Nettles and time Wednesday 25.08.2021

On the June bank holiday, after a couple of days in delirium I was admitted to the Mercy hospital with cellulitis from nettle stings and pond water, my lower leg was twice it’s normal girth, I could barely see my toes. Working with nettle fibres was a way of getting the connection back after the hiatus.


I have begun again with the task of extracting the fibres from the nettle.

Rumplestiltskin comes to mind

First one softens the stalk, pounding gently with stone or other blunt object

Then one splits open the stalk

The nettle kindly likes to separate into a few long strips, often about four sections

Pull a strip away

Next one extracts the pith the woody hull from inside that is not fibrous

You bend back the bark and crack the pith then you can remove it in inch long segments, here it is tempting to think this is useful fibre but it is not.

Then you have long strips of green bark, the bark is fibrous but tough

On the inside of the bark are the fine nettle fibres, they are white or palest of green

Best to dry the fibres now to allow for shrinkage, a couple of hours will do

Then soak, for a while, short or long, if longer than a day change the water every once in a while

i am not sure what comes out in the water, it could be good stuff I have read that the venomous formic acid in nettles is good some how in textiles (will get back on this one) so best not to oversoak

Soaking swells up the inner fibres, it makes them easier to see and easier to pull away from the bark, still it’s a long process

I am outdoors in the late summer sun and so I lay the fibres out on the bare skin of my thigh, they stick to my skin, holding them in place in the breeze till they dry and want to fly away

A rhythm builds this way.

Some fibres still have bark attached, the good ones are fine as grandmother’s hair

I twist the fibres

I twist them again

This stops time

The rate of production is too slow to be significant on any grand scale

Making strands

Making twine

I will not be adding much to the things of the world in this way

Time expands internally, takes on another dimension

Stills the world outside

I am in touch

The ancestors are around

How else would the girl in the story have conjured the name of that taskmaster goblin

*Formic acid produced by nettles improves the fastness of colours in dying processes with natural materials. It also improves the wicking quality (absorbancy) of vegetable textiles. Info found in report below:

Formic acid takes its name from the ant that uses it in its sting.

Published by @julforres

Julie Forrester, artist based in Cork City Ireland

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