Nalbinding HatNALBINDING

Sami Nalbinding and ChatGPT

Sámi Nalbinding and ChatGPT

I have often wondered whether the Sámi people did nalbinding. I haven’t seen much information about this, but I am thinking that they probably did and some may still practice this form of ‘knitting’ though it isn’t in wide use.

Oral History

From my early memories and discussions my Father, he used to tell me stories about the mittens that his Sámi mother used to make. As I sat in his net house, while he was repairing his fishing nets, and wearing the fingerless gloves that my mother had made, he would describe his mother’s mittens. He said that they were much warmer than the beautifully knitted mittens that my Mom.

My Father called it ‘Thumb Knitting’ Peukalo Kude (Finnish). He said that his Mother knit with a single needle and would wrap the wool yarn around her thumb about 3 times, then put the needle in and twist it around somehow behind her thumb and make these looped stitches. He said it was fascinating to watch but he couldn’t understand how she did it.
He used to ask my Finnish Karelian Mother to make him some like that, but she would get quite annoyed. From the oral history of my Father, I am quite sure that nalbinding was done by the Sámi. They lived on the north coast of Finland (Petsamo, now Pechenga and part of Russia. They lived in a turf hut and had only the simplest of tools and materials. So I suppose that she spun her wool on a spindle and carved her own needles. My father said that the needles were made of seal or whale bone.


I have tried to search on Google and other search engines and have been having difficulty finding any information regarding the Sámi and nalbinding. The results mostly included posts that I have made on and A few years ago, when I searched for something, I would get +20 pages or more of relevant data links that I could read through and select. Now, it seems that I get 3-4 pages if that. Quite disappointing.

Then I thought that I would try ChatGPT (Chat Generative Pre-trained Transformer) to see if that would provide more information. I used GPT 3.5 which is one of the early Chat AI models. This was an interesting and entertaining experience. To begin, I had to register with an email account, provide my name and phone number for OTP security.

Conversation With GPT-3.5

Question 1:

Tell me about the Sámi people?
The Sámi people, also spelled Saami or Sami, are an indigenous Finno-Ugric people inhabiting the northern regions of Norway, Sweden, Finland, and the Kola Peninsula of Russia. They are often referred to as the “Sámi” in English, and their languages belong to the Finno-Ugric branch of the Uralic language family.
Key aspects of Sámi culture, history, and lifestyle include:
1. Traditional Livelihoods:
• Historically, the Sámi people have been primarily engaged in reindeer herding, fishing, hunting, and gathering. Reindeer herding has been a particularly important aspect of Sámi culture, providing sustenance and economic support.
2. Nomadic Lifestyle:
• Traditional Sámi society was often nomadic, with people moving with their reindeer herds to find suitable pastures. This lifestyle allowed them to adapt to the seasonal changes in the Arctic environment.
3. Languages:
The Sámi people speak several distinct Sámi languages, which are part of the Uralic language family. These languages have various dialects, and some are
• more closely related than others. In recent years, efforts have been made to revitalize and preserve Sámi languages, which are considered endangered.
4. Cultural Diversity:
• The Sámi people are not a homogenous group. They have different cultural practices, dialects, and ways of life depending on the region they inhabit. The Sámi Parliament in each country works to address the unique needs and interests of the Sámi people in that particular region.
5. Colonization and Assimilation:
• Like many indigenous groups, the Sámi people have faced challenges related to colonization and assimilation. Policies such as forced assimilation, residential schools, and restrictions on traditional practices have had a lasting impact on Sámi communities.
6. Sámi Parliaments:
• Each of the Nordic countries with Sámi populations (Norway, Sweden, and Finland) has established a Sámi Parliament, providing a platform for the Sámi people to address issues related to language, culture, and self-governance.
7. Contemporary Issues:
• Contemporary challenges facing the Sámi people include issues related to land rights, environmental concerns, and the preservation of their cultural heritage. Additionally, discussions around self-determination and autonomy continue to be significant in Sámi political discourse.

Efforts to recognize and respect the rights and cultural identity of the Sámi people have increased in recent years, both at the national and international levels. However, there is ongoing work to address historical injustices and support the preservation of Sámi culture and languages.

