Swords and Sewing

Over a crepe and milkshake at Stirling’s wonderful Mint coffee shop, I caught up with Isobel Hayward: a member of Stirling University’s Reenactment Society. When she’s not busy overseeing medieval battles, she likes to nalbind.

Nalbinding is an ancient art of using yarn to create items, and is some thousand years older than both knitting and crocheting. Whilst maintaining popularity in its native Scandinavia, nalbinding is still a relatively unique hobby in the UK. Hayward’s journey with nalbinding has cumulated with her online Etsy store: Glove Actually. 

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What is nalbinding, and how did you get into it?

Nalbinding is a Viking form of knitting done with one needle; sort of like crochet. It’s formed by creating a series of knots that you then loop together to make a circular item. One of my friends at a reenactment show was doing it and I found it really interesting to watch. So then I was taught how to do basic finger knitting by another member. But then I got a little bored of that so decided to teach myself nalbinding by watching videos on Youtube, and that’s how I learnt to do it.

What is your role in the Reenactment Society?

My role in the society is social secretary and I am also reeve (?) for Historical Normais – the wider group our society falls under. I make sure that everyone on the living history camp is fed and wearing the right period clothes, and not doing anything ‘inauthentic.’

Are Reenactment Societies becoming more popular?

I would say they have always been quite popular, and I only notice them more now because I know they exist through my work with Normanis. Our society in particularly is getting more confident. We’re getting involved in lots of local events around the Stirling area, rather than the few large things south of the border.

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Why do you like to nalbind?

I tend to do it whilst doing something else, such as if I’m watching something on TV. I’m a real fidget and usually can’t keep still, so it’s nice to do something creative with my hands.

What items do you have available in your Etsy shop?

I mainly make gloves, they’re relatively small and easy. Everyone loves a good pair of gloves! I mainly sell fingerless ones but I’m also branching out into making pouches and coasters as well. I also want to start making teddy bear clothes… historically inspired teddy bear clothes! It’s so much fun, compared to only making human clothes.
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You do ‘modern’ and ‘authentic’ items in your shop, what’s the difference?

The colour! The modern ones feature more colours, or multicoloured designs. Pretty much anything that doesn’t look like the colour is derived from a plant, its been made through other means. A traditional pair of nal blinded gloves would be grey or brown, but if the person making them was richer they could have been dark red, blue, or even yellow.

At this stage is it mostly a hobby, or would you like to make it a business?

I’d like to make it a physical shop, as long as people don’t just ask me to make socks all the time – as sometimes I hate making socks more than anything! But I would like to make the business a proper career  – I think that would be really cool.

You’re in your 4th year studying English at the moment, what are your plans after you graduate?

After I graduate, I’ll do a masters then hopefully a phD in Gothic Literature, especially as Stirling is the leading centre for gothic research in the UK. I’ll hopefully continue expanding my shop through my studies.

Check out Glove_Actually here



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