Nålebinding... exploring an ancient handicraft


Nålebinding... translates from Danish/Norwegian as “needle-binding”, and goes by other spellings--naalbinding, nålbinding, nålbindning or naalebinding. This is a fiber technique that predates both knitting and crochet. It is sometimes also known as "knotless knitting," or "single needle knitting." Nålebinding was in use during the Viking-age, which interests me very much. For an extensive history of this ancient fiber technique, I do recommend this Wikipedia article.


For some weeks, between all else, I’ve been practicing nålebinding. It's not the most easy thing to pick up and do, so I'm only just now sharing this. Here I have used the Oslo Stitch. There are other styles of stitches, including the Finnish Stitch, the York Stitch, and several others. During the last weekend I created this little pouch (pictured at the top), which is great for holding cords and cables for tech gadgets while on the go. I like this old meets new--a little bit of antiquity for the modern age!


A blunt, single needle is used to work a foundation of loops, from which a fabric is created that has a kind of chunky herringbone texture. Once the foundation chain is established, the piece can be joined and worked in the round, much like crochet or knitting. Yarn suitable for felting works best with this technique. Socks, mittens and hats have been made in times past using nålebinding. 


The loops/stitches are worked quite differently from knitting or crochet... 


Using the threaded needle, the needle is passed through a loop on top of the thumb (sometimes called the halo stitch), twist it toward the back and push it forward.... the needle goes under the working length of yarn lying to the left, between thumb and index finger... to create a new stitch. Best worked from the "side" of the stitch than on top of it. 


Pull the needle and yarn slowly, keeping a light hold on the stitches, until there is a loop around the front of the thumb. The loop around the front of your thumb is a new loop to work. And another is made, and another... You can find lots of good videos via YouTube with various nålebinding stitched demonstrated!


Relatively short lengths (1-2 yards/meters) of wool are pieced or felted together during the process, rather than working from a ball of wool with a continuous length pulled out. Breaking the yarn rather than cutting it is important, as the frayed ends of the yarn make it easier to pull open and felt. To felt: fluff open the broken ends of yarn, and with the help of a little water, rub the ends together with a brisk rub-and-roll action, to make a firm join... and a new working length of yarn is made.  


I found it helpful to mark the halo loop when needing to put my work down--making it easier to pick it up and get the tension going again. Nålebinding produces a very firm fabric that does not unravel--it's pretty amazing! Making a mistake--it's hard to unpick it... This technique takes a lot of practice. 


This is definitely NOT the prettiest thing I’ve ever made.  LOL...  :/  Quite honestly, while this technique is interesting to read of, learn about, and try, it is very time consuming.  The stop-start in having to felt lengths of yarn as you go, and constantly adjusting the loops/stitches… It's a slow process. And this craft eats up yarn! This small pouch is approximately 3 x 7.5 inches/ 7 x 19 cm and I used nearly the whole of a 50 gram skein of yarn suitable for felting! So, I’m not sure how much I will be working with this technique in the future… but we'll see. Anyway, fun to step back in time and try this!

Are you trying anything new these days?! 


Comments

  1. Wow! You learn something new every day! I had never heard of this before Tracy! Thank you so much for introducing us to it! Love the tip on joining yarns without cutting as well/felting it. You are such a great teacher! Love your little cord holder. What a great idea! Thank you so much for all that you share dear friend. Love you so much! Love and hugs to you, TJ and Luna! Hope you have a sweet weekend! xoxo

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    1. Thanks so much, Marie... glad you enjoyed this! It was fun to share. I was vaguely are of this technique, but really wanted to look into it more after seeing all the Viking handicrafts and artefacts at the Viking Ship Museum in Oslo back in January, so have been playing off & on with this since then. It's just so time consuming and everything... I feel like I get more bang for my buck and time with crochet or knitting.

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  2. This looks interesting and I admire you are doing this very old craft but boy -- I don't think this one would be for me. Your photos are excellent though and I love the idea of a cord holder. Much easier than a winding mess of knots! I'm not familiar with this technique so I've leaned something today! Can't wait to see what else you do!

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    1. I'm not sure this craft is for me either, Jeanie... and you know how much I love me some yarn! LOL... It's not the easiest craft to pick up and run with. I'm not even sure how much I like the result... I think I just prefer crochet and knitting, and the more smoother look they produce. Oh, well.. it's fun to try!

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  3. That is a lovely stitch it makes. I might sometime look into this and see if I can do it. Don't think I would ever give up knitting or crocheting for it, but I like to try new techniques. I just hope it doesn't turn out like my attempt at tatting. LOL One of Dale's great aunts tried to teach me and finally she took the shuttle away and told me that it just was not for me.

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    1. Each of the different nålebinding stitches offers a slightly different look, but similar to a herringbone texture. The overall look is kind of rustic. Sometimes items made in nålebinding were/are felted, which makes the fabric created even more solid and even more insulating. I can see how this technique is very ideal for things like mittens and hats, especially went felted after the stitching. Since you're a yarn person too, you might enjoy giving this a try! I had tried tatting many, many years ago. I bought a kind of kit with the shuttled and thread. This was in days before the internet, and then I ran out of thread and couldn't get more as the shop stopped selling the tatting supplies. That it also a bit of a time consuming craft, but very interesting! :)

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  4. I admire your perseverance, as it looks very time-consuming. Well done! Marie x

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  5. Wow, that was an awesome post. Who knew there was a technique like this out there at all. I often feel like some of the older methods of doing things are slowing going away. I especially feel sad about tatting because it is so beautiful but not many people do it in today's world. It is becoming a lost art.
    I love the color of your project; it's really my favorite. All though it took a lot of time; I loved your tutorial on it. I doubt I would ever do this one. My dream is just to get back to crocheting and learn how to do more complicated patterns.
    Thanks for sharing this one dear friend; I enjoyed reading about it.
    Sending loving thoughts and hugs for you sweet sister in Christ!

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