Global textile industry has been looking for fibres that meet the concerns of concepts like eco-friendly and sustainability. Despite the fact that synthetic fibres can be obtained in a wide variety, easily and cheaply (in most cases) as compared to natural fibres, their negative impact on the environment cannot be ignored. Thus, natural fibres seem to have become an obvious alternative.
Although cotton is a natural fibre, its production process is one of the most unsustainable crops due to the extensive use of fertilizers and pesticides. Of the 20 million tons of fibre produced every year, 18 million tons of it is cotton. Cotton accounts for 20% of the world’s pesticides, and also uses chemicals that arise from oil production. This is particularly alarming because cotton is still the most used fibre in the world and its global demand is increasing rapidly.
Therefore, we need to reduce our reliance on cotton by identifying and promoting other natural fibres. As a result, stinging nettle fibres have gained importance and interest in the textile industry.
The stinging nettle, Urtica dioica, is found all over the temperate areas of the world. It successfully grows on nitrogenous and over-fertilized soil.
Since nettle is easy to grow in abundance, is resistant to diseases and pests, there is no need for any chemical fertilizers or other dangerous additives to artificially stimulate the plants growth. Like hemp, nettle uses much less water. This combination of properties makes nettle cultivation process sustainable and environment-friendly.
The stinging nettle is not just sustainable. It actually improves the environment in which it grows by helping to control erosion and preventing deadly landslides.
The fibres have a hollow core which means they can trap air inside thus creating a natural insulation. Nettle fibres can be cool in summer by twisting the yarn lengths closed to reduce insulation, and be warm in winter with a low twist the hollow remains open allowing a constant temperature.
Unlike hemp, there is no legal issue with the cultivation of nettle. Thus, making it a viable and legal cash crop.
The nettle fibre is characterized by its fine sheen. It has high tensile strength and great resistance to wrinkling, and its loft is similar to that of cotton. Nettle fibres are extremely absorbent, antimicrobial and antibacterial.
There is no need to worry about the sting of the stinging nettles because by cutting and dehydrating them, the pressure goes and there is no sting.