Anyone who has spent time wandering around sheep and cow pastures in the UK is familiar with this little plant – perhaps painfully so:
The stinging nettle grows abundantly in the UK, and if you’ve ever brushed up against one with your bare ankle, you won’t forget it any time soon. They don’t call it “stinging” for nothing!
However, like most poisonous or skin-irritant plants, the stinging nettle has many uses, both medicinal and otherwise. Nettles are often used to make teas, and young leaves can be eaten like spinach. Nettles have been used for a wide variety of medicinal purposes since ancient times. When I lived on the Isle of Skye for a bit, many years ago, I learned that a traditional treatment for arthritis involved going out and collecting stinging nettles and then BEATING YOURSELF with the nettles at the affected area. Mmmmm, who knows: perhaps after a dose of that medicine, you’d pretend your arthritis is cured so you never have to go through the treatment again! But in all seriousness, the nettle plant seems to have anti-inflammatory benefits that may just aid with arthritis and other chronic diseases. So go out and brew your nettle tea, people!
I’m sure you’re wondering why I’m talking about nettles. Well, on the last day of our UK visit, we spent time wandering around downtown Ulverston and purchasing goodies from the shops. I couldn’t help but stop into the local yarn shop, Loopy. After such great finds at Wool Fest, I was hoping for some locally sourced wool, something really special and particular to Cumbria.
Cumbria, unfortunately, is not particularly known for its wool manufacturing. West Yorkshire, right next door, is a traditional wool-producing location, and wool manufacturing is making a comeback in that county. So, I was thrilled to find some Aran-weight wool by the West Yorkshire Spinners! Yorkshire is a producer of the Bluefaced Leicester breed, and their wool is deliciously soft with a little bit of sheen to it. One of my new favorite wools!
I also found this fantastic wool blend by Erika Knight called Wild Wool. It is a single-ply Aran weight of 85% wool and 15% viscose (natural cellulose fiber) made from…can you guess it? NETTLES!! How could I turn down this unexpected, sustainable use of a nasty stinging plant!
I don’t have a particular project in mind just yet, but I know that whatever I make from these hanks will be particularly meaningful to me. Now, if I can just get back there and buy more…