Knotless knitting, or needle binding, is a technique in which two-threaded woollen yarn on blunt needles is formed into loops, which are then hooked over the thumb and joined using yarn stitches. This method of sewing is ancient and has occurred throughout Scandinavia.
The needles used are coarse and may be of wood, bone or metal. The most famous knotless knitted article in Sweden is the Åsle mitten, found in the Åsle bog in Västergötland in 1918. Recent carbon-14 dating gives the date of the mitten as 1510-1640. Characteristic for the Åsle mitten is that it was sewn with a clear inside and outside, which makes a windproof, warm mitten without the need for fulling, which is otherwise a normal after-treatment of knotless knitted articles.
Technique and objects
Knotless knitting may seem a primitive technique in terms of materials and tools, but there are numerous variations. The loops of yarn that are picked up on the thumb during each row can be changed, the needle may be moved over and under one loop or under and over two, three or more loops. These variations give a texture with varying impermeability, depending on their use. In view of the climate in Sweden, it was common to make knotless mittens, also called sewn mittens. Socks were also made with this technique, and in old times filter cloths used for screening milk. There were a number of names for knotless knitting in different dialects around Sweden.
Protection against cold and wind
When articles are made by knotless knitting in wool they are usually treated by fulling, which improves their strength and protection against cold and wind. This extra strength in the textile gives a good base for decoration such as embroidery, which is commonly used on mittens and hats. Different stitches used are stem stitch, cross-stitch, blanket stitch and flat stitch. The most frequent yarn is wool, but hair from goats, cattle and pigs is also used.
Knotless knitting in Kind district
Knotless knitting in Kind district can be traced back to the supplier activities in southern Sjuhäradsbygden in the second half of the 19th century. Suppliers provided households that manufactured the desired product, the producer, with materials – which in this case was uncarded wool. It was particular for this activity that the wool was uncarded. The producers carded and spun the wool themselves into a loosely stranded yarn, which they then stitched or sewed mittens out of. There was a lot of leeway for individual styles and aesthetic design of the articles produced. For a skilled mitten sewer it took half a day to make of pair of mittens, and the work involved whole families: men, women and children. There is information that shows some households produced up to 981 pairs of sewn mittens per year, which is more than two pairs of mittens a day.
Production of knotless mittens
Documentation in the suppliers' register and the parish register shows that knotless knitting played a significant role for cottage industry workers in Kind in the latter half of the 19th century. A number of schemes were carried out in southern Kind in the 20th century in the form of courses for the preservation of traditions and techniques. The fact that knotless knitting is still alive is largely due to the widespread network of suppliers in previous centuries, who supported the production of knotless mittens that now make up part of the local textile tradition in the Sjuhärad area.