Allo Information Sheet

Allo (Girardinia diversifolia), is also know as Himalayan nettle.  It is a tall, stout and erect herb, 1.5 to 3 m. high, with perennial rootstock. The aerial part is armed with numerous slender stinging hairs. It grows wild under the forest from east to west canopy between the altitudes ranging from 1200 to 3000m in moist, fertile and well-drained soil. Stems shoots up to 10-11 feet height at mature under favorable condition. Its bark stem contains bast fibers of unique qualities-strength, smoothness, and lightness and when it is processed appropriately a silk-like luster appears. Fiber length is found up to 580 mm, which it is said the longest fiber in the plant kingdom. The leaves are simple and alternately arranged in early stage and leaves become 3-7 lobes in later stages of development. Leaf length ranges from 10 to 35 cm.

Traditionally, the fiber obtained from the bark of Allo has been used for a variety of woven product, namely clothes (Bhangra, east-coat), bags, sacks, tablecloths, porter strap, blanket etc. and are marketed in Kathmandu and are also exported to foreign countries like USA and Japan. Young shoots are also consumed as a vegetable in some districts of .

The most suitable season to harvest the Allo plant is from August to December. The plant harvested in this time gives a white and good quality fiber. Stingy nature of Allo plant discourages local community to harvest it because they are not equipped with gloves and only use a thick piece of cloth to protect their hand. Community prefers to harvest Allo plant during winter season, when the cold reduces the stinging force of the Allo. After cutting the plant, the bark is removed and peeled.

Indigenous Practice of Allo processing

Harvesting of Allo is done from Kartik to Magh. After harvesting the plant, the outer dead bark is removed and is peeled inner bark (bast fibre). If the harvested plant is dry, then it is soaked in water for a day before peeling bark.

The bark can be dried in one day. Dried peeled barks are bundled and stores in a well ventilated room.

Cooking in Ashes or Caustic Soda
Inner barks are cooked in a drum containing water with ash of any kind of wood for 3 hours. Fresh raw material cooks faster than the dried one. It is economically more viable to cook dry ribbon in terms of consumption of fuel wood and extracted fibre ratio, although time required for cooking fresh bark is comparatively very little. If caustic soda is used instead of wood ash, it takes 1.5 hours to be cooked. Community prefers to cook bark-using ashes because it doesn’t abrade the hand and foreigner like clothes cooked in ashes. The cost of 1 kg of soda is NRs. 60.

Beating and Washing
The cooked fibre is washed in running water usually in a river accompanied by frequent beating with wooden mallet or hammer. The beating and washing in running water is repeated for 2-3 times. One man-day is required beating 18 kg cooked fibre.

Bleaching and Drying
The fibres thus extracted are mixed with rice husk (chaff), or maize flour, or in a white clay solution to bleach the pulp to obtain a white shining fibre and making it soft. The main use of the rice husk is to make the fibres soft and suitable for spinning.

Washing and Drying
After bleaching, the clay flour or chaff is removed by washing it and in any case beating it again. Then pulp is dried in sun.

After softening, the fibre is ready for spinning into yarn. Mostly, the women are involved at all stages of collection and processing. The spinning is either done with self-constructed hand spindle, made of wood or with spinning wheel. Spinning with the hand spindle is slower than with a wheel, but the hand spindle is preferred because it is very light to carry and women find it handy and suitable for spinning during their leisure time or other activities like walking, talking.

Two persons are required to fix the loom (weaving machine). The fitness of the yarn depends largely on the skill of the spinner and also on the quality of the fibres. The yarn thus spun is woven on back-strap loom.