My curiosity about nalbinding began at an early age as my father used to tell me stories of how his Saami mother would make mittens.
My grandmother was a Saami from the Sor-Varanger province of Norway. My father was born in Petsamo and was raised in a small Saami community. When he grew up he married my Finnish mother. He and my mother moved to Canada after the war and settled in British Columbia. My father worked as a commercial fisherman along the west coast of Canada.
Before his long fishing trips, my mother would knit him several pairs of woolen hand warmers to keep his hands warm as he worked. My father would quietly comment to me, that he wished that my mother knew how to make the mittens like his mother did. He didn’t really understand how she made them, but he tried to explain that she would wrap the yarn around her thumb and sew it with a large needle. ‘Peukalo kude’ as he described it in Finnish. He said they were much warmer, thicker and more durable. Of course, he never told my mother this as he wouldn’t want to offend her.
I didn’t understand what this strange type of knitting could be, until I attended a Fungi Dye Symposium many years later. To my surprise, there really was a way of making hats, mittens, socks by using a simple needle and wrapping the yarn around your thumb.
Examples of Fungi Dyed Naalbinding or needle knitting at the International Mushroom Dye Symposium
Step by step instructions for nalbinding including hints on how to join threads.
Kiara’s Naalbinding Page
A lovely pair of socks worked in this needle knitting technique.
Mielke’s Fiber Farm has examples of mittens done in naalbinding.
Neulakinnas – Naalbinding
More how-to naalbinding instructions at this Saxon, Norman, Celtic and Viking re-enactment site.