Nettle Dye

Nettle – Urtica Dioica

Until recent years, I hated stinging nettle because of the itching lasting many hours, sometimes a day. Since 2019, my perception changed because of the Herbology training I followed with the Royal Botanic Garden of Edinburgh. Nettle, along with a lot of other plants, are unfairly disliked and categorised as a weed. What a shame, it is such an amazing ally in our lives. Through centuries, it has been used for textile making, it is an edible and medicinal plant. A legend says that Caesar’s troops introduced the Roman nettle into Britain because they thought that they would need to flail themselves with nettles to keep warm.


Last Thursday I harvested nettles for another use. I am quite used of it now but every time I fill a basket with plants, people are asking what I am making with and make suggestions. But my answer is, most of the time, a surprise for them.

I separated my harvest in 2 parts. One in a bucket that I filled with water. The infusion makes a very good fertilizer for tomatoes. The second part was for dyeing purposes of course.

Glass of nettle dye juice

I am currently dyeing small batches of ropes to make baskets and wooden beads to make necklaces. With this batch I obtained an interesting variation of colours. If I refer to Werner’s Nomenclature of colours:

  • On the rope I can observe Hair Brown (107), Yellowish Grey (13) and Greenish White (6);
  • The beads are showing mainly 2 colours: Wood brown (105) and Brocoli Brown (108);
  • The Hebridean wool mordanted with soya bean: Brocoli brown (108)
  • The Hebridean wool with no mordant: Yellowish Grey (13)

Grey rope basketsgrey wool

Grey wooden beads

global photos

I used Nettle before to dye fabrics but every dye pot is unique and its magic works on me : I am full of joy at each colour reveal. In this dye vat, with 3 different materials (wood, cotton, nettle) I obtained 5 colours !

The baskets are available in my online shop here. Next time I harvest nettles it will be to make myself a cup of tea.


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