A little bit about owner Susanna Luck and how she came to start making plant dyed silk ribbons by hand
I’m Susanna, the founder and owner of Nettle. Happy to meet you!
It’s dyeing, not dying*
I’m one of those people for whom ‘me’ and ‘my business’ are almost the same thing. Sometimes I’ll be at a business event and when someone introduces themselves and their business, I’ll say “Oh, lovely to meet you! I’m Nettle”. (I’m not sure if this is entirely healthy). I’m now in my third year making naturally dyed ribbons and other fabrics as a full-time gig and it’s still mostly me standing at the sink and the stove, the drying line and the ironing board. And I do like it that way. Everything you buy from me is handmade by me, one batch at a time. It’s quiet, solitary work and it’s deeply satisfying to handle the silks and velvets, to smell the warm vats of natural dyes and to carefully tear, fray and press the ribbons and runners once they’re dried.
Oh! And I also make the wooden spools by hand (I couldn’t find anyone who sells the size I need).
I’m supported in this by a fantastic product photographer, Kris LeBoeuf, who from the start has made all of my work look its best, often while perching precariously over a table with one leg on the seat of a chair.. (she’s also pretty dedicated to her work!) and who sometimes also takes care of shipping my stock from the Portland studio when I’m away.
Which brings me to something important that I want to let you know: I travel a lot. Since me and my shop are more or less synonymous, that means my shop travels too, so you might notice that the location changes from time to time. I spend time every year in Portland, Oregon (where I lived for many years, as well as the south of England (where I grew up and have family still), Australia (a country I have only just started to explore, but one I love already) and I also travel to other countries to teach workshops periodically. Why do I mention this? Is it to elicit your envy, perhaps? Nah. It’s because I know that it’s confusing to some of my customers if they can’t pin me down to a location. I want to stress that no matter where I am, I can get an order to you quickly. From the UK it’s actually possible to have an order expressed by courier in 2 days to the US for about the same cost as the USPS charges for the same domestic service (crazy, but somehow true). And everywhere in the world has post offices, which these days offer swift shipping services to everywhere else. Which is to say, allow about a week from the date your order ships for it to arrive, but if you need it sooner than that, please don’t hesitate to ask and I’ll expedite it for you. Large orders over £200 get free expedited shipping included.
About the dyeing process
I use only natural dyes that vary from organic local berries to tea, beans, wood shavings and the classic Indigo (which is a paste made from the plant by the same name and which must be fermented to make it colourfast. It’s a whole thing!). I dye 100% silk crepe de chine, habotai and silk-rayon** velvet for ribbons, some of which are then carefully torn by hand, frayed and all are pressed before being wound on hand-made spools.
All of my sources for colours and materials are as sustainable as possible and all are non-toxic. It’s not necessary to use artificial colours or toxic process to make gloriously intense, vivid dyes; I find that the natural colours are far richer and more nuanced than conventional, artificial dyes. In particular they pair wonderfully with flower and foliage elements and bring movement and a little something extra to every bouquet, invitation suite and detail shot in which they get to participate.
Each batch is a lovingly made work of art; my store motto is 'Infused with Love'.
Nettle's textiles have been featured on wedding and style blogs like Vogue Paris, Artfully Wed, Wedding Sparrow, Wedding Chicks, 100 Layer Cake, Ruffled, Rustic Wedding Chic, Green Wedding Shoes, Perfect Palette and Debra Prinzing's Slow Flower Journal.
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*Someone once described me as a ‘dying artist’. I know that’s not what she meant, and it was really a typo, but it did make me chuckle and think: well, some days are more challenging than others, but it’s not that bad!
**Fun fact: Rayon is actually also a natural fibre. I know! I used to think it was some sort of synthetic too. And while it is manufactured, it’s made from cellulose (a plant fibre), created in the late 1800s and briefly known as 'mother-in-law silk’, which I rather love.