One major hazard that the synthetics pose to the environment is that many of them take more than five hundred years to decompose. On the other hand, most natural fibres are biodegradable and sustainable, provided that eco-friendly techniques are adopted at every stage of their production and disposal. Because of recent issues like rising costs of petroleum-based fibres and their impact on environment and sustainable development, natural fibres have once again found a niche in the global textile market. Along with this, growing global population leading to increased demand for textiles is increasing the risk of greater environmental impact.
To resolve these issues, many industrialized nations have for long been looking for natural biodegradable alternatives for synthetics, to be applied to a wide variety of uses along with/ apart from textiles. On the other hand, in the natural fibre sector, cotton is an undisputed ruler with its annual global production crossing over 25 million tons in past few years, followed by wool (FAO, 2005).
In the foothills of Nepal’s Himalayas, the Himalayan stinging nettle plants grows naturally in the wild. Ellie Skeele, founder of Himalayan Wild Fibers, is in the process of developing the nettle fiber industry with the local community. According to the Center for Sustainable Fashion, Himalayan nettle is the longest fiber currently known to humankind and is considered finer, stronger, and more elastic than linen. The development of this fiber would create work and income for many Nepalis and bring a durable and sustainable textile to market.
The Himalayan nettle plants hold soil in place and help prevent landslides and erosion. They are grown without chemical fertilizers but with regular cutting of the stocks, according to Himalayan Wild Fibers. Most recently, Ellie Skeele and her team explored the possibilities of working with Thami villagers, an indigenous group of Nepal, in collecting nettle from their forests.
Currently, Himalayan Wild Fibers is seeking a designer to spin different blends of Himalayan nettle with other fabrics.
Himalayan Nettle – the Fiber of the Future?
Fibre-yielding plant, Himalayan nettle (Girardinia diversifolia), is found to be occurring abundantly in the Garhwal region of Uttarakhand. It was lying unexplored until 7-8 years back, when on realizing its potential in the field of textiles, many organizations in the region initiated Research and Development activity on the possibilities of handloom based product development in nettle. Research and Development in this field, is mostly aimed at generating livelihood opportunities for the rural people of Garhwal. While the Himalayan communities in Uttarakhand, traditionally associated with extracting fibres from nettle and hemp for rope-making, are no longer practicing the craft, Bhotia weaver community, at Mangroli village, Chamoli (UBFDB cluster) has learnt and mastered the technique of nettle fibre processing.
However, lack of design intervention has led to a situation, where nettle products developed here, could not establish a significant market. It was also observed, that a lot of skills possessed by the community at the cluster were not being explored fully for developing nettle based products.
This experimental study has explored possibilities of design intervention/product development at different stages of fibre processing, based on the skills available with the Bhotia weaver community. As a result, a wide range of designs – fibre, yarns, woven material and products – have been developed, which can have potential market value and can add effectively to the chain of existing designs in nettle. Based on the results, it can be concluded that nettle is laden with possibilities and opportunities, and nettle based design development has a lot of scope.
However, the interests and traditions of the communities involved in the production process should be maintained. With the growing importance and popularity of concepts like green, eco-friendly, sustainability, etc. natural fibres seem to have become an obvious choice for enlightened producers and consumers of textiles. Even though the synthetic alternatives can be obtained easily, in wide varieties and (in most cases) at low prices as compared to natural fibres, the threats related with their extensive production and use cannot be ruled out.
However, many researches and arguments led to a conclusion that cotton despite being a natural fiber, is one of the most unsustainable crops owing to the extensive use of fertilizers and pesticides in its production. And the other important fibre, silk, is engulfed in a moral war of being cruel. Even though concepts like organic cotton and ‘ahimsa’ silk have well been established, the costs and labor involved in their production are quite high. In this case, it becomes an urgent need to identify and promote natural fibres other than cotton and silk. Global textile industry has been looking for alternative fibres, which can reduce our heavy reliance on cotton. As a result, minor natural fibres like jute, hemp, linen, etc. have gained popularity in commercial textiles since last two decades.
Nettle can be considered as one of the latest to be added in the list of possible commercial fibre, and the biggest advantage it holds is that it can be 100% sustainable. Nettle is a bast fibre obtained from the stem of the wild growing stinging nettle plant, found in the temperate regions of the world. Countries like UK and Germany, have been involved in the development of this fibre since 1999, and have made considerable growth in this direction. A number of researches have been conducted not only in developing commercial textiles using nettle, but also in the cultivation and propagation of the crop in the most sustainable manner. Significant development. Has been recorded in the processes of cultivation and fibre extraction by many renowned European organizations, institutes and companies.
India, has also realized the importance and potential of this wealth naturally found in abundance in the Himalayas. Especially after looking at landmark developments by the neighboring country Nepal in nettle fibre production and exports at a Small and Medium Enterprise level, Uttarakhand has been recognized as one Indian state, potential for nettle fibre development. Through initial surveys conducted by Uttarakhand Bamboo and Fibre Development Board for resource quantification in three blocks of Chamoli district of Uttarakhand, it was estimated that a total of 770 square kilometer area has naturally growing nettle (Himalayan nettle, Girardinia diversifolia), which can provide 24704.26 tons raw dried fibre annually (Lepcha, Bahti and Kumar, 2009).
