There is one question that comes up frequently when looking at how nettles have been used and processed into fabric during prehistory:
"How long did that take to make?"
As with all prehistoric textiles, there are many factors that we don't yet fully understand, although recent studies have confirmed that most Neolithic and Bronze Age linen and nettle textiles were spliced, rather than spun from unretted or very lightly retted material. Several techniques are plausible. Flint scraped fibre or dried then rubbed or rolled bast strips yield good results for splicing, weaving, and cording.
Times ranged from 1.2 minutes to 15 minutes a nettle, although this last is an unusual outlier, most people came in at under 5 minutes. Although the data was anonymised, feedback suggested that several of the slowest pickers were absolute beginners who quickly gained confidence and speed after the first nettle or two.
Because of this, it may be safer to use groupings within the data that suggest an average time range for more experienced pickers and assume that beginners in a group regularly and actively processing nettles quickly gained confidence. If the three slowest are discounted, the average becomes 4 minutes with a likely well-practised range of 1.2-4 minutes per nettle to pick and peel.
As a range of picking and splitting methods were used, nothing specific can be said about whether one is more efficient than another, but we don’t know what methods were favoured in prehistory either. A blend of methods may be the most realistic scenario, especially if it seems reasonable to assume that our prehistoric counterparts self-selected nettles much as we do, such as by avoiding ones that are very short or very branched.
Using the current estimate of fibre yield and the likely range of time needed to collect and initially prepare the nettles can therefore help us get a sense of the relative time ‘value’ of an item.
As an example, an 100g 'tea towel' sized cloth would need around a hundred nettles and at least 2 but probably closer to 6.5 hours preparation before splicing and weaving could begin.