Himalayan Nettle is a wild grass found in the Kumaon and Garhwal region of Uttarakhand. Known for its versatility, the grass is used as fiber for clothing, herb for healing wounds and aches, and in food. It also finds its use as utility products like rope, twine or fishing nets. The grass, if touched with bare skin, can cause intense stinging and itching. Owing to its nature, the grass is known as kandali (stinging thorns) or bicchughaas (scorpion grass) in regional languages.
Hand carding the Nettle (2018/2018) by Project FUELProject FUEL
The fibers come from nettle plant stem. The grass is first dried, and after the outer surface is peeled, the fibers are extracted. It is then boiled in water.
Beating the Nettle fiber (2018/2018) by Project FUELProject FUEL
The fiber is then beaten continuously. The beating and scrapping leads to the white colour of the fiber. If the fiber is beaten without boiling, then it retains its natural colour. The beaten fibre is washed in the water and dried.
How the nettle fiber is carded (2018/2018) by Project FUELProject FUEL
Dried fiber is opened by hand and any remaining bits of the outer layer of grass is removed. After the fiber is sorted and cleaned, it is either hand-carded or sent to carding plants.
Preparing the nettle fiber for handloom (2018/2018) by Project FUELProject FUEL
The nettle fiber is next spun on a spinning machine known as charkha. The machine is foot pedaled which helps the artisan control the speed. The fiber is spun to a small bobbin that is placed inside a wooden instrument called Shuttle.
Handloom for Nettle (2018/2018) by Project FUELProject FUEL
The fibers are then weaved using a handloom. The end product can range from shawls and stoles to cloth bags.
Nettle as a sustainable fabric (2018/2018) by Project FUELProject FUEL
Nettle has a unique characteristic that makes it an ideal clothing material for both winters and summers. The fibers of the plant are actually hollow, which can help accumulate air inside, thus creating a natural insulation. Its products are gradually gaining popularity in the market as an environmentally sustainable and natural fabric.
Maheshwari Khati is a master artisan from Bhimtala, Chamoli District, Uttarakhand. She runs a weaving center that produces handloom products made of wool and nettle fiber, along with carpets. Self taught in the crafts that she practice, she now seeks someone who can teach and help polish her skills more. She believes that ‘Without a master, knowledge is incomplete.’
In this video, Nettle artisan Maheshwari Khati explains and demonstrates how nettle fabric is made. She also tells her story of chasing her curiosity and eventually empowering women through her handloom training centre in the Bhimtala village of Uttarakhand.
'Homespun in Uttarakhand' is an episodic series that features life lessons of seven master artisans of Uttarakhand, their personal stories and their passion celebrating the unrecognised & dying craft practices, which need preservation.
Presented by Project FUEL, in collaboration with Uttarakhand Handloom and Handicraft Development Council (UHHDC)
Director: Ajitesh Sharma
Director of Photography: Udit Khurana
Music: Sameer Rahat
Editor: Tushar Madhav
Producer: Apoorva Bakshi
Creative Producer: Deepak Ramola
Sound Design and Mix: Teja Asgk
Colorist: Shara Sethna
Project Manager: Neha Gupta
Research: Project FUEL