The Ancient Craft of Naalbinding

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blue pouch Naalbinding (also spelled Nalbinding, or Nalebinding) is an ancient craft dating back to the stone age. It is 2000 years older than its “relatives,” knitting and crochet. It’s best known as a craft originating in Scandinavia and practiced by the Vikings, but forms of naalbinding were also practiced in Egypt, Peru, and other areas around the world. Unlike knitting, it uses one needle to knot the yarn to create the stitches.


I’ve written in other articles about how crafting is an activity that connects us to our ancestors. Before machines and malls and supermarkets, things were made by hand, using skills passed down through generations. Whether we think about it actively or not, we are part of that tradition: humans making things they need or want with their hands. It’s exciting that people still practice skills, like naalbinding, with such deep roots. As Craftsters we understand that things made by hand have their own sort of life. Ancient and historical crafts like naalbinding connect us with the past, almost as a neverending length of wool reaching back through the millenia.

hat thunderbolt bags

This is not to say that you can’t create some modern, fun projects using ancient techniques! Check out the projects here made with naalbinding. Some are ancient patterns and materials, others are fresh and new. All are fantastic! If you are interested in learning naalbinding, cottontop has very kindly provided many resources in this post. Thanks, cottontop!

scarf bag hat
pouch pouch turtles

What historic crafts would you like to see featured in the blog? Let Batgirl know!

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22 Comments

  1. EelKat says:

    I have never heard of that before. I love making reenactment stuff and using authentic techniques to do it, so I’m gonna try this out. Vikings, you say, I’ll have to design myself some sort of Viking outfit just so I can try this.

  2. Holly says:

    I’ve heard and read about this before but I can’t ever seem to find good directions for it. Thanks for the article, it’s nice to know other people are curious about this too. :)

  3. Breanna says:

    Ooooh! Something new to try!

  4. Michelle says:

    Well just great. Another awesome project I have to find the time to do!

  5. hrsg says:

    Never heard of this before, but in my grandmother’s sewing things I inherited on of the needles. Now I know what it is for. Thank you batgirl!

  6. Peanut says:

    I’d like to see Quilling featured (as a historical craft)
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Quilling

  7. Kelly says:

    Wow, never ever heard of this before. Thanks for the insight.

    How about the art of ‘tufting’?

  8. Ruby Copperhead says:

    Aw, an article about nalbinding, illustrated with my older posts – reminds me, I need to post recent stuff… you said it so well about the link to the past, that’s exactly what it feels like. Just wanted to warn people about how addictive this technique is :)

  9. Hi..

    I just looked the internet for crafting pages and fell over this site.. Nalebinding (or like we say in Scandinavia Nålebinding (the “å” is pronounced as an “o” like in “open”)).

    I don’t know if she is sending it out of Denmark, but I can try asking her.
    On http://www.historicum.eu/product.asp?product=602 you can buy a book (unfortunately only on danish).

    If someone has the “courage” I will ask her?

    Christian Rathje

  10. batgirl says:

    Thanks for all the awesome comments! Ruby Copperhead, please post! I’d love to see more!

  11. Kirsten says:

    Oooh, this is so cool! Of course, as frustrated as I get trying to find crochet patterns for things I like, this must be just a TAD bit harder to find. XD

  12. Kat says:

    Wow! Looks interesting and very creative.

  13. Rowan says:

    Is that the same thing as the toothbrush rugs?

  14. Very nice.
    I could tell you similiar story.
    Will you look at metheor shower this night?
    I read it will be great show.

  15. mbarnett says:

    do you have any instructions for nalebinding?
    have you any idea if that would have been used to construct some long socks i have form Tibet – looks similar.

  16. emily says:

    About 19 years ago, I was introduced to this fabulous form of stitching, but never did much with it. When searching recently on the internet, I found great instructions for the many different stitches used…….Nalbinding.com. All instructions are in English with great pictures and further reference to classes and books.

  17. Susan Winlaw says:

    Oh this is so exciting. I love seeing new things in needlework. I would love to learn how to do this. I Crochet (regular and a bit of Tunisian) and do English and Counterchange Smocking. Years ago I did a sample of Sprang. I find it all fascinating and I love to see the history as well.

    I can hardly wait until our next book is finished so I can concentrate on my crafts again.
    Heart Hugs to you all.
    S>

  18. MontanasDawn says:

    Nalebinding looks great! A bit like needlepoint. I would also like to see some Bargello. Thanks!

  19. Joy says:

    The Vikings used naalbinding for socks, mittens, caps and hats, and in a larger, openwork version, scarves. The socks are especially effective as the fabric is thick and springy, and you start them at the toe and work up.

    I am fascinated with sprang (mentioned above) but it needs some sort of loomfame to work on. You’d all probably recognise sprang in those lovely south american hammocks of twined string. Sprang gives a stretchy netlike fabric used for bags, hairnets, leggings, caps. I love the idea of the vikings waving string bags as they roared up an English beach intent on pillage.

  20. Marilyn says:

    I love working with my hands. Have never heard of Nalbinding before,very intested.

  21. Ann Ross says:

    I learned naalsbinding in northern Newfoundland at L’ans aux Meadows last September. There are some great crafters up there. The stitch is fairly simple to learn, but I found the repeated attaching yarn process to be somewhat frustrating. It is a very good stitch for felting, if you like a tight weave.

  22. I ran across your site immediately after making a search in Bing, and I have got to state it does include a bunch of quite good subject matter which I found both useful and helpful.

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