Monday, April 7, 2014

Slow Textiles: A Toothbrush-Rug / Naalbinding Bowl

I'm figuring out how to do naalbinding! Old skool! It started with a lesson in "toothbrush rug" making from my friend Nadine, who taught herself using this great tutorial

Getting started, March 7th.
So called because the large flat needle used has been typically whittled from the handle of an old toothbrush for the past few decades, this rag-rugmaking method is actually a scaled-up rag-yarn version of a technique that predates knitting and crochet, and would have been used by my own ancestors beginning in the early medieval period when the Vikings began settling in the British Isles.
 The word naalbinding is Danish, and the technique is called knotless netting or knotless knitting in English, according to Wikipedia's article about it. Essentially, it's a looped needle-weaving technique. Thanks to Pinterest, I found beautifully clear naalbinding diagrams here and posts on different ways to start toothbrush rugs here and here (According to Rugmakers Homestead there are non-naalbound toothbrush rugs, too.).  Most of the tutorials online involve making round or oval rugs, but I quite like the simplicity of the rectangular striped one shown in progress here

In my case, I am using a tattered queen-size cotton flannel sheet, torn into strips roughly two inches wide. Since I already specialize in another rugmaking technique, I decided to adapt the oval-or-round-rug instructions to make a bowl; after it gets big enough, I'll start attaching my rows so they go straight up. Here is my progress so far. I need to remember to attach new strips using an adaptation of this technique (for a flatter join) instead of using a knot (which creates unsightly bumps, which would feel awful underfoot if I was making a rug).

Naalbound toothbrush rug, progress as of April 5th
(mostly made in a single afternoon).
I'm also using an unconventional needle. Remember these? 

It's a 1980s-era 'pony flip', 'fancy tail', or 'topsy tail' hairstyling tool from my high school days (yes, I know, get off my lawn you whippersnappers). Look, it was stored with the instructions!

It works alright as a rag-rugging needle, but needs to be rethreaded constantly.

Note: This post is part of my #30DaysOfMaking Challenge.


  1. I love the idea of a toothbrush rug and really want to make one. Is there any chance that you will ever do a more in depth tutorial on how to make one?

  2. Have you figured out how to keep your material on your needle? Just bind the tail end of your knotter strip to your "eye" part of your needle using the slit.