Apart from Uttarakhand, the plant is found in Jammu and Kashmir, Himachal Pradesh, Sikkim and Arunachal Pradesh as well. Development in nettle fibre can not only make India contribute in sustainable development in the field of textiles, but can also help the rural hill population in terms of income generation, providing sustainable livelihood to many people
Himalayan nettle is a perennial plant found growing in temperate and sub-tropical Himalayas, between 1200 to 2900 meters above sea level. It is largely found growing wild in the broad leaf forests with high leaf litter and moisture as well as in the outskirts of villages of Uttarakhand. Clothing made from nettle is not a new idea, since the past thousands year people have worn fabrics made from the Himalayan nettle. But nettle lost their popularity when synthetic and other fibers arrived in the market. Considering the potential of this fiber, Uttarakhand Bamboo & Fiber Development Board is promoting eco-friendly natural fiber as livelihood option to the hill people specially Bhotia community of Uttarakhand who are crafting variety of products in nettle fiber.
PRODUCTION OF NETTLE FIBRE AND YARN
The company has started for the development of nettle fiber and yarns. In the beginning time, they collect nettle yarns from villagers where they make the yarns for themselves. There was too much wastage thread in village no any supply and the company collect that thread and started to supply in carpets. But this thread wasn’t exportable so that it was searching for good yarn and fiber and it is success to made good quality yarns from 2009. Also it was Exporting little and limit fiber and thread before because, that time not a good quality. But 2009 it make good fiber and yarn by organic method and started to Export all over the world. Specially Europe and USA. All the production are totally handmade, 100% Natural and without chemical use so it is called as “ORGANIC PRODUCTION”.
Since the plant grows in abundance, there is no need for any chemical fertilizers or other unnatural additives to artificially stimulate the plants growth, making the whole operation sustainable and environment-friendly.
PROPERTIES OF NETTLE FIBRE :Special inherent characteristics of nettle fiber make it very different from other fibers and have unique prosperities like:
Though common nettle (urtica dioica) and Himalayan nettle (girardinia diversifolia) are biologically similar, their fibers are quite different. Himalayan nettle is the longest fiber currently known to humankind and spinners at a Italian fabric manufacturer have deemed it finer, yet stronger and more elastic, than linen
The fiber is not just sustainable; it actually improves the environment in which it grows by helping to control erosion and preventing deadly landslides. Collection of the giant Himalayan nettle plant creates income for Nepali villagers and we are producing fiber using low tech methods to create income opportunities for yet more Nepalis. The nettle fibre is characterized by its fine sheen. It has high tensile strength and its loft is similar to that of cotton. Nettle fibres are extremely absorbent.
The Center of Sustainable Fashion claims that the Himalayan nettle is stronger, finer and more flexible than regular linen, indicating that eco-friendly clothing made from it will be more durable and of better quality.
Hollow core useful in creating fabrics with thermal properties, both warm and cool
Reputedly antimicrobial, antibacterial and fire retardant
Great resistance to wrinkling Benefits of Himalayan nettle yarn
- 100% organic
- From a sustainable source
- More environmentally friendly than cotton
- Elegant, fine and durable
Pure nettle fibre (matt finish) or nettle fibre & silk (for a sheen finish) are perfect choices If you’re looking for something that is highly decorative and detailed and light to touch, ideal for spring and summer.
Nettle Fibre with Pashmina or Angora wool mixes are recommended if you’re looking for the beautiful hand crafted detail, but with added warmth.
The scarves and shawls are not only attractive to look at, but are also very environmentally friendly.
Nettle fibre is a great alternative to cotton and is much kinder on the environment. Cotton production takes a heavy toll on the environment as the cotton plant is greedy for water, and the use of pesticides and herbicides is widespread in its production, in fact almost one quarter of pesticides used in the world are sprayed on to cotton plants! The nettles used to make this scarf are grown 100% organically, with the rich soils in the Himalayan valleys supplying the plant with all the nutrients it needs.
Hand-knitted by members of the Kulung Rai hill tribe , the scarves and shawls provide a much needed livelihood for this poverty-stricken community.
The Italian fabric manufacturer spun and wove a 50/50 viscose/Himalayan nettle sample. The manufacturer was interested in reducing the amount of Himalayan nettle, combining with one or more fibers and moving forward.Nettle and Pashmina Scarf ,100% Nettle Scarf,100% Nettle Shawl , Nettle and silk mix scarf , Nettle and Angora mix Scarf are made .
How to care for the nettle fibre:
1. Wash by hand in warm soapy water, rinse well and pull into shape.
2. Adding a little oil to the water will help to soften the nettle.
3. It will become softer with each wash.
USES OF HIMALAYAN NETTLE FIBRES:
This 100% nettle yarn is hands spun from nettle fibers. Nettle yarn is been used for centuries. the yarn are woven, crocheted and knitting into many different items – very thing from clothing, ceremonial accessories, fishing nets, bags etc.. This 100% natural yarn is made without use of chemicals or machines. Nettle is naturally found in the wild. Yarns have texture similar to natural linen like linen will soften with wear. It’s also known as “Allo”.
These delicate hand-knitted scarves and shawls are available in four different varieties; pure nettle fibre as well as nettle fibre mixed either with pashmina, angora or silk. They are all available in two different sizes, with the ‘shawls’ being slightly wider and longer than the scarves.
The very long, tough bast fibres derived from the giant Himalayan nettle have been used for thousands of years to spin durable yarns from which fishing nets and ropes were traditionally made. It was also mixed with birch pitch to attach arrowheads and feathers to arrow shafts. Besides its obvious suitability for utilitarian purposes, nettle fibre can also be finely worked to produce a muslin that is stronger than linen.
A new clothing industry is developing in Nepal by promoting the use of Himalayan nettle fibers as a material for manufacturing garments.