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Curious About Nalbinding and Hand-Dying? - Guest Post by Amy Vander Vorste (ShyRedFox)

Thank you Shaina for letting me share a little about nalbinding, dyeing and my upcoming classes!

What is nalbinding and why do I do it?

Nalbinding is a very obscure yarn craft. Unless you do historical re-enactment of the Viking age or hang around the Vesterheim museum, you may not have heard of it.

It’s an ancient technique (much older than knitting or crochet) of making loops and knots with a single large eyed needle to create a fabric. Loops are often made on the thumb, but can be created otherwise. Some pieces date back to 3,000 - 4,000 BC. It’s most commonly associated with the Nordic countries, because of the preservation of the craft there and some of the most famous archaeological finds. Warm dense garments for the toughest of winters are the trademark of this craft. Gorgeous traditionally embroidered mittens from the Nordic countries are some of the most beautiful examples. But it can be used to make light and airy items too. Nalbinding doesn’t rip out, if the yarn is pulled on or broken – it only tightens or unravels by a stitch or two. So you don’t have to ever worry about your work ripping out. (But choosing to rip out takes patience!) It’s drastically different from common crafts like knitting and crochet and creates well wearing uniquely textured fabrics.

Why in the world would I be interested in such an obscure craft? Too many reasons to list them all! But here’s a few.

  • Once I tried it, I was hooked and wanted to help keep this craft alive and help grow the nalbinding community. I revived the nalbinding English speaking group on Ravelry and am active in several Facebook groups (English Speaking group, Nordic Country group 1, Nordic Country group 2, German group, Sweater group) along with posting tips on Tip Tuesday on my tumblr blog, twitter and Facebook.

  • I love the challenge of it. In knitting there are patterns for everything you could ever want to make. While it’s nice and I like knitting too, I feel knitting leaves less creative room for me because it’s so established in the craft world. I can explore and experiment with nalbinding without anyone telling me “it’s wrong” or “so and so does it this way”. There are few patterns in nalbinding, because everyone’s gauge is a little different (due to most people making stitches using their thumbs. So, it’s a new frontier in the crafting world. The cool thing though, is I’m seeing more and more patterns becoming available. And I’ve been helping to add to that collection by creating my own and helping a friend who has the same passion for nalbinding, by editing translations of her pattern booklets from Danish to English.

  • It’s a connection with my Viking Age ancestors. I’m fascinated with that time period and used to do re-enactment with a Viking persona who’s been forced to retreat to Dublin at the end of the Viking Age.

  • I want to help modernize the craft. Most people think of it only from a historical perspective. There are plenty of traditional and historic patterns and examples of lovely mittens, socks, and hats. But this last spring I finished a tunic dress, just to see if I could do it. And last year I created a lacy swirl scarf pattern to share what’s possible with a simple chain, because I hadn’t seen anything of the sort done yet. There’s so much more to explore and I can’t wait to discover more!

  • I get to play with power tools when I make needles for my shop. As a gal who grew up in a “that’s guys stuff” household – playing with a band saw, drill press, and belt sander has been an absolute blast! And it’s opened my eyes to the fact that I really want my kids to try anything they desire – without the concern of what could be considered feminine or masculine. Guys can tat and girls can play with power tools! YES!

Why do I dye?

I started dyeing yarn for my shop about a year ago (for nalbinding and other yarn crafts), because the yarns I love to use often only come in solid colors. If you’re like me and love color and variety – solid colors just don’t fit the ticket for many projects. So, being the obsessive child that I am, I poured over dye methods and dove head first into learning more about color -- experimenting like crazy. Eventually I found a way to create to the colors I wanted, and dyeing my yarn went from “boy I hope this turns out”, to having a method to my madness of creating colors in a dye notebook. I’m excited to get back to the dye pot soon!

Classes at North Country Fiber Fair?

I’ll be teaching Beginning Nalbinding on Saturday from 9 am - noon and Dye Color Theory on Friday from 2 – 4 pm.

In Beginning Nalbinding, you’ll learn the Oslo stitch, a bit of history, and we’ll get you started on a simple tote.

Dye Color Theory will show you why Red-Yellow-Blue may not make the best set of primaries, why Cyan- Magenta-Yellow can make a wonderful set of primaries to mix any color. In the class, you’ll get to dye a gradient rainbow to help you learn how to create the colors you want to dye, and give you a start for your dye notebook.

Nalbinding is my absolute favorite of the yarn crafts. It’s been a pleasure to introduce you to it and to why I’ve been drawn to dyeing for my nalbinding. Feel free to ask me more about them at NCFF or ping me online at any time!

- Amy Vander Vorste (ShyRedFox online and Cloudlakes on Ravelry)


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