Needle binding

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Needle-bound socks from Egypt (300–500 AD)
needle-tied mittens

Needle binding is a technique for the production of textile fabrics with the help of single threads and a needle . In needle binding, the thread is tied in a spiral with a basic stitch in loop chains. Each new loop is attached to the side by a connecting stitch with the previous loop. At first a loop chain is formed. A two-dimensional textile is created when a loop chain is hung vertically with an additional connecting stitch in the loop arches of the previous row. This can usually be done in a spiral in rounds, but less often in back and forth rows with turning stitches. It occurs depending on the thread thickness, individual working methods and stitch variants of different densities of textiles.

Further names for this technique are: needle binding, nalbinding, naalbinding, nålbinding, laddebinding, nålbindning, loop technique or loop sewing technique.


The basis of the numerous stitch variants is the buttonhole stitch or loop stitch known from sewing , which makes needle tying more comparable to embroidery , sewing or tying fishing nets . In contrast to knitting and crocheting , with needle tying the entire supply of thread is passed through loops that have already been created in order to tie a new open loop. On the surface, needle-bound textiles sometimes appear similar to knitted or crocheted textiles in terms of structure and appearance. The biggest advantage over knitting, crochet and other knitwear is that needle-bonded textiles not at break of yarn laddering form and thus do not dissolve.

The needles that are used for needle binding are usually flat, made of wood, and are 8 to 12 cm in length. In addition, needles made of antlers , horn or bone are historically documented. Comparable metal or plastic needles are also suitable. Any common handicraft yarn is suitable as a yarn, but wool is particularly suitable because of its felt properties


Textile experts developed various options for creating sample letters and work instructions. The Danish textile expert Egon Hansen published a schematic representation of the thread course in the finished needle binding piece as a formula in 1990:

The thread first runs to the left into the back loops. A U (under) stands for the fact that the thread with the needle is passed under the nearest thread, an O (over) for that the thread is passed over the nearest thread. At the point where the thread changes direction from left to right, the "/" symbol is inserted into the formula. A complete formula can then e.g. B. look like this: UO / UOO. Hansen appends the name for the connecting stitch with the front row to the formula. If an F is pierced from the front (frontal) into the bow of the loop of the previous row, a B is pierced from the back (backwards), the appended number indicates the number of bow arcs. Example: UO / UOO F1

Various instructions for stitch types such as the Åsle stitch, the Mammen stitch, the Oslo stitch and others can now be found on websites, blogs and forums on the Internet. Many, especially young people, like to deal with the handicraft techniques of bygone times as part of a historical representation of bygone eras and can provide assistance and instructions for learning.

There are two ways to do needle binding, in the freehand and in the thumb catch method also called the thumb shackle method. In the freehand technique, the Hansen's formula can be implemented directly as instructions, in which a stitch is first executed up to the "/" character, then in the backstitch to the end of the formula. The thread supply is fed twice through the respective loops with the needle.

When it comes to the thumb catch technique, the Hansen formula is more likely to cause irritation. In contrast to the freehand method, back and forth stitches are taken on the needle in a single operation and the thread supply is only fed once through all the loops that have been captured. Basically, it can be said that the freehand method is the older method of needle binding. It can still be done well if the stitch is made with one to three loops. The thumb catching technique, on the other hand, can still be used without any problems from two to eight loops. The thumb serves as a constant regulator for the size of the new loop, as it is looped around the thumb every time. If this loop were not caught with your thumb and the thread was pulled tight, the loop would tighten into a tight knot.

Beginners can learn needle tying quickly and easily with one stitch that has three loops in the basic stitch. The connecting stitch in the previous row can then optionally be made in one or two loop arcs of the previous row. This “beginner stitch” in needle binding is called the Oslo stitch , named after an archaeological find in Norway near Oslo.

First, as mentioned above, a loop chain is formed by continuously repeating the basic stitch. In contrast to crocheting, where there is a chain of chain stitches consisting of slip stitches, this can be made in different basic stitches right from the start, depending on the type of stitch.


Needle-bound textiles were common in almost every culture in the world. The oldest find of a needle binding work comes from the Mesolithic Age ( Tybrind vig ). In Germany, needle-bound textiles were still produced to a significant extent until around 1550, that is, around 300 years after knitting became popular. However, needle binding almost completely disappeared afterwards. There are historical finds of needle-tied gloves, socks, hats, milk sieves made of animal hair, and there are also some finds of jacket- and shirt-like textiles made using needle-binding technology. In parts of Scandinavia, especially in Finland, the tradition of needle binding has been preserved to this day. Otherwise, it is still remembered by large parts of the population and, apart from in the history-representing scene, it is still often practiced in handicraft groups. Finds are found in numerous museums.

A documentary film from the Institute for Scientific Film in Göttingen with scientific commentary by Arnold Lühning shows the 90-year-old farmer A. Meyer from Schleswig-Holstein, who learned needle binding from his grandfather, who was born in 1820. It is shown how the man makes a needle-bound glove out of woolen yarn.


  • Egon Hansen, Nalebinding . In: Penelope Walton, John Peter Wild: Textiles in Northern Archeology: NESAT III Textile Symposium in York 6–9 May 1987 . Archetype Publications, London 1990.
  • Ulrike Claßen-Büttner, needle binding - what is that? History and technology of an almost forgotten handicraft . Isenbrunn 2012. ISBN 978-3-8482-0124-2 .

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