Naalbinding (Nalbinding, nadelbindung, "woven with a needle", stitched, knotless knitting,...) is a technique that produces materials that look somewhat like they've been knitted, but have actually been created by a different technique. Naalbinding produces a fairly tight fabric, and unlike knitting doesn't ladder when you drop a stitch. (A to distinguish it from knitting which older books frequently mislabel it as). It shapes easily, and is an ideal candidate for socks, mittens, and the like. It's slow to work.
The naalbinding technique predates the development of knitting, and has been known from Chinese hats from 1000BC, and in Europe from at least the 1st century AD. It was used by the Coptic (Egypt) peoples for socks, and the Vikings for socks and mittens. In the middle medieval period it was used to make very fine gloves and hose, and continued in minor use after the 16th century in items such as milk strainers and rugs, as well as traditional items.
What you need
For this technique, you'll need a largish, preferably blunt, needle, and whatever yarn you like--preferably wool. Naalbinding is worked by pulling the entire length of the yarn through every stitch, so you need to work with shorter pieces; about 18 inches (40 cm) is good, although some experts work with lengths of 3m (beginner's don't try this at home). Additional lengths of yarn can be joined by a variety of techniques - splicing is a traditional favourite for many wools, techniques for binding ends together or weave their ends in tend to be used for yarns that refuse to splice. Whatever works.
(also see the external links below) Cut a piece of wool to the desired length (I use two arm lengths, though it is a good idea to use less if this is your first attempt) and thread your needle (you may need a needle threader if the wool is quite thick) leaving a substantial tail (about 15-20cm works well for me).
Take the tail and wrap it two to three times clockwise around a finger on your left hand, making sure the end of the wool is tucked into the circle. Slip it off your finger, and if you don't want a finger-sized hole in your project you can squish or pull the circle smaller. Take your needle and push it through the loop from top to bottom. Once the needle is clear of your loop make sure it goes OVER the thread, so you're tying a knot around the loop rather than wrapping wool around it. Make another stitch in the same way to the right of your first stick, and continue moving clockwise until you've completed the loop. Now, simply continue, but rather than going through the main loop, go through the little loops made by your knots. If you continue in this way you will make a cylinder. If this is not what you want, then you will have to increase the diameter by adding two stitches to every loop as you go around. For smooth and gradual increases do one circle of double stitches followed by one or several single stitches. For decreases you do the opposite, stick two loops together.
There are a lot of variations of stitches and techniques, and for these (and more instructions) take a look at the links below, but in the meantime the basic stitch is enough to make hats and pouches.
- Phiala's String Page--Naalbinding
- http://www.dilettante.info/nalbindingmain.htm (Click on the Oslo stitch primer link, which is near the bottom of the page. It is a pdf, but well worth the wait for it to download)
- http://www.nadelbinden.de.vu/ (German site, scroll down and pick the English side)