How to make nalbound mittens Top Down,
with Square Top

Instructions with illustrations
for pivoting,
Finnish Stitch 2+2 (pdf)

In Finland the nalbound mittens have traditionally been started at the top, and the top has been made square shaped. Blunt top mittens have been made in other Nordic Countries as well, although outside Finland the round top mittens have been more common. Here are instructions for a square top mitten.

Video (link) and outline-patterns (link)

I didn't understand the idea of a square top until a woman who has been nalbinding for over 70 years explained it to me: In working mittens there should be a plenty of room for fingers, so that a worker can spread out his/her fingers wider, and have a good grasp at the shovel handle, for example.

Below a list of video links for making the first loops, and the instructions for mittens continue below the video links...

Video 1, scarf fringe knot (Vajanto's way); easy (link)
gives 1-3 thumb loops

Video 2, yarn 3 x around thumb, needle from left and right (link)
gives 2-3 thumb loops


Video C

Video 3, a way often shown in Finnish magazines and books (flat) (link)
gives 2-3 thumb loops

Video 4, knot, yarn 1 x around thumb; easy (link)
gives 1 thumb loop

Video 5, knot, twist needle around loop behind thumb (Savitaipale); easy (link)
gives 1 thumb loop

Video 6, loop, yarn 3 x around thumb; easy (link)
gives 2 thumb loops  

Video 7, yarn 3 x around fingers, an "8" onto needle; easy (link1), (link2)
gives 1-3 thumb loops

Video 8, wrap yarn as an "8" around thumb and forefinger; easy (link)
gives 2 thumb loops

Pivoting, Video B

Video 9, loop, split yarn with the needle; easy (link)
gives 1 thumb loop

Video 10, yarn 3 x around thumb, needle from left (Joutseno) (link)
gives 2-3 thumb loops

Chain of Stitches, or Foundation Row

When you are making square top mittens, you'll first need to make a chain of stitches, a few centimetres long, and then pivot, that is, turn at the end of that chain (see video links below). At the pivoting you'll connect the new stitches to the bottom edge of the foundation row, after which the nalbinding continues clockwise like in a spiral. The first pivot, the first turn may feel difficult, but after the first two or three stitches the works gets easier again. The next pivot at the other end is already much easier.


Pivoting, video A

Video A
, traditional way for pivoting, shown in three different stitches: Finnish Stitch 2+2, Russian Stitch 2+2+2, and Finnish Stitch 1+2 (Mammen Stitch) (link)

Video B, crochet a foundation row, continue by nalbinding (linkki

Video C, two-coloured, Finnish Stitch 2+2 (linkki)

The foundation row is made 3-5 cm long if you want to make a bit more rounded, hand-shaped top, but in order to make a more square shaped top, the foundation row is made almost as long as the finished mitten is wide, 7-9 cm.


Increase 2-3 stitches at both sides (corners), in each row, until the mitten width is suitable.

Some prefer to increase  2-3 stitches at both sides, in the first row or two, and thereafter 1 stitch at both sides, until about half of the index finger is covered. Others increase 5 stitches at both sides, in the first row, and 1 stitch at both sides after that.

The number of increases needed depends on the lenght of the foundation row you made, the mitten size, and the yarn thickness. With thick yarn some 45 stitches may be enough for a mitten, but with thin yarn you may need 80, or even more.

To make the increasing easier, you can sketch an outline pattern onto paper, and compare your mitten to the pattern, or to an old mitten.

Another option is to make first a chain of stitches (a foundation row) which is long enough to run around your hand (not too tight, not too loose), and count the stitches. With your square top, simply keep on increasing until the stitch count is the same as in the chain of stitches you made as a test piece. Nalbound fabrics tend rather to stretch lengtwise and narrow widewise in use, which is good to keep in mind when you are estimating the width and length of your mittens.

Nalbind both mittens or socks simultaneously

You will easier get a pair of symmetric mittens or socks when you make both mittens (or socks) at the same time, for example a couple of rows at a time, or one length of yarn at a time. Count the stitches in both foundation rows (the first chain of stitches), to make sure your pair will be of same size. In thin yarns a difference of a stitch or two will not really show, but in a thicker yarn you will see and feel the difference if one item has more loops than its pair.

Keep on nalbinding till the thumb web (place for thumb opening), and check every now and then whether your mittens need increasing already before the thumb. 

Thumb opening

In mittens knitted with five needles you'll leave a separate piece of yarn to mark the thumb opening, and you'll undo that spot later to start the thumb. In nalbound mittens, however, you'll simply leave an opening, by not connecting the new stitches to the previous row. The size of the thumb opening can be estimated by eyeballing. In women's mitten a 4 cm wide opening is usually enough, depending on the yarn. With thin yarn the opening can be a bit narrower than with thick yarn. For children's mittens make a bit smaller opening, and for men's mittens a wider one.

The opening forms when you leave the new stitches unconnected to the previous row (compare to making the first chain of stitches). At the other end of the opening the stitches are again connected to the previous row

Before connecting the chain of stitches to the previous row again, check the width of the mitten. Quite probably you can make the mitten a bit wider at this point because the widest part needs to be below the thumb opening. The widening happens easily, if you make the chain of stitches e.g. 2-3 stitches longer than the previous row above is, that is, there will be less stitches on the bottom side (cuff side) of the thumb opening than at the upper side (finger side). The 'lengthening' depends on the yarn thickness, and how wide your mitten top part is. After connecting the chain of stitches to the previous row again, the chain of stitches will be a bit looser than the top part of the mitten.

You might want to consider where to place the thumb opening in a square top mitten.
Video (link).


Continue nalbinding until the cuff part is of suitable length, the way you prefer it.

The cuff part can be straight (about equally wide all through), a bit widening (mitten is wedge-shaped or A-shaped), or bell-shaped (widening more strongly). In the bell-shaped mittens, you can first decrease a bit below the thumb, and then start increasing. The decreasing below the thumb help the mitten to stay better on the hand, ie not fall off so easily, and also highlight the bell shape of the cuff. An outline-pattern may help when nalbinding a bell-shaped cuff.

Last row - how to finish off the last stitches 
Video (link)

When you are finishing off the edge, you can first start by pulling the stitches smaller, and at the same time gradually pick up less loops behind the thumb, and the ones you have around the thumb (if you have more than one).

If you have tensioned the new stitches around your thumb, you can pull them smaller by tensioning them around the thumb nail/tip. When the stitches become so small the thumb loop does not fit around your thumb anymore, you can insert the needle through the stitches without thumb loop(s) (flat). Do a couple of those smaller stitches.

If your stitch has been e.g. Finnish Stitch 1+3 (Brodén Stitch), you can gradually pick up less loops behind the thumb. First, go with FS 1+2 (Mammen Stitch), do a couple of them. Then do FS 1+1 (Oslo Stitch), and do of couple of them, too. Then do FS 1+0 (ie 1 thumb loop, but no loops onto needle behind thumb), do a couple of them, and finally do a couple of stitches, like you were simply sewing by hand around the edge of the fabric.

In order to get a 'gently sloping' edge, do the finishing off little by little, during several stitches, and often it is good to make two or three stitches before you change the stitch (ie pick up less loops behind). At the end, you can pull the last few stitches (FS 1+0) smaller by pulling the yarn by hand (see the video), and finally 'sew' over the edge of the cuff a couple of times. Hide the yarn on the reverse side by weaving it into the loops there.