What is Nalbinding

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Nalbinding is an end-led, single element, textile technique that uses either the stiffened end of the yarn or a single, eyed needle to create fabric by sewing non-continuous lengths of thread to create a series of crossed loops. In a fashion, its most basic form is a series of buttonhole stitches/half-hitches and in more compound forms the loops are intralaced together with previous loops in the same row. In nalbinding, the thread is not pulled tight against itself forming a hard knot, but the stitches are tensioned, often around a thumb, needle or some other gauge (but can be by eye), leaving a meshwork of interlocking loops of thread. Because of the entire thread is drawn through each loop and across itself, nalbinding cannot be frogged from the working end. Pulling on the working end simply tightens the last knot. The majority of nalbound stitches will also not unravel when cut. The resulting fabric is generally built spiraling up row by row and can be very elastic or quite stiff depending on the variation and material used.

Working diagram of the UOO/UUOO variant

Nalbinding can be used to make a number of different items. Most often used for mittens, socks, hats, milk strainers, and bags, it can, however, be used to make many different objects including camel muzzles, masque costumes, and figural work for example. Unfortunately many archaeological nalbound finds are just fragments so their original use is often obscured if not unknown.

Two Basic Nalbinding Variants

Z crossed Simple Looping (Buttonhole or Blanket stitch) – O F1
O/UO F1 – The simplest compound variant

Marta Broden supposedly introduced the term Nålebinding in 1972.[1] It is made up of two Norwegian words; nål, meaning needle, and binding, meaning to bind or sew. In English it can be referred to as Knotless Netting,[2] Looped Needle Netting,[3] Needle Looped Fabric,[4] Single-Needle Knitting,[5] and Fancy Buttonhole Filling[6] among others. Other possible names for the technique that you may run across are Scandinavian; Nålbinding,[7] Nålbindning,[8] Nålebinding,[9] Naalebinding,[10] Nålaga,[11] Nålbundna,[12] Sömning,[13] Binding,[14] Vantsöm,[15] Påtning,[16] Nålade,[17]  Knudeløst,[18] Vattsaum[19] (Icelandic), Kinnasompelu[20] (Finnish). In Polish it is Iglowy.[21] Like English, the German Schlingentechnik[22] (looping technique) and Nadelarbeit[23] (needlework), and the French, ‘travail à l’aiguille'[24] (worked with a needle), seem as though they do not have a very clear, specific, word for nålbinding.

© March 2000 Anne Marie Decker (last fully updated 16 July, 2001, partially updated 19 October 2021)


  1. Hansen, Egon H.; ‘Nålebinding: definition and description’ in Textiles in Northern Archaeology, Textile Symposium in York, North European Symposium for Archaeological Textiles Monograph 3, NESAT III; London Archetype Publications, 1990; ISBN 1-873132-05-0; pg. 21.
  2. Nordland, Odd; Primitive Scandinavian Textiles in Knotless Netting; Studia Norvegica No. 10; The Norwegian Research Council for Science and the Humanities (Norges almenvitenskapelige forskningsråd); Oslo University Press, Aas & Wahl, Oslo, 1961; No ISBN listed in Book; pg. 19: Martinson, Kate; ‘Scandinavian Nålbinding; Needle Looped Fabric’ in The Weaver’s Journal Vol. XII, No. 2, Issue 46; Fall 1987; pg. 12: Davidson, D. S.; ‘Australian Netting and Basketry Techniques’ in The Journal of the Polynesian Society; 1933; pgs. 259-269: Davidson, D. S.; ‘Knotless netting in America and Oceania’ in American Anthropologist, New Series, 37; 1935; pgs. 120-122.
  3. Hald, Margrethe; Ancient Danish Textiles from Bogs And Burials: A Comparative Study of Costume and Iron Age Textiles; Publications of The National Museum s Stiftsbogtrykkeri, Copenhagen, 1980; ISBN 87-480-0312-3; pg. 285: Martinson, pg. 12.
  4. Martinson, pg. 12.
  5. Hutchinson, Elaine; ‘Nalebinding: the history, origins, construction and use of ‘needle-binding’ with specific reference to the ‘Coopergate sock”; May 1992; Regia Anglorum Publications, 1995; http://www.regia.org/naalbind.htm : Øye, Ingvild; ‘Textile Equipment and its Working Environment, Bryggen in Bergen, c 1150 – 1500’; The Bryggen Papers, Main Series, Vol.2; Norwegian University Press, 1988; pg. 97.
  6. Bender Jørgensen, Lise; ‘Stone-Age Textiles in North Europe’ in Textiles in Northern Archaeology, Textile Symposium in York, North European Symposium for Archaeological Textiles Monograph 3, NESAT III; London Archetype Publications, 1990; ISBN 1-873132-05-0; pg. 5.
  7. Martinson, pg. 12.
  8. Martinson, pg. 12.
  9. Hansen, pg. 21: Walton, Penelope; ‘Textile Production at Coppergate, York: Anglo-Saxon or Viking?’ in Textiles in Northern Archaeology, Textile Symposium in York, North European Symposium for Archaeological Textiles Monograph 3, NESAT III; London Archetype Publications, 1990; ISBN 1-873132-05-0; pg. 66.
  10. Westman, Berit; Nålbindning; 12 varianter; Andersson & Kagardt, Västerås, 1983; ISBN 91-970550-0-X; pg. 1: Hald, pg. 278.
  11. Dahl, Hjördis; Högsäng och Klädbod: Ur svenskbygdernas textilhistoria; Svenska Litteratursällskapet I Finland NR 544, ISSN 0039-6842; Folklivsstudier XVIII, ISSN 0085-0764; Tryckeri och Tidnings Ab, Helsingfors (Borgå), 1987; ISBN 951-9018-36-0; pg. 343.
  12. Dahl, pg. 343.
  13. Martinson, pg. 12: “sömnade” Collin, Maria; ‘Sydda vantar’ in Fataburen; 1917; pg. 71.
  14. Martinson, pg. 12.
  15. Westman, pg 1: Hald, pg. 305.
  16. Martinson, pg. 12: “påtade” Hald, pg. 305: Collin, pg. 71.
  17. Hald, pg. 305.
  18. Martinson, pg. 12.
  19. http://www.dmv.com/~iceland/instructions/nalebinding.html : http://www.dmv.com/~iceland/tools/nale.html (Unfortunately these links no longer lead to a web page.)
  20. Westman, pg. 1.
  21. Nahlik, Adam; Tkaniny Welniane Importowane i Miejscowe Nowogrodu Wielkiego X-XV Wieku; French summary trans. by Jadwiga Packiewizcówna; Zak³ad Narodowy Imienia Ossoliñskich Wydawnictwo Polskiej Akademii Nauk, Wroc³aw / Warszawa / Kraków, 1964; (No ISBN listed in this rebound book).
  22. Martinson, pg. 12: Nordland, pg. 136: “Schlingen gearbeitet” Schmedding, Brigitta; Mitteralterliche Textilen in Kirchen und Klöstern der Schweiz; Abegg-Stiftung, Bern, 1978; ISBN 3-7272-9682–8; pg. 99.
  23. Schmedding, Brigita, pg. 99.
  24. Stékoffer, Sarah; ‘4.1 Le trésor de l’Abbaye de Moutier-Grandval’ in La cross mérovingienne de saint Germain, premier abbé de Moutier-Grandval; Office du patrimoine historique – Societe jurassienne d’Emulation, Porrentruy, 1996; ISBN 2-88436-005-0, pg. 43.

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