ArtsAutosBooksBusinessEducationEntertainmentFamilyFashionFoodGamesGenderHealthHolidaysHomeHubPagesPersonal FinancePetsPoliticsReligionSportsTechnologyTravel
  • »
  • Arts and Design»
  • Crafts & Handiwork

The Ancient Art of Naalbinding

Updated on January 13, 2018
Athlyn Green profile image

Athlyn Green is an avid crocheter and knitter. She designs and sells handcrafted goods.

Ethnic Knitting Style at Norstead Viking Village

Woman knits with one needle carrying on  centuries-old tradition.
Woman knits with one needle carrying on centuries-old tradition. | Source

An Ancient Form of Viking Knitting Resurfaces in Modern Times

Twenty-first century crafters have discovered the art of medieval naalbinding, turning to a form of ancient knitting that involved knitting with one needle. Knitters have adapted this method for use in modern times.

How does naalbinding knitting differ from the knitting we know of today? Naalbinders use a spiral knitting technique that connects one row to the next and to the loops on either side. It is a challenging craft, one that is time-consuming and labor-intensive, but modern naalbinders gain a better understanding of crafters that have gone before, and they feel the results are well worth the effort.

What makes naalbinding distinctive is that a person doesn't have to use patterns to produce knitted goods. Each naalbinder develops his or her own particular style and this is expressed in unique, one-of-a-kind creations.

Needle-binding is similar to sewing, darning but because yarn is used, it produces a fabric that looks similar to that which is knitted. Naalbinders use a single-eyed needle and yarn to create a series of loops, which makes every stitch secure and produces a stretchy material. Increases are made by working two stitches into one stitch in the previous row; decreases involve combining two stitches.

Short lengths of yarn are used because the yarn is pulled all the way through each stitch. Yarn is added as a piece progresses. Colored yarns are also woven into the work.

Sturdy Mittens Made With Naalbinding

Sturdy Naalbinded Mittens--a hardy people learned how to make knitted items to ward off the cold.
Sturdy Naalbinded Mittens--a hardy people learned how to make knitted items to ward off the cold. | Source

Also Known As

* Nålebinding

* Nålbinding

* Naalebinding

Discoveries of Ancient Knitting

Naalbinded items have been found in different parts of the world, some fragments dating back to the neolithic period. Items have been discovered in Iceland, Finland and Poland, to name a few.

Naalbinding continued in Scandinavia and the mountain areas of Central Asia, probably due, in part, to climate.

While, In other locations, knitting largely replaced naalbinding, the craft still survived over the centuries in certain areas and thus, has come down to us from antiquity and gives us insights as to how warm and sturdy garments were made in the past.

Roman Socks

An ancient method of knitting produced dense socks.
An ancient method of knitting produced dense socks. | Source

Quick Look

Literally translated as "needle binding" or "binding with a needle," naalbinding is a time-honored method of creating fabric that is considered to be older than crocheting or knitting. The process was based on:

  • Use of one needle rather than two
  • Needles were flat and fashioned from materials at hand, such as moose or antler wood
  • The entire length of a short yarn strand was used create each loop or loops
  • Because of short lengths of yarn, different yarn colors could easily be added, which, of course, made for interesting-looking garments.
  • A loop was created and the needle was passed through the loop
  • A chain of loops were created

Did You Know?

• Naalbinding can be quicker than knitting because each row's height may be equivalent to 2-3 rows of knitting.

• Unlike knitting, Naalbinding does not unravel.

Naalbinding and the Vikings

Talented knitters in Norse settlements employed naalbinding to fashion clothing items to ward off winter's chill.

This ancient knitting method required many hours of labor, using a bone needle and wool to construct almost indestructible warm garments, such as knitted socks, leggings, mittens, gloves, hats and scarves, and other necessary clothing items. In a sense, naalbinded garments were survival gear, which equipped these hardy and hard-working people to protect themselves against the elements.

Norse naalbinding ranged from simple stitches to very complicated techniques. It is believed that over one thousand variations of naalbinding are possible.

On the Northern Tip of Newfoundland, Naalbinding is Alive and Well

A visit to L'anse Aux Meadows up in St. Anthony, Newfoundland, offers knitters a way to step back in a time. Knitters can tour Norstead, the Viking village, and chat with women dressed in traditional garb, seated 'round a fire and knitting with one needle. A shop on the site offers an assortment of naalbinded items, such as warm socks, mittens, hats and scarves, a delight for visitors who want to purchase naalbinded items.

Norstead--Viking Village in Newfoundland

Getting to Norstead Viking Village

A markerL'Anse Aux Meadows, Newfoundland, Canada -
L'Anse aux Meadows, NL A0K, Canada
get directions

Naalbinding Was Done Using Materials at Hand

Image: Needle and Sample of Naalbinding Knitting
Image: Needle and Sample of Naalbinding Knitting | Source

Materials Ancient People Used to Naalbind

When winter winds were howling, ancient people passed the dark winter months creating many useful and usable items for their families.

  • Needles were flat and carved out of antler, wood, or bone.
  • Wool was particularly well-suited for one-needle knitting because of how it felted.

Table With Naalbinded Items

Everyday items to make life more comfortable for the Norsemen.
Everyday items to make life more comfortable for the Norsemen. | Source

A Look at Naalbinding: Knitting With One Needle

Stitches Used in Naalbinding

Different stitches are used in Naalbinding, some relatively easier and more common and others more complex.

