiber called jute, the southern fibrous plants of hemp and flax. Generally, cloth bags presently woven jute having coarse fibers. From hemp and flax fibers are made into a thinner fabric (ryadnina) used in clothing, furniture and other industries. Decorative burlap attracted the attention of artists who began to use it in their ancient or original applications. Expressiveness of these applications are determined by the beautiful natural color of plant fibers from greenish-gray to brownish-yellow – and grainy texture, due to the structure of the tissue.

For folk art applications, old burlap bags must first be washed with soap or detergent, ironed, and then cut the healthy parts of burlap. Scraps burlap are stacked pyramid. It is more convenient to look for the appropriate size of the flap. The remaining cloth trim on the need to dissolve the thread and pull up into a ball. They will be useful to perform a wide variety of parts.

Work requires scissors, cutter, wire brush or brush, screw terminal, bristle brushes, glue, tweezers and knitting needle (Fig. 72/73). Use scissors to perform cutting burlap and cutter undercut thread in limited areas blanks. A wire brush or brush comb strands of burlap, severing them at the finest fibers. A wire brush made of thin steel wire having good elasticity. Identical stretches of wire folded in half and tie a strong thin thread. From the tin from the tin roll so-called cap and connecting the edges overlapped, soldered at the joints. The capsule should be tightly crimped wire beam. Then put the capsule with a beam inserted therein wire on a metal plate and a hammer attached to it a flattened shape.


Pour in a little capsule of epoxy resin and put on pre-harvested wooden handle nailed to handle with small shoe nails. Brushes can be used in about a day, when the resin is completely cured. When combing vegetable brush blank burlap fibers clamped in a simple wooden clamp (Fig. 72/73 a). Screw clamp made of two wooden slats of beech, oak, birch, in which holes are drilled and connected with two screws with wing nuts. Bristle brushes are used to apply glue on the blank of the burlap and the substrate. The prepared adhesive is conveniently while working to keep in a tin in which the sides have to do special cuts. They provide a comfortable support for the hands at the same time using them with a brush to easily remove the excess glue.

Forceps are required in those cases when it is necessary to pull out the yarn from the burlap only in a limited area, and the yarns during bonding to a substrate. Spokes with rounded con Chick during adhesion laid yarns according to the conceived pattern. Use can be ordinary knitting needle. But it will become more versatile tool, if one end of the lay flat and bent at a slight angle. Flattened part of the spokes when pressed gluing individual sections of the thread to the background. You can do otherwise: to spread a thin needle on a wooden stalk, cut it to end at a slight angle. Assigning the same slice as the flattened end of the spokes.

The basis on which the paste application elements can be made of various materials, for example, made of boards, plywood and cardboard. To plywood and cardboard does not warp, they are glued under pressure or under the weight of the slats on stretchers. You can also nail plywood or cardboard to the sub-frame with nails. Nails nail as close to the edges in such a way that their hats were subsequently closed with bias frame. Form the foundations of applications can be very diverse – rectangular, square, round, oval, etc.

Elements application of burlap more clearly stand out against a dark background – black, dark brown, dark cherry red and dark green. When painting is necessary to consider the background burlap color shades. Sacking may have a natural coloring with cold gray-green or brownish-yellow warm shades. For example, cold colors can be at the sacking of flax fibers, and warm – from hemp and jute. Color burlap also largely depends on the conditions in which it is stored, how it was used. During the operation it could burn in the sun and become faded or, on the contrary, darken from moisture and so on.

If you have a sacking with a cold color, the background to do the warm dark cherry, dark red, and warm – cold: black, dark blue, dark green. For coloring the background you need to take a paint that would penetrate deep into the fibers of the wood or cardboard. The black base can be painted with ink. The other colors are painted wood and cardboard and stained with aniline textile dyes, usually used for dyeing. The desired color and color tone are obtained by mixing several dyes or colors superimposed one on another. For example, the first base dye black ink, and then, after its complete drying, the paint is applied cherry. As a result, the background will be dark cherry, almost black color.

