Nålbinding mittens

Wearing one of the mittens.

Wearing one of the mittens.

I’ve been doing a fair amount of Nålbinding over the past year or so and I’m having a lot of fun with it. After quickly chatting with an acquaintance at a ‘stitch & bitch’ afternoon about 6 months ago, I decided to take a leap and try mittens a while back – far earlier than I thought I’d be ready for mittens, since I hadn’t watched any videos, can’t read knitting patterns for mittens, etc…. For just sort of figuring it out in my head, I’m actually pretty happy with the result.

Unfortunately, because I got busy with other things, I didn’t have the chance to post this until now.. but read away – and stay tuned for what’s next (and what spurred me on to want to post!)

Mitten work in progress

Mitten work in progress

I started the first mitten at a SCA A&S practice night (http://www.montengarde.org/activities/arts-sciences/ for more information if you’re in Calgary/Montengarde)  and got up past the thumb-hole before the end of the night – really happy that I’m getting faster at this and much more productive!

I got the entire body of the second mitten done in one ‘stitch &  bitch’ session (from the wrist to the tip of the fingers, minus the thumb) as seen on the left in the photo below as well – again, getting really happy with how quick this went together, despite being totally new for me.

Nålbinding mittens - work in progress (flash photo)

Nålbinding mittens – work in progress (flash photo)

The wool I used for these is single ply Crystal Palace Chunky Mochi Yarn in 816 Feldspar. The wool is a variegated with copper/rust/brown, green, light grey and dark grey which I think is super-pretty. The yarn is 80% Merino Wool & 20% Nylon. This is the same wool I used for my first nålbinding hat, as seen in in my first-project post.

I used nearly 3 balls of wool for the pair of mittens.


I didn’t use a pattern, nor did I record a pattern. I made the first mitten to the “done apart from the thumb” stage and marked the areas where I started decreasing stitches to create the curve. In the first case I marked it with a twist-tie, and a piece of string (super technical!) and decreased by two stitches every four stitches (so two, one, one, one, one, two…..) until the very top where I did a tw0-stitch decrease for every second stitch (so two, one, two, one…) until I got to the very top and then just gathered. I then used the twist-tie and string markings when making up the second mitt, plus counted the lines of stripes…

When it came to adding in the thumb, I tried to be clever and have the colour of the yarn continue, so selected yarn starting the stripe in the same colour to start adding the thumb. I really like this, though the strips on the much smaller thumb are wider than in the larger body. On the first mitten I stitched in the loops as normal, then half-way through the thumb put the mitten on… and realized the shape was sticking out kind of the wrong way. I then started decreasing stitches on the ‘inside’ of the thumb, while remaining regular stitches on the ‘outside’ of the thumb. This corrected some of the problem, but it still wasn’t ideal. For the second mitten, I started decreasing the stitches on the ‘inside’ of the thumb right away, and kept the regular stitches for the ‘outside’. I did this for two full rows, before going back to regular one-one- stitching. This gave a much nicer shape, though the thumb is smaller. Like the body of the mitten, I decreased more and gathered at the tip of the thumb.


Textile fragment

Textile fragment – needle coiling mitten from Iceland

When I saw the original extant Nålbinding mitten (above), I was shocked at how HUGE it was. Even the person with the largest hands I know, would probably find this super-roomy.

Textile fragment

Textile fragment- close up

Looking at the close up though, I can easily see the individual stitches (much tighter than mine though!) which might suggest that this mitten was not felted or fulled (yet?) It could suggest that the mitten was made large, in order to shrink down to fit the wearer, and the mitten was lost/discarded/etc before the fulling or felting.

It could also be that the mittens were made very large, in order to go over top of another pair of mittens or gloves; an outer layer that could be removed for work, but worn over top for additional warmth.

With the size of the originals, I decided to make my mittens quite large as well, with the plan of shrinking them down, which I haven’t done yet.


Things I’d do differently

First off – for a first project I’m super-happy with them. Since this is the first pair of mittens I’ve made, and I don’t know how to read knitting patterns to get a good idea of how to construct these, and instead the ‘design’ came out of a short conversation and then just pondering… I’m really happy with the results.

I think if I were to re-make these mittens, I’d try making them the ‘right’ size to start with, and not plan to full or felt them, just to compare how the process works differently, as well as possibly to compare the warmth between the fulled/felted and unfelted mittens. Not to mention the water resistance difference.  I used the self-striping variegated wool for these ones because it worked really nicely for my hat, and looks cute, but for something more period-authentic, I’d use a solid coloured wool next time instead- like the extant original.

I’d also use the same technique for the thumb as I did on the second mitten, rather than the first if I were to do these again.


5 comments on “Nålbinding mittens

  1. Josephine Washingtn says:

    You have golden fingers Dawn. I would be exstatic if my naalbinding turned out like that. The mittens are great. I have trouble being consistent which back loop I pick up in Oslo stitch, but I will persevere and your posts are very encouraging.

  2. Kolbrun Gunnarsdottir says:

    You are great who manage keep the stitches smooth and the same size. My cap is a sad piece of work so are the mittens. I keep going because I know it can be done

    • Dawn says:

      as my first pair of mittens, I’d say that the stitching is quite sorry compared to my later examples (see the related posts) when I got better at managing my tension consistently, but thank you very much all the same!

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