At Last, Nalbinding

It’s taken almost 20 years, but I think I finally have a handle on one species of the looping genus known as nalbinding (or nalebinding, or naalbinding…).

My WIP in nalbinding class

Last weekend I traveled to Iowa to Vesterheim, the national Norwegian-American Museum, for a 3-day class in their Folk Art School with Kate Martinson, an Emeritus Professor of Art at Luther College in Decorah.

The first time someone showed me how to do a nalbinding stitch would have been about 1996. By that time, I had been looping for a while and was pretty comfortable with the basic structure and concepts. But it’s one thing to see someone stitch in nalbinding and another (at least as an adult) to translate watching into doing. Especially with nalbinding, where you work into both the back and the front of the piece

Nalbinding after fulling.

Over the years, I tried to teach myself from books. I’ve learned other things from books and perseverance (including netting). But with nalbinding, I never got very far. By the time video instruction came along, I had myself psyched out and confused to the point where I made very little progress. So when this class came up at a time when my calendar was clear, I decided to go for it. And I’m so glad I did.

Broden stitch nalbinding samples from my class with Kate Martinson at Vesterheim.

The class progression allowed time for the kind of repetition it takes for me to really get something like this. I made sufficient mistakes to work through to develop my understanding of the structure. And by the third day of the class, I was actually seeing the structure of the Broden stitch. The picture above shows only a fraction of the starts I made. When I left, it was with confidence that I can not only keep going but also start chain, oval and round elements without too much angst. And Kate made oval starts for students’ practice projects, so I was able to get a pouch done in time to learn some very cool tricks for fulling the wool.

The class also included a guided trip through the museum, a field trip into the collection with chief curator Laurann Gilbertson, and a field trip to the local yarn shop, Blue Heron Knittery, where I learned a lot about choosing yarn for nalbinding.

I was so focused on learning and having fun that I didn’t take many pictures to show what a great weekend it was. Everyone in the class was delightful, everyone from the museum was helpful and so pleasant, and the classroom had great lighting, plenty of space and a comfortable area outside for lunchtime visiting. I saw some familiar faces and made new friends in class, and enjoyed spending quality time with the friends I stayed with while in Decorah.

And after 20 years, I think (and hope and pray) I’m over the hump in learning this amazing looping technique.


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Donna Kallner

fiber artist, teacher and explorer, inspired by ancient fiber techniques and all the ways contemporary fiber artists give old ideas a new spin

2 thoughts on “At Last, Nalbinding”

  1. Yay! Beautiful work – glad you enjoyed it and feel confident of it now. I love the photo of the many starts. Every person learning naalbinding needs to know those are a natural part of the learning process. 🙂

    1. Repetition and minimal distractions during more repetition is just what I needed. I’m getting there, and think I might be ready in a few months for some additional variations you might be teaching, Andrea!

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