A man spent seven years making a dress from stinging nettles to help “soak up” the grief following his wife’s death.

Textile artist Allan Brown, from Brighton, would forage the nettles from Limekiln Wood near the city.

He spent countless hours extracting fibres from the stem before spinning them into string which could be made into cloth.

The 54-year-old got into the craft before his wife Alex died aged just 46 after a battle with cancer in 2018.

The father-of-four found it became “therapeutic” as he and his children grieved their loss. He was filmed by long time friend Dylan Howitt.

Now, the seven year process has been made into a feature film which is screening across the country this week.

The Argus: Harvesting the nettles took painstaking hoursHarvesting the nettles took painstaking hours (Image: PA)

Allan said: “I kept on spinning while Alex was ill and going through chemotherapy. It was therapeutic. The spinning was only a few minutes a day sometimes and gave me a sense of progress. It was a calming activity.

“It became much more than just a piece of cloth, it has been woven with the stories of people who know and love you.

“It was therapeutic having Dylan there. It did not even feel like he was filming sometimes. Bit by bit the idea revealed itself in terms of a feature film.

"What it became grew as we went on. Sometimes it felt like I was weaving a shroud for Alex. It was there to soak up grieving and helped with looking forward into the future.

The Argus: Allan measuring his daughter Oonagh for the dress dimensionsAllan measuring his daughter Oonagh for the dress dimensions (Image: PA)

“The first couple of years was about experimenting to find a way to get the fibres. I had to teach myself all the different steps. We filmed a how to video originally and shared that. It went viral online.

"The community grew up around that, we randomly pulled together people into this one place who helped crowdfund the film.

“My method was traditional. Nettle fibres do not take well to machines, they require hand crafting. I was bowled over by how much it takes to make cloth from the fibres. It was all foraged around Brighton.”

The dress, which is made using 14,400 feet of thread, is worn in the woods by Oonagh who is one of Allan’s daughters.

There are screenings for The Nettle Dress at Dukes at Komedia Picturehouse in Gardner Street, Brighton on September 14 and September 22.

It is also going to be shown at almost 100 cinemas across the UK and goes on general UK release on September 15.

The film even won the Audience Award at its first outing at the Cinecity Festival last November.

Dylan Howitt, who produced, directed, filmed and edited the film, said: “The film has lots of threads in terms of the craft, from the nettles to process of making the dress.

“But then another thought is what that means, it has healed a broken heart. There is such a nice Brighton pride in this film.

“The nettles were gathered here, it was made here, edited here. It won an audience award at Brighton Film Festival last year. It is literally made from the landscape around Brighton. It has been a word of mouth sensation in terms of people coming to see it.”

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