Nettle Socks and Nettelbosch


Today’s post has a nettle theme running through it. To begin with, I’ve knit a pair of socks with nettle fibre in them. That was interesting, because the yarn (Onion Nettle Sock) behaved a little differently from the usual all-wool or wool-and-nylon sock yarn. Let’s take a look at the thread first:

As you can see, there is maroon fibre and white fibre. The maroon fibre is superwash wool (70%) and the white fibre is nettle (30%). Nettle doesn’t take the dye used for wool and stays white, which gives a nice marled effect. Here and there thicker bits of nettle stick out, but on the whole the thread is smooth. Nettle is a very strong fibre, and the thread doesn’t break easily.

For me, the problem was that the yarn has hardly any elasticity at all. At my first try, with a few centimetres of knit 1, purl 1 rib followed by stocking stitch, the sock became too loose. Casting on fewer stitches would give a tighter fit, but also a stiff sock. After throwing it into a corner taking a break from it, I had a lightbulb moment: what the yarn lacks in elasticity, can be added by using a stretchy stitch pattern! So, I knit the leg and the top of the foot in k2, p2 rib.

TIP: Here is something I learnt from my mum and she learnt from hers: start on the toe of the sock when the little toe is covered. I can’t guarantee that it works for very long toes, but I think it’s a good rule of thumb.

Laid out flat, the ribbing is all bunched up and the socks look rather narrow.

But on the foot, you can see how the rib stretches out and the socks fit perfectly.

I had my doubts about this yarn, but I’m happy with these socks now and hope the friend I made them for is too. Still, they’re pretty basic. I have more of this yarn for another pair and have an idea for making those a little more exciting. More about them in a few weeks’ time, I hope.

Q: Does nettle yarn sting or itch?
A: No more than any other sock yarn. It feels surprisingly nice, really.

All this focus on nettle fibre gave me an idea for a little outing to the Nettelbosch, a garden in the nearby town of Steenwijk. Come along! Up, up, up the stairs we go, on to the top of the old town wall.

After a short walk we go down another flight of stairs…

… and arrive at the entrance gate. Apart from the name of the garden, it shows a simplified map of the old town centre, with its wonky star-shaped defensive walls.

Long, long ago, there was a garden here, too. But it became a neglected spot – a tangle of nettles that was known to the locals as De Nettelbosch. When in 2018 the municipality decided to give the town centre a ‘quality boost’ by creating a new garden, the spot kept its name.

The small, stony pond looks nice all year…

… thanks to its attractive leafy bridge.

For the rest, De Nettelbosch looks rather bare and bleak at this time of the year.

At least at first sight. Spending a little longer looking around, small details catch the eye, like these seed heads.

There is also some colour to be found.

And even a few signs of spring!

These bulbs (daffodils?) are much further along than those in our garden, probably because of their sheltered situation behind the town walls. I’ll certainly take you back here in spring, to see what De Nettelbosch looks like then.


*Local expression for Bye!

13 thoughts on “Nettle Socks and Nettelbosch”

  1. Thank you for taking us on a beautiful outing. Knitting is problem solving and finding solutions. We knitters are so fortunate to have it in our lives. The socks are beautiful and interesting yarn.

  2. I have some nettle yarn in my stash, yet to use. I also noticed the lack of elasticity, and put it aside wondering what to do with it. You’ve inspired me to find it again and work up some ribbed socks! Thank you!
    And thank you for the garden tour—even in winter it it is a fascinating place. ?

    • I hope this way you’ll enjoy your nettle yarn after all. The garden is a place I knew about for a long time, but only really discovered recently.

  3. I also have some nettle yarn which I use to make wash cloths. They are somewhat rough and act as an exfoliant. There is NO stretch in the yarn, and after using it day after day, it eventually will get a hole or two in it – depending upon where and how big determines if it’s time for me to make a new one.

    I am guessing that you used the nettle to give strength to your socks in place of nylon? The nettle that I have I would be afraid to use with sock yarn. If I had time, I would take a picture of a skein and it’s yarn band.

    Can’t wait to go back to Nettelbosch in the spring – although I did enjoy seeing your pictures today.

    • Yes, in the yarn I used the nettle is used to provide strength instead of nylon. I took a look at your nettle washcloths on Ravelry. Wow, that looks like a very ehrm scrubby yarn. One of the differences is that in the yarn I used it is combined with wool. And I suppose there are also differences in the way the fibres are processed. Interesting.

  4. I have not yet tried knitting with nettle yarn but isn’t it just fascinating how all the different fibers take dye differently? There is just so much to explore in this wonderful hobby of ours. Your friend is very lucky to have you making such pretty socks!

    The Nettelbosch looks like a little secret. I do love tucked away garden. Thanks for taking us along!

    • Explore, yes, that’s a great word. There is a lot to discover about the fibres we’re using, and there is so much more to learn, try out, find out. The Nettelbosch really is a kind of secret place, I passed close by it dozens of times without knowing it was there.

  5. I love these socks, and am intrigued by the yarn.
    Could you tell me what type of heel is your favorite when knitting socks? What heel pattern did you use on these socks?
    Also, how many skeins were needed for your socks?
    I hope that I haven’t asked too many questions!

    Many thanks for your blog posts.

    • For these socks I didn’t use a pattern. I improvised on the basic sock pattern I was taught by my Mum, who learnt it from her Mum. I discovered much later that this particular heel is called Dutch heel – how appropriate! As a child I thought this was the only heel, because everybody I knew knit socks this way. Now I know that there are many other heel options. My socks took 2 skeins of 50 grams each, with quite a bit left over. And feel free to ask as many questions as you like, I love answering knitterly questions – they make me look at my knitting in new ways.

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