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Nettle fibre clothings - a De Montfort breakthrough
01
Jul '08
De Montfort University, located in Leicester, involved in various kinds of innovations, has added yet another feather in its cap, by developing a new method for using Nettle fibres in clothing and furnishings.

This work on Nettle fibre at De Montfort University has been conducted over the last 5 years.

The Nettle fibre project was constructed and coordinated by De Montfort University's TEAM (Textile Engineering and Materials) research group. The work is funded by the UK government's department of environment, food and rural affairs (DEFRA) and a number of private companies. The latter includes a number of companies ranging from farmers, fibre processors and fabric producers (CAMIRA Fabrics).

Fibre2fashion contacted Dr Matthew Horne, an agricultural scientist, who was also involved in this project since its inception.

According to him, single Nettle fibres range between 1.5 and 5 cm in length, and have a diameter of approximately 20-25 microns. The fibres are white and soft when prepared from a good nettle crop and well prepared for spinning. It is remarkable for its high tensile strength.

Talking about this prestigious research, Dr Horne said, “The outcome of the project so far has been to develop and establish commercial nettle agricultural crop husbandry methods and to detail the necessary processing technology (Decortication and opening) for extracting the fibre from the nettle stems. It has also established a market for nettle fibre as this can be used in woven textiles, produced on either the woolen or cotton systems.”

Dr Matthew further discussed the usefulness of the nettle fibre and informed, “At present, the most proven and successful use is, this fibre can be blended with wool in fabrics for commercial furnishing fabrics, such as those used in public buildings (cinemas, office furniture, etc) public transport vehicles (railway carriages, etc).”

The Nettle fibre used in the De Montfort University project is sourced from the commercial nettle crops grown especially for the project on a farm Leicestershire. At present the cropping of fibre nettles is limited as it is such a unique idea, but commercial crops are now being established.

Dr Horne stated, “From a commercial perspective, the nettle crop from which the fibre is extracted is a low input fibre that is compatible with sustainability objectives of promoting biodiversity on farmland while reducing chemical inputs. For example, the crop requires no pesticide to control pests, diseases or weeds.

“The farmers that grow the crop have the chance to 'add value' to the crop output by processing the straw to extract the fibre on farm, which can assist the rural economy. Of course, it provides growers with an alternative profitable crop. As a textile fibre, nettle fibre is valuable because of its credentials as a sustainably produced fibre and its properties of high tensile strength and resistance to abrasion.”

Lastly, Dr Horne revealed that nettles have properties which allow them to be blended with other fibres and are a cheap and renewable crop.

Fibre2fashion News Desk - India

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