Fuegian Coiling

At the Northwest Basket Weavers winter retreat, one of the workshops I taught was a technique known as Fuegian coiling, which is basically simple looping over a core element.

Fuegian coiling samples by Donna Kallner.

I picked up the technique (including its name) from Osma Gallinger Tod’s book Earth Basketry. Over the years I’ve applied the concept to materials ranging from bark and cordage to velvet and satin cores. Definitely not traditional — but then, it’s hard to find much information about the basketry traditions of Tierra del Fuego and the Fuegian culture area. And I’ve never had the opportunity to travel to the southernmost tip of South America.

Baskets in museum in Tierra del Fuego photo by Jeannie Averbeck.

So I really appreciate when someone who has visited sorts through travel photos and sends some to me to share with others. It’s even better when that someone sees through a basketmaker’s eyes.

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Inspiration From Looped Bags

At the Northwest Basket Weavers winter retreat, I had the pleasure of seeing some looped bags collected by other people. This often happens when I give a lecture. I’m always grateful when people share their finds with me and allow me to share them with you — even when I lose sleep trying to figure them out.

Looped string bag from Sharle Osborne.

Sharle Osborne brought several lovely bags to show me, including this one. Its size, shape and stiffness at first had me thinking it might have been a camel muzzle, like this one from the Pitt River Museum.

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Getting Loopy At Vesterheim

Earlier this month, Vesterheim was the site of a fun weekend gathering of nalbinders. The event was the brainchild of Kate Martinson, who teaches the looping technique and other fiber art workshops at the Norwegian-American museum in Decorah, Iowa.

Nalbinding rug at Vesterheim.

It was a great weekend for learning and connecting with other nalbinders, and another chance to visit the museum’s textile collection.

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A Gathering Of Nalbinders

Vesterheim is hosting a gathering of nalbinders in a few weeks, and I’ll be one of the presenters. If you can possibly get to Decorah, Iowa the first weekend in April, I hope you can join us!

Nalbinding at Vesterheim in Decorah, Iowa.

Details and registration are here, but here’s a peek at the program:


  • An evening of relaxed working time and sharing
  • Fulling station and advice for objects needing finishing
  • Advanced check-in for those coming to Decorah early — 3:00-5:00 p.m.


  • Doors open – 8:30 a.m.
  • Official Welcome
  • What’s Next? Embellishing Your Nålbinding Workshop with Sue Flanders and Janine Kosel
  • Swatch display and Show and Tell on display
  • Book signing with Sue Flanders, Janine Kosel, and Donna Kallner
  • New Age Looping Trunk Show–Donna Kallner
  • ABCs of Teaching Simple Looping–Donna Kallner
  • Tour of Vesterheim’s exhibition From Underwear to Everywhere: Norwegian Sweaters
  • Evening gathering for working on projects or new skills


  • Doors open – 8:30 a.m.
  • Cross-Knit Looping On The Edge—Donna Kallner
  • Door Prizes
  • Official ending 12:00 (Blue Heron Knittery – store in downtown Decorah open for shopping)

Special Program Descriptions

What’s Next? Embellishing Your Nålbinding
Explore ways to embellish your nålbinding project with a variety of techniques. Needle felting, embroidery and/or crochet are some of the wonderful ways to add color and texture to your completed piece. Bring a sample of fulled wool fabric to explore the possibilities of embellishment. Bring a needle felting needle, crochet hook (size to match your yarn), and/or a sharp big eye embroidery needle. We will have a variety of needle point yarn) and a sharp big-eye embroidery needle.

New Age Looping Trunk Show
Nålbinding belongs to a large and diverse family of techniques called looping. This living legacy from the Stone Age continues to evolve as today’s fiber artists give it their own spin. This session includes a lecture and Powerpoint program presenting artifacts from six of our seven continents, the living traditions of indigenous people, and the art and craft of contemporary looping. You’ll also get a hands-on tour through a suitcase full of samples showing a vast array of possibilities created with variations on this family of techniques.

ABCs of Teaching Simple Looping
Simple looping is a great gateway to nålbinding. This session presents a model for teaching the technique to adults and children, plus 25 other elements of successful teaching and learning experiences, including learning styles, teaching progressions, gender influences on learning, and much more.

Cross-Knit Looping On The Edge
Nålbinders call it Coptic Stitch and jewelry makers call it Viking knitting. It’s all the same structure though—cross-knit looping. This stitch variation has many uses, including reinforcing edges and joining panels of woven fabrics, felt, or knitting. In this session you’ll learn how to completely enclose a seam or edge. This is portable handwork you can do in fragments of time with just a tapestry needle and yarn.

More Do-Overs

All too often, you don’t get to see other designers’ duds and do-overs. It’s not because we don’t all have them. Honestly, who gets everything right the first time? But with looping, it’s easy to cut out a problem and try again until you get the design or execution figured out.

Fuegian coiling with a willow bark core element.

That’s what I did on this small pouch, which is worked in simple looping over a core element (also known as Fuegian coiling). In this case, the core element is willow bark. I worked this pouch from base to the rim. To make it wearable, I needed to attach a neck cord. At first, I had the cord coming straight off the rim, but I didn’t like the way that looked. So I cut off the rim, and added a row of closely-spaced looping without the core element to separate the main body of the pouch from the new rim.

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One of the great things about looping is the structure is so stable it won’t unravel. But when you make an unfortunate design choice, there’s no easy way to frog it. There is, however, one simple way to get a do-over: Cut it out.


This hat for Bill started at the brim. When I finished the crown, I put a little tail at the top because tails are fun to stitch and I thought it was cute. He didn’t say anything, but when he tried on the hat for me before fulling, I saw The Look. The “what is she thinking” look. He didn’t need to say anything, and I didn’t bother to ask. I knew. So I cut off the tail and worked a flat crown. Because I love him.


When I teach or lecture about looping, I always try to include a demonstration where I cut into a piece. I love to hear that collective gasp from the audience. But mostly, I love knowing I can back up and get a do-over from the point just before where I made some regrettable choice. If only everything were so easy!

Killing Time Without Wounding Eternity

There’s a huge difference between projects I do for the joy and challenge of learning, and stuff I do to when I just need to keep my hands busy. But I tend to learn important lessons from busy-work projects, too. So as long as my hands are busy, I don’t feel like Henry David Thoreau was talking about me: “As if you could kill time without injuring eternity.”

Combo hat began as a knit panel and uses cross-knit looping plus a nalbinding crown.

When my brain is full of worries or when I’m not feeling well, mindless knitting is the perfect companion to binge watching cable shows on DVDs from the library. So I end up with things like a wide piece of knit fabric, and the fun challenge of finding a way to make it into something.

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How About A Meet-Up In Milwaukee?

No matter how I phrase this, it comes off sounding pushy. So what the heck: Today I’m asking you to block off time on your calendar, punch in your credit card number, and get registered for Convergence 2016, the Handweavers Guild of America’s biennial conference. It will be in Milwaukee the first week of August. I’m teaching two new looping workshops there.

Looping samples for hands-on study by workshop students.

In the 2-day workshop Around The World In 7 Looping Variations, we’ll explore cross-knit looping, Danish stitch, Fuegian coiling, Burundi looping, and stitch variations found in Papua New Guinea bilum bags, Great Basin small game nets, and Pima Burden baskets. The Tarim Amulet Pouch half-day seminar focuses on cross-knit looping, which uses a needle entry variation to produce a distinctive vertical line element that looks like two-needle knit stockinet stitch but is much, much older. Continue reading How About A Meet-Up In Milwaukee?

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

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