Nettles can be found just about anywhere. Leave a small patch of land uncultivated, and sure enough a patch of nettles will soon be found growing there. Nettles grow tall in their search for light, and as the stems are relatively thin, they must be immensely strong to support the structure of the plant, and cope with powerful winds, battering rain, and of course animals and people that trample them down. For these reasons nettles are strong, and this is why I favour the humble nettle for all manner of cordage, such as twine and fishing lines.
Remember too that nettles can be used as food, and literally hundreds of other uses. Plus of course they provide extremely important habitat for wildlife. You can find out these other uses on my courses, or in some of my articles which are dotted around various sources.
This tutorial will take you through the main process step by step, enjoy!
1) Find a tall straight nettle, preferably in mid to late summer for optimum strength. Nettles do of course STING! But, treated correctly you can still handle them without getting stung, although I do find it is an advantage to have tough hands!
2) Once you have found a suitable nettle you can pull it towards you by holding the surface of the leaves (the stinging hairs are only found on the underside, and the stem)
3) Grasp the nettle firmly and give it a slow but powerful tug, and you should end up with the whole nettle, root and all.
4) Rub the stinging hairs off the stem, and in one movement tear all of the leaves off too. Remember, you can use gloves if you need to. You are now left with a bald stem.
5) Remove the thin top section and the thicker, and often bent, lower section with a good sharp knife.
6) Now simply crush the stem all the way along using your fingers, or you can just crush the base. Don't bash the stem with a stone or you will damage the outer fibres, which are going to be your string!
7) Now insert your fingernail and open up the stem all the way along, like a book.
8) It's now time to hold the nettle stem in the middle and bend it over your index finger (inner facing outward), which will then break the inner fibres. They should now break outwards as in the picture. Remove these carefully and discard them, shown in the second picture.
9) This is what you are left with, all of the outer fibres of the nettle. At this stage you can use the cord, but I prefer to thin them down by simply tearing off some strands. But either way, you should now dry the nettle out, which on a warm day doesn't take very long, or you can do this by resting the fibres near to a camp fire.
10) Once dry, the nettle can be used, but it may need re-soaking as it can become a little wiry and brittle.
11) Now is the time to braid your nettle. This is what will give it strength and durability.
12) Find the half way point of the strand and simply bend it, and hold (if you're right handed) between your left index finger and thumb.
13) Now roll each strand independently, and each time you reach the end of your roll let go with your left hand and watch the cordage start to braid itself. Repeat the process until you have your very own nettle cordage.
14) Adding extra fibres can be done to give you any desired length, but I will cover this another day.
The finished cordage will look like this
This is an example of a thicker braiding
You may also make the cord very thin, for catching small fish for example
This is just an example of how the cord can be used. Here, it can be seen in use to hold a primitive fishing hook together (I will cover this in another tutorial).
Let me know how you get on and if this has helped you. Remember if you want to be shown how to do this I can cover this in courses. Please pass details of the site to your friends.
I would also like to thank my friend Andrew for taking the pictures whilst I had my hands full. I will leave you with this shot of a Common Darter which I took whilst he was sitting on my friend's bag.
Catch you on the trail