What is Nalbinding

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Nålbinding is a textile technique that uses a single, eyed, needle to create fabric by sewing non-continuous lengths of thread in a fashion that in its most basic form is a series of buttonhole stitches and in more complex forms are threaded together. In Nålbinding, the thread is not pulled tight against itself forming a hard knot, but the stitches are tensioned, often around a thumb or needle, leaving a meshwork of interlocking loops of thread. Except in those forms that look like crossed knitting, it does not unravel like knitting or crochet as the thread is drawn entirely through each stitch. 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

Nålbinding 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. Unfortunately many archaeological nålbinding finds are just fragments so their original use is often obscured if not unknown.


Two Basic Nålbinding Variants

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 Filling6 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 Vattsaum19 (Icelandic), Kinnasompelu20 (Finnish). In Polish it is Iglowy.21 Like English, the German Schlingentechnik22 (looping technique) and Nadelarbeit23 (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 updated 16 July, 2001)

ENDNOTES:

  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.