I’ve recently discovered a different kind of Viking knitting. Not like my Viking socks, which have cable designs taken from Viking stone carving and other artifacts (I highly recommend Elsebeth Lavold’s book Viking Patterns for Knitting for this), but with wire!
This kind of work has evidently been called Viking knitting for a long, long time, and is a method of creating wire jewelry. It is technically not knitting, but closer to another fiber technique called naalbinding or nalbinding. In the simplest explanation I can think of, knitting is one way of creating fabric by pulling one loop through another, with the loops coming from somewhere along the length of the yarn. Naalbinding is a technique of creating fabric by pulling the end of the yarn or thread through loops using a needle. The results can look very similar to each other, and in fact there are cases of very old textile fragments being incorrectly identified as knitting when they were actually naalbinding. Okay, there’s your history lesson. If you want more information on naalbinding, here’s a good basic description, and some more information. And if you want to know how to do it, look here.
Back to Viking knitting. Using very simple tools I had around the house, I made this length of ‘chain’.
I realize it is not very impressive looking. The tension varies quite a bit along the 11 or so inches I made, and it’s pretty lumpy. But I was reassured that it would be so, and forged ahead. When I got what I figured was a long enough piece (there are no hard and fast rules here – it’s something of a guessing game) I was ready to pull it through a draw plate to even out the diameter, which also happens to even out the tension and hide joins. Since I don’t have a real draw plate, I drilled holes of several sizes in a piece of scrap shelf board. I stuck the long ends of waste wire through a largish hole, gripped it on the other side with pliers, and dragged it through. Then I repeated the process with the next smaller hole. There was a bit more resistance that time. The third hole, smaller yet, was where the magic happened. That one took some teeth gritting, but the chain coming out the other side looked WAY different than what went in! See?
I was delighted! The final length is about 17 inches. I cut off the waste wire and aligned the loops on both ends to attach split rings. This was actually the hardest part of the whole project. Then I attached a little clasp to one end. When I can get some plain sterling chain from my supplier, I’ll add on two or three inches to the other end so I can adjust the length as needed.
For this project, I used about 9 grams of 26 gauge sterling silver wire. I’m sorry now that I didn’t measure it for length. I bought the wire at Hobby Lobby, where it is sold in 5 gram packages, but the packaging doesn’t say how long the wire is, either. I will definitely measure the next package, since many places sell sterling wire by length, not weight. And there WILL be a next package!
If you’re interested in exploring this fun project, this video is a good starting place…
And watch for some ideas for beaded bracelets in this video:
Go ahead and give it a shot!
Now, in yarn knitting news, I’m making real progress on His Cardigan. I’m ready for the armhole bindoffs on both sleeves, so I guess I’d better get busy and plot out the sleeve cap shaping, hadn’t I? I decided to knit them both at the same time, so if I made a mistake, at least it would be the same on both of them. Which I did, but I’m not telling what or where.
The danger with this method is that it’s all too easy to lose track of where you are. You knit across on one sleeve, get distracted, then go merrily back to knitting, not realizing until several rows later that you turned and worked back across the same sleeve, instead of knitting across the other one, and are now totally messed up. So I clipped the sleeves together along one edge with removable stitch markers. It’s SO much easier to tell exactly where I left off!
These plastic stitch markers can also be used as little stitch holders or row markers, as well, and probably have other uses I haven’t run across yet. They’re not pretty, but oh, so useful!