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Plants from the family Urticaceae. Nettles have been cultivated for centuries in Europe and Asia as a source of fiber for ropes and sails. The best known fibers from nettle plants are Stinging nettle (Urtica dioica), small nettle (Urtica urens), Giant nettle (Urtica ardens), and the Roman nettle (Urtica pilulifera). Nettle fibers are light-color, soft, and strong They are used for twine, rope, canvas and sailcloth. Nettle fibers are also used as substitutes for flax and hemp.

Ramie (Boehmeria nivea) is also in the nettle family.

Synonyms and Related Terms

brandnetel (Ned.); ortie (Fr.) Nessel (Deut.); ortica (It.); ortiga (Esp.)

Physical and Chemical Properties

  • Urtica dioica: fiber has small diameter and thick cell wall; similar to linen
  • Urtica urens: fiber has larger diameter with thin cell wall

Resources and Citations

  • G.Cook, Handbook of Textile Fibres:I. Natural Fibres, 5th edition, Merrow Publishing Co., Durham, England, 1984.
  • R.King, E.Hartley, "Unusual Fibers Used in Northwest Coast Ethnographic Textiles, Their Preparation & Their Structure", Technology & Conservation, 1/79.
  • Henry Hodges, Artifacts: An Introduction to Early Materials and Technology, Ronald P. Frye, Kingston, Canada, 1988
  • A.Lucas, J.R.Harris, Ancient Egyptian Materials and Industries, Edward Arnold Publishers Ltd., London, 4th edition, 1962
  • Fairchild's Dictionary of Textiles, Phyllis G.Tortora, Robert S. Merkel (eds.), Fairchild Publications, New York City, 7th edition, 1996
  • Website: For translations:

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