Thursday, 28 February 2008

nettle fibre (and leather)

Despite my research into cotton production that lead to testing of organic and fair trade cottons I am still a little uncomfortable at the thought of using fabric that is produced thousands of miles away and on land that (today) might better be used for (local) food crops. I slightly reconcile it with myself with the thought that trading of such 'commodities' has gone on for centuries, so it isn't such a problem.

But I have been pondering whether I should learn to work on materials that are available locally, ie in Cornwall. Being cattle and sheep country that means leather or wool. As wool needs to be dyed at high temperatures that obviously rules out batik work (though other resists may be possible). Batik on leather is possible, but I don't get on with the smell of leather and am not sure how well I'd wax while gagging! Last year I learnt that my great-great-grandfather was a saddler by trade and his father, grandfather and great-grandfather before him were shoemakers and cordwainers - if leather work is in my blood perhaps it is my destiny. (For those who also need to look 'cordwainer' up: my old Collins dictionary says shoemaker or worker in leather. More about cordwainers here.)

And then, in today's Guardian, an article about stinging nettles being used for fibre - which mentions a nettle clone crop is being trialled in Cornwall. Leaving aside any ecological issues with cloning for the moment (it may just mean being grown from the same rootstock - easy!), there is hope for a locally produced fabric to make batik on!

I have already tried dyeing an organic nettle/cotton mix from Greenfibres - but only a scrap as it's expensive. This fabric is delightfully soft but being slightly stretchy isn't ideal for waxing. But other mixes or types of cloth may well be developed and be suitable - and smelling much nicer than leather!


Stephie said...

Have you thought about asking at Eden of any local projects? I guess they would have their fingers on any pulse! Also, what about weavers, at least the cloth would actually be made here, though not grown here perhaps, but it would still cut out some of those dreadful transport worries, add to the local economy and so on... I probably have no idea what I'm talking about!! x

Robin Paris said...

What about me learning to weave my own cloth? Now there's a thought!