It’s been fun and interesting experimenting with how to extract the cellulose fibers from various native, naturalized, and invasive plants that live in our gardens and all around our neighborhood.
Because, like Stinging Nettle, Fireweed bast fiber was also traditionally utilized by the First Peoples of this region for cordage making, and it grows in a similar perennial fashion to Stinging Nettle, I ended up with successful papers using the same method for extracting the fibers.
First, I cooked cut stems in boiling water for 15 minutes.
After cooking and draining the stems, I split them in half, either with a knife, or by flattening them under a rolling pin and then using my thumbnail to open up the stems.
Then it’s easy to separate the stringy outer bast fiber from the woody center. All the woody part needs to be removed.
Rather than masticate the fibers with a mortar and pestle, I cheat and use my old kitchen blender. But one most step is a good idea first. I learned that if I didn’t cut all the pieces to 1” lengths, and this is for both the Nettle and the Fireweed, that I’d spend all my time untangling the blender blades. The fibers are so strong, no wonder why they were used traditionally for making fish nets, snares and tumplines.
The top piece of paper is pure, nothing added, and the lower piece of paper is nettle with a pinch of cotton linter added.
Happy Fall Harvesting!