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Nålbinding Classification Systems

      There are currently three major classification systems. (Meaning something that refers to a stitch variation as something other than "it is nålbinding, no, not that kind, this kind".) A classification system is necessary to differentiate between the myriad combinations possible in the nålbinding technique.

     The first was developed by Margrethe Hald and can be found in her book Ancient Danish Textiles from Bogs and Burials. Hers are the ones that look like roman numerals followed by a lower case letter, i.e. IIIc or IIa. These numeral letter combinations tell you which diagram to look at and then you will know which stitch is being referred to. Supposedly she developed this based on something first done by d'Harcourt, at least according to Nordland.

     The second was developed by Odd Nordland and can be found in his book Knotless Netting. It is the one that looks like a number followed by superscript numbers, i.e. 412 or 522. Unfortunately not all systems can write superscript numbers so you will occasionally see his classifications written with an apostrophe, or just a space, before the superscript numbers or else they will be in parenthesis or brackets. He was very much into mathematical equations. He felt that nålbinding was a continuous coiling and thus could be divided up into 4 quarters that were all the same so you only had to describe one quarter and all the rest would be there. The second numbers refer to the changes in pattern from over to under or under to over within what he calls quadrant A. Unfortunately not all nålbinding follows a smooth coiling pattern.

     The third was developed by Egon Hansen and can be found in his article Nalebinding in NESAT III. He decided that what was needed was a system where you could tell how to make the stitch by seeing the classification, not one where it was necessary to refer back to a chart somewhere.  He also realized that Nordland wasn't correct in assuming that all nålbinding could be described as he did. So Hansen developed a system that works for most pieces it just needs to be expanded. In reading from a diagram or work from the side that would be obscured by the thumb he tells the path of the needle through the threads and after that puts the connection stitch to the previous row. Only when the connection stitch is unusual do you have to look at a diagram. His classifications are the ones that look like UOO/UUOO F2 or for particularly complex versions like the Åsle mitten stitch U (U) O/U O:U OO F1+1.

For comparison:

Hald:        IIa                    IIIa                       IIIc     

Nordland: 412                     521                         4b   

Hansen:    UO/UOO F1    UOO/UUOO F2   U (U) O/U O:U OO F1+1       

The first collumn represents the stitch variant found in a mitten from Lund, Sweden. The second is the Mammen Pennant and an Egyptian Sock stitch. The third is the variant found in the Åsle Mitten.

     Of these, the first two are regularly coiled types, the third involves what is referred to as bends. Bends mean that the circles the thread makes when worked are pulled out of shape by a following circle.

(Eventually I will get the diagrams for the above examples on the web.)


     Both Hald and Nordland use the number of points of intersection which lie within the 'greatest circle' of the coiling system to divide the variations into groups. The term "points of intersection" refers to the points in which the receding thread of the coil returns to be hooked up with and earlier circle of the same coil. (Mostly quoted from Nordland) The greatest circle is the one that includes the most intersections while still being continuos. There is a smaller one. Generally if you are looking at it form the side under your thumb when working it is an expanse that scoops over the top not the one that scoops down the bottom.

     Margrethe Hald starts with 3 intersections being Type I as she doesn't consider anything less to be true nålbinding. Those types fall under mesh stitch, buttonhole stitch, loop and twist, etc in her system. Nordland has his first number be the number of intersections which means he starts with a number 3 as he also thinks the others aren't to be explained this way. He calls the buttonhole variants K or T etc. which can include knitting. In Nordland the numbers after the first will always add up to be at least 1 less than the first number. Note his system has trouble when connection stitches are different than only one loop taken from the "Front", the 2nd example would be 522 if it had a F1 connection instead of F2. Additionally bends really mess it up as he seems to feel that the Åsle stitch has only 4 intersections not 5 as Hald does and uses a 'b' to symbolize the rest.

     Hansen's system had not run into twists or split plies and so doesn't have anything to explain them but otherwise is fairly readable. O means over. U means under. The / means that is the intersection point and you go under then over that thread or the other way depending on the description. The letters to the left are how you go in and the ones on the right are how you come out. Then you connect to the previous row and begin again. The problem being that as you work it on your fingers it feel like you are going under when he says over and vise versa due to the fact that the diagrams are read from the opposite side from that which they are worked.

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© 2000 Anne Marie Decker

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Anne Marie Decker

What is Nålbinding : A Brief History of Nålbinding : Names of Nålbinding : Nålbinding Variations

Nålbinding Classification Systems : Nålbinding Photos : Nålbinding Resources : Nålbinding Links

Annotated Nålbinding Bibliography: A-Dau : Dav-Ka : Ke-Os : Oy-Z