Question 2:

Did Sámi do nalbinding?
Yes, the Sámi people have a rich tradition of various textile crafts, including nalbinding. Nalbinding, also known as needle binding or nålebinding in Norwegian, is a technique for
creating textiles using a single-eyed needle and multiple lengths of yarn. It predates knitting and crochet and has been practiced by various cultures throughout history.

In the context of the Sámi people, nalbinding has been used to create various items such as mittens, socks, and other warm garments. The craft has been an important part of Sámi material culture, especially in the context of their nomadic lifestyle and the need for warm and durable clothing in the Arctic environment.

Nalbinding differs from knitting and crochet in its construction, and it often results in a denser and more sturdy fabric. Different regions and communities may have their own variations and styles of nalbinding, contributing to the diversity of Sámi textile traditions. The Sámi people have a strong connection to their cultural heritage, and traditional crafts like nalbinding play a significant role in preserving and expressing that heritage.

Well these results seemed promising, so then I thought I would ask for the North Sami word for knitting. Hoping that I could do a search for ‘thumb knitting’ in the Sámi language.

Question 4:

What is the North Sámi word for ‘knitting’?
The North Sami word for “knit” is “juokŋa.”

Question 5:

Please expand on this.
Certainly! Here are a few examples of how “juokŋa” (knit) can be used in sentences in North Sami:
1. Máret juokŋa bohccuid. (Máret knits socks.)
2. Don it leat juokŋan duottaris. (I don’t know how to knit mittens.)
3. Mon lean čuožžilan čuovggas juokŋa. (I enjoy knitting during the winter.)
4. Beaivvášis mon juokŋan gáktuid. (On Sundays, I knit scarves.)
5. Mu mielas lea vuoigŋa ja juokŋa. (My grandmother knows how to spin and knit.)

Question 6:

Please expand on this.
Certainly! Let’s expand on the examples to provide more context:
1. Máret juokŋa bohccuid. (Máret knits socks.)
Máret lea gieskat olbmát maid liigá juokŋat. Maid iežas bohccut barget gieđahallat, ja Máret orru juokŋa danin go lea sáhttán čájehit sin.
(Máret is a skilled woman who loves to knit. She finds joy in creating warm socks that her children can wear, and Máret often knits because it’s a way to show her love for them.)
2. Don it leat juokŋan duottaris. (I don’t know how to knit mittens.)
Mun lean nu buorre ja veahá, muhto juokŋamin duottaris lea iežan vuostá. Mun dárbbašin veahkiid ja čohkkejit, muhto juokŋa lea munnje iežan dahkki go lea buorre sáhtán juokŋat.
(I am good with my hands and creative, but knitting mittens is beyond me. I prefer working with wood and metal, but knitting is a skill I wish I had because it’s such a useful and artistic craft.)
3. Mon lean čuožžilan čuovggas juokŋa. (I enjoy knitting during the winter.)
Go vahkkoin lean luoitán ja čuovggášán, de mun liikon čuovggaid ráhkisvuođa. Mu mielas lea váimmu sáhttán vuoiŋŋadit ja čuovggat juokŋa, ja don liikon mii sáhttát áiggut ruoktot gáhttet.
(When the snow falls and the winter darkness sets in, I find solace in the cozy warmth of knitting. For me, it’s a way to unwind and be creative during the long winter nights, and you can create beautiful things to keep yourself and your loved ones warm.)
4. Beaivvášis mon juokŋan gáktuid. (On Sundays, I knit scarves.)
Beaivváš lea mu áidna, go lean sáhttán lohkkiid ja ráhkistit oaidnit. Mon lean váldán gáktuid juokŋa, dehálaččat ja čuozžat. Dat lea muhte diđolaš áigái maid lea vejolaččat gáktu ja čuovggat juokŋa.

