“Viking knitting” is not actually knitting with two needles: it is a type of weaving. Chains are made from long pieces of wire that are worked by hand into interconnecting loops. For those who knit with yarn, the connected loops look like twisted knitting (knit through back loop). Several shorter pieces must be joined together during construction of the chain to create lengths for a bracelet or necklace, and the wire is spliced together in a way that is nearly impossible to detect when you have completed the piece.
The raw chain is woven around a form (Allen wrenches or dowels are popular choices) and is then pulled through holes in a draw plate to tighten the weave and make the chain a bit longer and much stronger. If you put beads into your weave, however, you will not be able to pull your finished knitting through a draw plate. Instead, the knitting can be rolled in a cloth and pulled by hand to complete it. You can finish the ends of the chain in various ways. You can put beads, end caps that are cast or that you create from coiling wire, or string a ribbon/leather thong/silk cord through the knitting.
Examples of Viking knit chains have been found at various archaeological sites in Scandinavia dating back to the 8th century A.D. Similar chains have been found in other areas of the world, so the technique may not have been unique to the Vikings.
Also known as trichinopoly, this technique creates chain that can be either lacy or dense, depending on the number of loops woven into each round, whether you single, double or triple knit, the gauge of wire you use and the width to which you draw the knitting down using a draw plate. Other factors that will affect your finished piece include the type of wire you use and whether it is coloured.
This is an extremely easy, portable and fun technique and I urge you all to try it at least once. I'll be teaching a Viking Knit class at BeadFX on May 16. Join me and I promise you'll have fun and find a new way to show off your other treasures by creating chain for necklaces, bracelets, even earrings. We will also discuss finishing techniques.