Nettle Fibres

Photo: stinging-nettle field of the new generation

The textile application of fibre from the big stinging-nettle (Urtica dioica) dates back at least 3,000 years.  In the 19th century there was a nettle manufactory in Leipzig, Germany. After World War II the natural fibres were replaced by lower priced cotton. In Europe only flax could hold its ground with larger cultivation areas – especially in Normandy and Belgium.

Growing stinging-nettle with lower degree of fibre content in Germany combined with the former production methods was very cost intensive. Thus a good amount of companies did not reach a state above trial in their intention to reestablish the nettle fibre in textile markets. In comparision to other domestic fibre plants the degree of fibre content of nettle (approx. 10 %) is small – flax (20 %), hemp (30 %) – and fibre decortication even more complicated. On the other hand the following advantages of nettle fibre are in favor of this crop:

  • fineness,
  • high tensile strength and
  • very high breathability.

In collaboration with some farmers, institutes (ATB = Leibniz-Institut für Agrartechnik und Bioökonomie e.V.; FIBRE = Faserinstitut Bremen e.V., 3N = 3N Kompetenzzentrum Niedersachsen Netzwerk Nachwachsende Rohstoffe und Bioökonomie e.V. und IfP = Institut für Pflanzenkultur e.K.) and other companies the FNR project “Development of an Industrial Supply Chain from Stinging-Nettle-Seedlings to Nettle Fibre” (FKZ: 22033211 und FKZ: 22015616) hosted intensive government funded research. The target was to gain fine, elementary fibres from the new generation of a stinging-nettle with 20 % degree of fibre content.

The projects have been completed on 12/31/2018.

In preliminary tests we could proof that our chosen way to produce nettle fibres “Made in Germany” is generally the right approach. In small quantities we are capable to market nettle blended yarns with up to 70 % nettle content.

Photo: nettle card sliver (100 %) to nettle blended yarns

In the non-woven area the first tearproof fleeces and minglings have been produced through needling respectively compression via water jet. In this area the development targets future usage in the bedding-area, accessories, outdoor-area and decorations.

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