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Making Nettle Cordage

i Sep 1st No Comments by

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Admit it:  any plant that has the name “stinging” in it is bound to get a bad rap. But this incredible PNW icon is rich in nutrients, medicine, and fiber, and well worth your time getting to know. Each season brings new ways of connecting with Urtica dioica, and late summer is no exception. Right now is the best time to harvest tall nettle plants that have gone to seed and make nettle cordage. Here’s a step by step guide to making some of nature’s strongest rope. Have fun!

Preparation

  • Look for tall nettle that has gone to seed.
  • For ethical harvesting, strip the seeds off and drop them. This allows the plant to regenerate.
  • Cut the stems off close to the ground and strip the leaves. Wearing a glove is recommended.
  • Collect the stems in a bundle and dry in a cool, dry place. They should be crisp when you break them.

 

Processing

  • Take one stalk and pound it with a rock against a hard surface. This will soften the outer bark a bit.
  • Use a thumbnail (or knife) to split the stalk down it’s length, peeling it as you go (like opening a book).
  • Using your hands, peel away the woody portion from the softer fibrous portion. Take special care around each joint (node).
  • Rub the strands of fiber vigorously between your hands. The fibers will separate and begin to look fluffy. Continue to pull little woody bits out of the fibers and buffing until the fibers are quite fluffy.

 

Cordage-Making with “Reverse wrap” Technique

  • Tie two strands of fiber together at the top
  • With your right hand, twist the strand farthest from you in the direction away from you
  • Now fold/pull that fiber over the one closest to you (so they exchange places)
  • Keep tension on the fibers at all times as you wrap down the fiber to produce a nice, even cordage

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