It is necessary to ensure that paint particles do not remain on the surface of wood or cardboard. Therefore, after the applied paint is absorbed into the coloring material, the substrate surface should be wiped with a slightly damp cloth to remove the remaining dye particles on it. If lying on the surface of the paint particles are not removed, then the gluing burlap they can be mixed with glue or paste, and contaminants applications. When the paint dries, it is desirable to base a little glue, inflicting on its surface a wide bristle brush a thin layer of paste.

Begin to sketch the development is possible only if you carefully examine the possibility of the material – as they say, feel it. After material application, in this case, burlap, to a large extent dictates the plastic solution or ornamental scene composition. Hessian is a rare weave, so they kept it very poorly. This feature, on the one hand, makes it possible, pulling in a specific order the individual filaments receive details applications with a simple open-work pattern, such as square or rectangular cells, alternating rhythm strips, etc… On the other hand, when cutting parts applique artist forced to find their contours such that the line would be possible were in the same direction as the intersecting threads of the fabric. It is necessary that in some areas the short strands do not crumble. However, such a forced limitation gives applications of burlap with nothing incomparable originality and special decorative convention.

Gather scraps of burlap with scissors in hand, follow the simplest elements of applications. Suppose you need to cut a tree leaf (Fig. 73 b). When cutting a sheet of loop Make sure that one thread burlap were located along the sheet, and others – across. Then, with the longitudinal edges of the thread delete leaving only the middle three or four threads. If necessary, you can fluff burlap thread. This method is appropriate to use, for example, when the application ode Vanchikov. The flap of burlap clamped in wooden tisochkah and combed yarns wire brush or broom. In its request the artist can give free strands of burlap conceived direction, creating a pattern of wavy lines, curls and spirals. This technique is applied directly adhered application components on a substrate.

In the development of the sketch should always keep in mind all of the features of burlap. First, perform a small sketch of no more than exercise book, drawing which is then transferred to a sheet of paper having a life-size. Then from the sheet along the contours of the figure cut out all the parts of the image. They will serve as a sort of pattern. Patterns are applied to burlap and encircled colored chalk. Cut elements applications need to be expanded on the basis developed according to the sketch. However, before the details of burlap are pasted to a substrate, they must be further processed, that is, pull, where necessary, the extra yarn.

The most convenient for sticking latex adhesive application elements or PVA. They do not leave stains on the bonded materials, relatively dry quickly and form a strong bond. It can be used as various pastes. The paste is particularly indispensable for gluing all kinds of curls, spirals and other contour elements of burlap fibers. To prepare the paste is necessary to take a glass of water 2 teaspoons of flour or potato starch. Flour or starch to dissolve in a small amount of cold water and pour a thin stream of boiling water to cool, stirring constantly. Once the paste is brewed, it is allowed to cool, it must be remembered that the paste can be in working order, without losing the adhesive power, for about 10 hours. Then it becomes watery, or vice versa, thickens. Therefore it is necessary to brew just right on this day the amount of glue.

The plot background in place of overlay scraps of burlap grease with a thin layer of glue or paste. Then, from the back side, seal cutting from burlap and place it on the base. Smooth and press it with his hands, and the little details to push through his fingers. Then, apply a top load. If you have a fast drying glue, the load can be removed after about 5-10 minutes, and if a paste – an hour. Until the end of glue or paste should dry without load for a few hours. Burlap yarns that are intended to make the wavy wound into rings or spirals and stick last (Fig. 73). Threads liberally smeared with paste, and then, holding his left hand, with the help of needles give them a desired pattern. Dry them freely without oppression. If after drying glue a thread portion lag behind the background, it gently pasted fast-drying glue.

Images: Russian Source: Part 1 & 2from

One Comment Add yours

  1. Crooked Bear Creek Organic Herbs says:

    Reblogged this on Good Witches Homestead and commented:
    Wonderful post.

    Liked by 1 person

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