Thursday, April 7, 2011

Small Nalbinding Victories

By now, I have re-started my nalbinded socks more times than I care to admit.  In the course of all of the redoing, I have learned two things.

The first thing I learned is that kariena was right; you really don't need to "pivot", so long as you are able to connect your stitches back to your "caterpillar" as soon as you have made it as long as you want it--or at least that's the case if you're making a hat or something that starts out with a cylinder (like a sock). The result looks better than a pivoted end, too.

The other problem, and the real reason I've had so many do-overs, is the issue of adding a new piece of yarn to the work.  As anyone who has tried it is aware, unlike knitting or crocheting, nalbinding does not use one continuous piece of yarn; it can't, because the working thread has to be pulled completely through for each stitch. So the nalbinder must be able to add a new piece of yarn every time the old one runs out, without ruining the look of the existing work.

There are several ways to do this. One is simply to knot the new piece of yarn to the old one. This method is quick and simple, and depending on how tidy your knots are, can be fairly inobtrusive. Unfortunately, it doesn't work very well when your project is a pair of socks, because such knots can often be felt after the project is completed (even if they cannot be seen), and will cause discomfort.

Another common joining method involves fraying both the end of the old piece and the end of the new piece, overlapping them, and then uniting the two, either by wetting the area to be joined with water or saliva and rubbing it (to felt the ends together) and/or twisting the area to be joined in the direction the yarn was spun. This method wasn't working well for me either, because my yarn is thin and rough-surfaced. No matter how solid my spit-join looked, it usually  pulled apart as I was making my first post-join stitch.

I've also seen pictures and videos of another method called the "Russian join." This method involves threading your new piece of yarn into a needle small enough to go up into the interior of the old piece. I'm sure it's a wonderful idea if your yarn is thick; however, I suspect any needle narrow enough to go inside a strand of my thin, 2-ply yarn would be too thin to thread with that yarn. A sample video illustrating the technique, using a thick, unplyed yarn, may be found here, but it's possible to find other videos and picture essays on the process, if you're interested.

Finally,I found a method called the "lazy join."  This method involves starting your new yarn by running it underneath a number of stitches in the vicinity where your old yarn ran out, and continuing from there. Virginia Miller kindly put this picture page up to illustrate the process.

This method, finally, is working for me. Hopefully, the new sock I started last night will ultimately become a finished sock!


  1. Even if you have started a dozen times, I'm impressed! Nalbinding is something I've always wanted to try my hand at, but I've finally conceded that I simply have too much I want to learn and do.

  2. While I, on the other hand, went for nalbinding because it was something that was easy to start. Equipment needed: yarn, and one blunt needle (the plastic kind that they sell in sewing stores--I forget their actual purpose--is quite good, and is what I started out with). That's it. You need a source of instruction, though. A live person is probably best, but if you can't manage that, a video, or a book with lots of pictures works (I learned from a book).

    I'll also add that the fact that the Dark Ages cultures used nalbinding inspired me to try it, since that's my main period of costume interest. I can easily see that there would be skills you'd have more interest in learning!

  3. 1. I knot the threads with a simple knot while working. I go back over the finished sock, undo the knots and use the needle to thread the ends through/under rows of stitches. Once the sock is fulled (deliberately or by age) the ends become bound in to the fabric. It makes the stitching phase much quicker and isn't much work at the end.
    2. YouTube has great 'how to' videos for different nalbinding stitches. I find 'Oslo'easiest and most hardwearing.
    3. If you start with a chain at the toe, a few 'York' stitches in the first turn at each end make it easier to turn and work back down the chain.
    Enjoy! I've given up knitting for nalbinding: it's more portable and satisfying.

  4. Hi, Baggage! Welcome!

    1. The problem with knots is that, if you're trying to make socks, they tend to create potential random pressure points, especially if you're using thin yarn. Those points are still there, even if you full the piece. With feet as bad as mine (hammer toes, bunions, fallen arches, sensitive skin, you name it), I'd rather avoid that.

    2. I am aware that there's a lot of YouTube nalbinding videos, and I'll go back there once I'm ready to dig out my needle again.

    3. I'm not sure what a "York" stitch is (I assume it's what the Coppergate sock was worked in, but I don't know the actual stitch), but I'll check it out when I resume.

    Thanks for your comments!

  5. I'm delighted to hear that you like lazy join!!! I called it, "lazy" because it's so much easier than felting ends together. I thought maybe I was being lazy.

  6. Hi, Virginia! I have had little success with "spit joins", Heaven knows, and I've devoted lots of energy to those!

  7. Could you verbally describe how to do a lazy join (I'm blind so can't see the photos). I'm also working with yarns that are thin and not felting well, breaking after the first stitch after the join. The project requires a very long chain, which is sewn together, and knots would stick out of the chain. Thanks for your help!

    1. Hi! Welcome to my blog.

      The "lazy join" method I talked about comes from Virginia K. Miller, who is on Ravelry. I have not yet tried this method, and she probably could explain it to you in words better than I can. However, based on looking at her YouTube video showing how to do a lazy join, I would describe it like this. 1) finish the yarn you were working with, as close to its end as possible. 2) Rethread your nalbinding needle with fresh yarn. 3) Put the point of your needle through a stitch about 10 stitches before your yarn ran out. 4) Pull your needle through your ten stitches and bring it out through the last stitch you did, LEAVING THE END of your yarn in the ten stitches. 5) Put the point of your needle into the loop where you brought it out, and draw it firmly around your thumb to create a new working loop. 6) Continue working loops, connecting each one to the row below it. I don't know how to describe it better since I haven't done it yet, and though there's a good YouTube video, that doesn't help you any. You may want to have one of your friends watch the video and try to walk you through the process. The video can be found here: Good luck!