The Nettle Dress (2023)
“The Nettle Dress” is a poignant documentary that follows the journey of textile artist Allan Brown. After the death of his beloved wife, Brown embarks on a seven-year endeavour to weave a hand-spun dress from stinging nettles foraged in the woods surrounding his home.
The film captures the laborious process with a lyrical sensitivity. From gathering bushels of the plants in the woods, with his labrador at heel, to spinning the fibres of the stalks into thread and weaving the thread into a rough-hewn fabric. The documentary speaks eloquently of the rich symbolism of taking something that is a source of pain, stripping it of its sting and, over the years, gradually reshaping and repurposing it into a thing of beauty.
The film becomes painfully poignant when Brown’s wife, Alex, mother to their four children, is diagnosed with stage 4 cancer at the age of 45. The slow process of spinning and weaving becomes his "medicine". As Brown points out, stinging nettles are one of the few plants that everyone can identify: childhood tormentors that grow with malicious intent in places where kids are likely to stumble.
Brown’s mellow observations provide a lovely commentary. “I know every inch of this yarn, it’s like an old friend,” he murmurs, stroking a section of the 14,000 feet of thread he has spun by hand.
The finished dress is in the Viking style, simple and elegant, and modelled by Brown’s daughter Oonagh. “It was never going to be an haute couture fashion item,” is Brown’s verdict. But his dress is sustainable in every respect, with scant environmental cost, a genuine piece of slow fashion.
The film has a meditative effect, with its soothing, gentle rhythms, watching the seasons changing, and sense of time passing. It’s a beautiful exploration of grief, healing and the transformative power of art.
The programme starts 30 minutes after doors open and the main feature 60 minutes after doors open.
After the death of his beloved wife, textile artist Allan Brown embarks on a seven-year endeavor to weave a hand-spun dress from stinging nettles foraged in the woods surrounding his home.
6:30pm Saturday 30th March 2024