(Sunday is my day when I can relax and pursue hobbies. I’ve chosen scarves as my knitting project, experimenting with different patterns and colors. It’s a meaningful time for me to create something beautiful and practical.)
5. Mu mielas lea vuoigŋa ja juokŋa. (My grandmother knows how to spin and knit.)
6. Mu mielas lea áhkku, gii lea vuoigŋa ja juokŋa. Son lea ožžon šluommat ja ássejuvvon munnje buot dáiddalaččat. Mun lean ovttas mátkái áhččin, ja dat lea deaivvadan munnje niehku go juokŋa ja vuoigŋa.
7. (My grandmother is a wise woman who knows how to spin and knit. She has passed down traditions and skills to me in all forms of art. I cherish the moments spent with my grandmother, and it’s a source of comfort to me when we spin and knit together.)

Question 7

Museum links to Sami nalbinding?
As of my last knowledge update in January 2022, I can’t provide specific links to museums or exhibits focused on Sámi nalbinding. However, you can explore relevant museums and cultural institutions that may feature Sámi textiles, including nalbinding. Keep in mind that online resources, exhibit details, and museum websites may have changed since then.
Here are some general steps to find information:
1. Search Online Museums and Collections: Look for online collections or exhibits from museums that focus on Nordic or Sámi culture. Major museums in Scandinavia or those with significant textile collections may feature information about nalbinding.
2. Explore Sámi Cultural Centers: Sámi cultural centers or institutions dedicated to Sámi heritage may have online exhibits or information about traditional crafts, including nalbinding.
3. Contact Sámi Museums or Organizations: Reach out to Sámi museums, cultural organizations, or textile-related groups for information. They may be able to direct you to online resources or upcoming exhibits.
4. Check Virtual Exhibits: Some museums create virtual exhibits or provide online access to their collections. Explore websites of museums in Nordic countries or those with extensive textile collections.
5. Use Museum Databases: Larger museums often have searchable databases. Explore museum databases that focus on textiles or ethnographic collections.
6. Visit Museum Websites: Check the websites of museums in regions where the Sámi people traditionally reside, such as Norway, Sweden, Finland, and Russia.


Well, I felt that was an interesting and informative ‘conversation’. I wasn’t really sure what to expect when I started this query. But I learned a bit of the North Sámi language as well.
Mu mielas lea vuoigŋa ja juokŋa. (My grandmother knows how to spin and knit.)
To Spin: vuoigŋa
To Knit: juokŋa

Sámi Naalebinding

This led to further searches via Google and I found a reference to a ResearchGate publication where evidence of naalebinding was found at a Sámi gravesite in Mukkala, Eastern Lapland, Finland. They were fragments of a mitten or a hat. The yarns were S-twisted, single ply and undyed.<.p>
It was wonderful to discover that yes, this ancient and beautiful textile craft is also part of my heritage and a skill that I can also pass on to others.

Globalization and tradition in Forest Sámi commemoration rituals Textiles and animal skins in the 17th-century burial ground in Mukkala, eastern Lapland, Finland

Textiles made by knitting and naalebinding
The catalogue number SU5187:4b includes a
fragment of knitted sock and in the same grave
(grave I) also other fragments of knitted textile
(SU5187:5, Figure 6) were preserved. Their oblong
shape points toward the shaft of a sock. In grave V
(the shaman’s grave) some fragments of a textile
made by naalebinding (SU5187:50, Figure 7) were
found. They are probably parts of a mitten, but
possibility of a hat cannot be ruled out. The yarns
of the textiles mentioned in this connection are
s-twisted and undyed. The yellowish or brownish
color is due to the burial conditions

Brief History of Nalbinding

Anne Marie Decker

Nalbinding is currently done in many places around the world although it is definitely beginning to die out in our 21st century. According to my sources it is still practiced in at least the following places: the mountainous regions of Central Asia;[24] Persia, i.e. Lurestan and Iran;[25] Oman;[26] Sweden;[27] Norway;[28] Denmark (possibly);[29] Finland;[30] Peru;[31] and New Guinea.[32] It may be used in more places, however, as in February 2000 I bought a nalbound bag made by one of the aboriginal tribes of Taiwan. I was told that only the old people used that technique now as the young think is too hard to learn and takes too long to finish. Although it may be a method used around the world, currently the more complex variations are found only in Scandinavia.[32]

Stories from my Sámi Father’s Oral History

Tales of a Sami – Childhood Memories 1.1
Tales of a Sami – Childhood 1.2


YouTube – Nalbinding Hat

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