Viking Age Needle Coiling / Nålbinding


Textile fragment

Textile fragment

While I’m still posting photos from my trip to Iceland, I’ll now head back to the Iceland National Museum, and focus the topic on textiles.

First up, the photos above and below are of a mitten done by Needle Coiling, or Nålbinding / Naalbinding. (In the museum they described it as Needle Coiling, though generally it looks like people who are interested in the topic are comfortable with the term Nålbinding.)

I’ve actually had the chance to try this, and it was quite interesting – very different from knitting or crochet, but a similar kind of idea, using strands of yarn (or other materials) to create non-woven fabric. One of the nice features of Nålbinding is that if the fabric is cut, it won’t unravel easily. If done in wool, it can also be fulled or felted (which shrinks the garment) to make it even more dense, and subsequently more water/cold resistant. (Wool has excellent properties for wet and cold to begin with!)

Textile fragment

Textile fragment

The photo above is of a mitten made “with the needle coiling technique, of early medieval date. Unearthed in East Iceland” according to the write up by the display.

There were a few exhibits of needles and pins – the little needles on the lower right side are bronze (though modern Nålbinding enthusiasts use bone and wood as well, but these materials would be less likely to survive. The larger pins used for holding garments together are bone and bronze.

I also loved the bronze needle case – and was astonished how tiny it was – I made a ‘fake’ needle case to hang from my work-in-progress Viking brooches (which actually holds my lip gloss! – Photo in my Crafting Viking Brooches post) but this needle case diameter is about half as wide (not including the external rings) and just slightly shorter.  I think my temporary option works OK for the time being – but I would be interested in improving upon it with a nice replica! The display write up says that the needle holder is “from heathen times or early Middle Ages”.

Needles and a needle case

Needles and a needle case

Here’s a photo of the pins, needles, and needle case from above. You can see that the needle case is subtly decorated too.

There’s also a copper item on the right hand side, it’s “believed to be from a belt” according to the museum description, and is “engraved with a tendril or interlace”.

Needles and a needle case

Needles and a needle case

Below is another textile fragment, and the museum display describes it as a shoe made from woven (twill by the looks of things) cloth “found in a burnt deposit” at a monastic site in Northern Iceland. It’s believed “to date from a fire in the monastery in 1429” CE.

Textile fragment

Textile fragment

National Museum of Iceland
Suðurgata 41, 101 Reykjavík, Iceland
+354 530 2200

4 comments on “Viking Age Needle Coiling / Nålbinding

  1. Chris Jarvis says:

    Some of those ‘needle’ look very much like a ‘stylos’..

    • Dawn says:

      I’m afraid I don’t know the word “stylos”. I only know the word as meaning a pen, or ‘stylus’ meaning a pen-type of object, used for writing in clay/etc or more modern – for writing on a tablet… LOL
      Can you tell me more?

      • Christopher Jarvis says:

        The two ‘needles in the middle left of the photograph of needles and a needle case, are, unless I’m very much mistaken, two styli. The form and shape are much more consistent with styli, than needles. Just my opinion..

      • Dawn says:

        Thanks – but I’m still not sure what you mean by the word ‘styli”. Can you explain?

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