Viking knitting and real knitting

Blog stats have actually been interesting reading for a while now; the post on Viking knitting is by far the most viewed! (That’s percentage wise.  The actual numbers are mostly, well, meh.  Let’s just say I’m keeping my day job.)

Dark Blue, Teal and Dark Green 26 ga. wire

Dark Blue, Teal and Dark Green wire

Because of the apparent interest level, though, I tossed out the idea to my Knitting Gathering friends of doing a little Viking knitting together at our July meeting, and it seemed to go over well.  I’ve picked up a couple more colors of wire, and have others on order.  So it should be fun to see if I’m any good at teaching the technique!

The wire is 26 gauge colored copper.  I purchase it from my LYS (Local Yarn Store), which just happens to be a bead store as well.  The Newton Beadery is completely calculated to separate me from any disposable income I may have, but I’ve become somewhat resistant by virtue of limiting my visits!  Anyway, back to the wire.  If you can’t get it from a local source yourself, go have a look at the Artistic Wire website.

Oddly enough, all three of these colors look great with Ithilien Brocade.  I wonder how that happened?  I’m waiting on the red and non-tarnish silver wire, and maybe copper,  to arrive.  It’s a good thing the price is so reasonable, because this is a very slippery slope!  I see that I have no purple or brass…

Well.  This seems to be as good a time as any to look a little more at the differences and similarities between the two techniques.  And that is made much easier by a friend and a book.  Since I work with lots of librarians, I’ve made a lot of friends in that community of nice, smart, funny people.  And we look out for each other.  So one of my librarian friends, knowing that I knit, set aside a few books that were destined for the library book sale.  I was excited about a couple of the titles she mentioned, but one kind of baffled me, even when she brought it out.  It was big.  And partly in Japanese.  I wasn’t inclined to drag it home and give it that rarest of commodities at our house, bookshelf space. (DH and I both think a day in town isn’t complete without a stop at one or more used book stores.)  Then we began paging through it, and I pointed at one of the line drawings and commented that it looked like Viking knitting.  Cindy was delighted!  “No one but you would know what any of this is!”, she laughed.  “It was MEANT for you!”  Well, after that, I couldn’t decline, now could I??


From A Line, by Toshiko Horiuchi, sitting on a chair for scale

Below, you see a drawing from the book of actual knitting, where loops are drawn through existing loops.

Knitting; stockinette stitch

Knitting; stockinette stitch

Compare that to the drawing of Viking knitting, which is not really knitting, but the end product looks quite similar.  These drawings really point up the differences in construction, don’t they?  Because knitting happens somewhere along the length of yarn/string/wire, it doesn’t matter how long the stuff is.  A couple of hundred yards is a good working length.  But with Viking knitting, the action happens as one end of the yarn/string/wire is pulled through the existing work like sewing thread.  So you have to use relatively short pieces (arm’s length or shorter), so you don’t spend all your time pulling it through, fuzzing your yarn or bending, kinking and weakening your wire – and wearing out your arm!

Viking knitting

Viking knitting

And here’s Viking knitting shown around a cylinder:

Viking knitting in progress

Viking knitting in progress

Although it shows many more stitches than we use for jewelry making, and the method of beginning the work is different, the technique is exactly the same.

In the picture below, the teal chain was created by taking the end around the base of the second loop above, not the loop immediately above the current row.  This results in a firmer, heavier, ‘double’ chain.  The silver one was created using the standard technique shown above.

After the proper length is made, and the work slipped off the cylinder (dowel rod, Allen wrench, whatever) and pulled through a draw plate, the loops lengthen and look even more like knitting.

Two Viking knit necklaces

Two Viking knit necklaces

In fact, it looks very much like knitted I-cord…

chavasdaughter's I-cord jewelry

chavasdaughter’s I-cord jewelry

Read about this project on Learning from Chavah. *sigh*  Now I want to play with this idea, too!

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4 Responses to Viking knitting and real knitting

  1. KiniaCat says:

    Ohhhhh…you present many tempting options…and I’m pretty decent at I-cord….I want to go play…
    But I’m going to bed. Pleasant dreams!

  2. heidi says:

    I really do love your work!

    it’s really beautiful!

  3. Julie says:

    Hi, Lately, I was at an Icelandic festival that had an authentic Viking Village. One of the ladies was doing something called “naulling” or “nulling”(not sure of the spelling). It is like knitting but uses a large wooden needle with a hole in the bottom for a single string of yarn. It is knitting with a the needle thru loops. Have you heard of this? I would like to try this this but have no patterns. Thank you.

    • prairiespinner says:

      Wow, that must have been a lot of fun!!
      See if the naalbinding I mentioned in my January post about Viking knitting looks like it’s the same thing. I don’t know how the word is pronounced, or if the word is shortened sometimes… I included some links to more information; perhaps they will be more enlightening!

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