Pattern codes describe the action needed: "go over or under" and how many times, thus someone reading directions might see codes like: O/UO, UO/UOO, and any number of variations.

Different variations of naalbinding are used to yield different degrees of both elasticity and thickness when creating fabric.

If you want to learn naalbinging, attending a class can be a real boon, but if there are no classes in your area, a good instructional book can guide you.

Oslo Stitch

How do Naalbinded Stitches Differ From Knit Stitches?

In a row of knitting, each stitch or loop is connected to stitches above or below it. In naalbinding, each loop is connected to at least one loop on either side.

In the basic technique, a loop is formed and the needle and yarn are passed through the loop, but not all the way. The yarn forms a new loop. The needle is then passed through the new loop and thus a chain is formed.

At the end of a row, the work is turned, and each stitch is now passed through its partner but also in a loop from the previous row. This makes for sturdy fabric.

As with knitting, the work may also be performed "in the round," depending on what item is being created.

The stitches can be made on the thumb or off the thumb.

York Stitch

Naalbinding in Modern Times

In modern times, the art of naalbinding has enjoyed a revival as interest has grown in this ethnic knitting style. This method has been turned to as a valuable resource for crafters who desire to master different knitting techniques to produce naalbinded items for their own use and/or for cottage industries.

Ribbing and More

Resources For Modern Naalbinders...

  • Classes in naalbinding offer instruction in different single-needle stitches
  • Knitters learn from experienced naalbinders who share their techniques
  • Naalbinding pamphlets and booklets teach basic stitches
  • Online sites discuss naalbinding techniques and offer naalbinding instructions

Have You Seen Naalbinded Pieces?

See results

Rediscovering an Ancient Crafting Method

Certainly, the past steps on the heels of the present as knitters master a style of knitting that once spelled survival for our hardy forebears who produced many useful and warm items using natural materials they had on hand, and thus were well-equipped to brave challenging temperatures on land and at sea.

© 2013 Athlyn Green

Comments

    0 of 8192 characters used
    Post Comment

    No comments yet.

    working

    This website uses cookies

    As a user in the EEA, your approval is needed on a few things. To provide a better website experience, hubpages.com uses cookies (and other similar technologies) and may collect, process, and share personal data. Please choose which areas of our service you consent to our doing so.

    For more information on managing or withdrawing consents and how we handle data, visit our Privacy Policy at: "https://hubpages.com/privacy-policy#gdpr"

    Show Details
    Necessary
    HubPages Device IDThis is used to identify particular browsers or devices when the access the service, and is used for security reasons.
    LoginThis is necessary to sign in to the HubPages Service.
    Google RecaptchaThis is used to prevent bots and spam. (Privacy Policy)
    AkismetThis is used to detect comment spam. (Privacy Policy)
    HubPages Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide data on traffic to our website, all personally identifyable data is anonymized. (Privacy Policy)
    HubPages Traffic PixelThis is used to collect data on traffic to articles and other pages on our site. Unless you are signed in to a HubPages account, all personally identifiable information is anonymized.
    Amazon Web ServicesThis is a cloud services platform that we used to host our service. (Privacy Policy)
    CloudflareThis is a cloud CDN service that we use to efficiently deliver files required for our service to operate such as javascript, cascading style sheets, images, and videos. (Privacy Policy)
    Google Hosted LibrariesJavascript software libraries such as jQuery are loaded at endpoints on the googleapis.com or gstatic.com domains, for performance and efficiency reasons. (Privacy Policy)
    Features
    Google Custom SearchThis is feature allows you to search the site. (Privacy Policy)
    Google MapsSome articles have Google Maps embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    Google ChartsThis is used to display charts and graphs on articles and the author center. (Privacy Policy)
    Google AdSense Host APIThis service allows you to sign up for or associate a Google AdSense account with HubPages, so that you can earn money from ads on your articles. No data is shared unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    Google YouTubeSome articles have YouTube videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    VimeoSome articles have Vimeo videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    PaypalThis is used for a registered author who enrolls in the HubPages Earnings program and requests to be paid via PayPal. No data is shared with Paypal unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    Facebook LoginYou can use this to streamline signing up for, or signing in to your Hubpages account. No data is shared with Facebook unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    MavenThis supports the Maven widget and search functionality. (Privacy Policy)
    Marketing
    Google AdSenseThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Google DoubleClickGoogle provides ad serving technology and runs an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Index ExchangeThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    SovrnThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Facebook AdsThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Amazon Unified Ad MarketplaceThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    AppNexusThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    OpenxThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Rubicon ProjectThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    TripleLiftThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Say MediaWe partner with Say Media to deliver ad campaigns on our sites. (Privacy Policy)
    Remarketing PixelsWe may use remarketing pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to advertise the HubPages Service to people that have visited our sites.
    Conversion Tracking PixelsWe may use conversion tracking pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to identify when an advertisement has successfully resulted in the desired action, such as signing up for the HubPages Service or publishing an article on the HubPages Service.
    Statistics
    Author Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide traffic data and reports to the authors of articles on the HubPages Service. (Privacy Policy)
    ComscoreComScore is a media measurement and analytics company providing marketing data and analytics to enterprises, media and advertising agencies, and publishers. Non-consent will result in ComScore only processing obfuscated personal data. (Privacy Policy)
    Amazon Tracking PixelSome articles display amazon products as part of the Amazon Affiliate program, this pixel provides traffic statistics for those products (Privacy Policy)