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Nettle, the Best Alternative for Cotton

Nettle, the Best Alternative for Cotton

Posted by : Mary Wutz   /  

But still more interesting, to my mind, is an even more common and no less reviled plant, the nettle.”


John-Paul Flintoff is a man from Britain who has learned to take control of his own life in one of the best and most handy ways a human can; by making his own clothing. Using an old, treadle-powered sewing machine from a landfill, John makes fitted shirts, jeans, sweaters, hats and underwear. John uses imported fabrics and materials but with climate change and oil looming affecting our planet so negatively, he will soon begin using local materials. The issue with this, is that folks from Britain, since they relied so heavily on cheap cotton from overseas for so long, have almost entirely forgotten which materials (apart from wool and linen from flax) they can purchase locally that would be of sufficient use for textiles.  

        Because of this, a number of people have been doing their part to raise awareness about different alternative fibers. Many of these people chose to speak on behalf of Hemp. Flintoff says that at first, he was hesitant about using hemp for clothing, thinking about the stigma it holds for  “dope-fiends” and “beardy-weirdies”. He soon realized how mistaken he was. He speaks quite fondly of Romanian hemp, as he says that fabrics from Romania are as rich and textured as the hemp itself. A plant that is more interesting to Fintoff is nettle.

Flintoff began learning about nettle by researching Ray Harwood’s Nettle Project. In Harwood’s project, he explains the history of nettle and how it was used before the first World War as a cotton alternative. Austria-Hungary and Germany were the first to develop the alternative for cotton, since Britain controlled 90% of the world’s cotton supply. It wasn’t long before more countries took the initiative to create an alternative to cotton, which led to nettle’s big movement, which ultimately was ruined by cheap synthetics.

Flintoff continued to conduct more research on nettle and found a supplier for nettle fiber and yarn in France, which is relatively local for him. Flintoff used this information to inspire him to begin creating his own clothing sustainably and attempting to create as little waste as possible.

To read more about Flintoff’s story visit Second Skin: Why Wearing Nettle is the Next Big Thing


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