Nettle plant has traditionally been used to make ropes, jackets, bags and blankets among others. The practice of making yarns from nettle plants lost its popularity in many parts of the country after cotton became easily available. But in Lauri Gewog of Samdrup Jongkhar, people are not only keeping the tradition of producing nettle yarn alive but also making a good income from its sale.
Villagers say the easy availability of imported clothes affected their practice of producing nettle yarns. The tradition nearly disappeared.
However, with the help of the Agency for the Promotion of Indigenous Crafts in 2016, the practice was revived.
Lhazom from Lauri chiwog is one of the villagers who produce nettle yarns. She says most of the villagers sell nettle yarns directly and weave fabrics only when they get an order.
Lhazom collects nettle plants which are easily available in the forest. The plants are cut to extract fibre from its stem. It is then dried before undergoing a series of processes to make yarn.
“From clothes to blankets, our parents used to make everything from nettle yarns. The tradition nearly disappeared until the government intervened. The practice was revived and we were trained by the government to produce yarn and started producing it again. Although I cannot spin the nettle yarn every day, I can earn Nu 5,000 to 6,000 from whatever I can produce during my spare time. We will earn more income if we are able to spin more yarns,” said Lhazom.
“In the past, we did not sell nettle yarns. It’s only recently we have started selling them. I am not able to collect nettle plants from the forest like others. So, I do not earn much compared to others,” said Mindu Chenzom, a resident.
“Currently, a kilogram of nettle yarn costs Nu 1,800. We didn’t sell nettle yarns before. We only produced yarns to make carry bags for horses,” said Gyeltshen, another resident.
About 20 households in Lauri Gewog produce nettle yarns today which are mostly taken to Thimphu.