Nalbinding – Oslo stitch pouch

nalebinding - make a pouch in Oslo stitchNalbinding was around 2000 years before knitting. Examples of this ancient technique have been found by archaeologists in Egypt and across Northern Europe. Some call it ‘Viking Knitting’ as it was most widespread amongst Scandinavian peoples. But what is it, and how is it done?

Nalebinding (also spelled nalebindling, naalbinding or nalbindning) means ‘needle tying’ and involves using a large blunt needle to make interlocking loops of yarn. Today we’ll learn a little about this historical technique, making a small pouch in Oslo stitch, the simplest nalebinding stitch, and which often serves as a foundation for other stitches.

For this project you’ll need:

  • thick wool yarn – nalebinding is done with short lengths of yarn and wool is much easier to join.
  • large blunt needle, such as a tapestry needle

Begin by breaking off a length of yarn, 1-2m in length, and threading your needle. With the long end of the yarn, make two finger-sized loops – there are various ways of doing this, but your end result will always be one loop held against your thumb, and a second loop around your thumb, with the working yarn coming up over your thumb from back to front. Insert the tip of your needle into the first loop (the one against your thumb) front to back. Twist the needle round so that you can insert it, back to front, through the loop around your thumb and under the working thread. Pull the yarn taut around your thumb, and as you do so slip the previous loop off your thumb and hold it as you did the first loop. Confused yet? (I was!) Here’s a video demonstration.

Continue making stitches until your first strip is long enough – I worked 36 ststches to make a strip 20cm long – depending on your yarn, how tightly you work, and the size of your thumbs, it may take more or less. When your yarn runs out, join another length. The quickest way to do this is a felted join, which I will be demonstrating, along with some other joining methods, tomorrow.
Nalbinding is generally worked in the round, making tubes for bags, hats, socks, mittens and so on. This second video explains how to join and start working your second round.

From here on, you’ll just keep working the same way, making a spiral that builds up into a tube. I worked 12 rounds to make my pouch – work until yours is the depth you want, and then turning the work inside out whipstitch across the bottom, before turning it right way out again.

nalbinding - oslo stitch fabricCut a length of yarn around 70cm, and twist it until it twists round on itself. Double it over, allowing it to twist and form a cord. Knot and trim the end, and then use your yarn needle to thread it through the top of the pouch to make a drawstring. If you haven’t already, weave in the beginning ‘tail’ of yarn, and you’re all done.

Next week we’ll look at some more complex nalebinding stitches, such as York stitch.

16 thoughts on “Nalbinding – Oslo stitch pouch

  1. Thank you for these very nice and easy-to-follow instructions, have started work on a pair of leg-warmers for this summers viking markets. :)

    Am looking forward to the York stitch – I tried a search, but it isn’t on your page yet, is it?

    Will browse the rest of your page for other great tips.

    Again, thanks. :)

  2. That’s tough one – not sure wht to suggest other than watching the video in a mirror and doing all the motions the other way round?

  3. Thank you thank you for making this. I have always wanted to learn Nálbinding and now I can ( and make my first project to boot) Yay! I am left handed so I will have to sit and figure it out and let you know what I had to do (mirror image, follow video ect) Please please please keep making videos!!

  4. ok I finally got a chance to do the 1st video of nálbinding and i just followed the video. the yarn was in my left thumb and I worked the needle with my right hand. Hope that helps you!

  5. I was recently introduced to traditional nalbinding by Joyce Robards at the Weavers Guild of Rochester (New York State, USA). I’m currently experimenting with different types of cord & ribbon to make bracelets & anklets. I plan to use wire nalbinding for jewelry pins. You can follow my progress at (I also knit & crochet wire. Trying to think outside the box & design modern pieces by traditional methods.)
    I found your videos to be very well done. Even the background music is helpful! Best wishes.

  6. Interesting! I’ve had a couple of tries (and failures *lol*) at nalbinding with wire myself – I shall watch your progress with interest (btw I edited your link so it’s clickable, so others can take a look too :D )

  7. For us lefties! There is a yahoo group for nal binding. Do a search for left handed instructions. There are abt 4 of them. It can be done!

  8. Well, this would be very handy while I’m out on a long trip. I have to try this one to keep myself occupied. This is a very concise and expertly constructed tutorial. You make it look very easy to do.

    Thanks for the tips.

  9. Pingback: What is Nalbinding? | RMGBD.ORG

  10. Pingback: Viking Knitting and other spin-offs « Wednesday Night Knitting

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