Viking Knit Unraveled and Revealed

I recently spent time trying to puzzle out the Viking Knit.  There some excellent directions on the Internet including these on the Fine Art by Rocio website.  The problem is, the Viking Knit that looks so cool is double or triple knit and all of the instructions that I saw, including those in Irene Petersen’s otherwise marvelous book,  tell you to loop down a couple of rows with a single wire and then go up a couple of rows and come back down to double knit and repeat to triple knit.  I don’t know about you, but that would drive me “Ape-something that rhymes with knit.”  Plus it’s hard to keep your rows and stitches even and the wires lying evenly instead of whopper jawed and all kinked up.

And then there was this thing about clamping an Allen Wrench in a vise that seemed like overkill. Viking Knit wants to spiral and as long as you keep your stitches fairly even,  you don’t have to be fanatical.  You can straighten your wire work when you take it off the mandrel.  I was able to find several artists on the Internet who used a mandrel of some sort.  I have had success with dowels and chopsticks.

But my biggest discovery is that you don’t have to do the up and down nonsense to do triple and double knit.  All you have to do is work with two or three wires at a time.  It’s  really not that difficult.

Here’s a crudely drawn picture of how you start:

The red loops are what they call the petals.  The above diagram shows the stitch worked flat, and you can see examples of this in Arlene Fisch’s classic book Textile Techniques in Metal.  But for now, think round.  Since it’s recommended that you work in 24 or 26 gauge wire, working with 2 or 3 strands at a time is easier than it sounds.  When I work with copper wire,  I work with yard long strands of wire taped together one end and proceed as if I was using a single wire.  When I work with brass wire,  I use  18″ to 24″ strands because the wire is stiffer and a little harder to work with, but it is not difficult.  Here are some pictures:

Here is a triple knit chain in progress.  It is three stitches around and I am using 24 gauge wire.  They say that 24 or 26 gauge wire is the best size to use.

Here is a detail:

I add new chain according to the standard directions you will find in Internet tutorials or Irene Peterson’s book.  I worked on this brass wire chain until it was about 16″ long.  Then I annealed it with a micro torch (you don’t need to do this with copper or fine silver, but brass is stiffer) after brushing it with flux to cut down any fire scale.

The next step is passing it through the wooden  draw plate.

The above picture shows the chain during the drawing process.  I passed it through three successively smaller holes, then stopped.  I once saw a video of Charles Lewton-Brain demonstrating fold forming and he said something that stuck with me.  I don’t remember the exact quote, but he said that when you are working on something and reach a point where you like how it looks, STOP!


The picture above is the finished necklace.  I soldered the knitted ends together and soldered a 14 gauge wire to each end.  Then I made the end caps from brass, passed the 14 gauge wire through the holes in the end,  I formed wrapped loops. made jump rings and soldered them closed and finished with an “S” clasp I made for the necklace.

Here is a close up.

To give you a little perspective, the two copper sections below are five stitches around.  The top one is triple knit the same way I did the brass necklace and the bottom one is single knit.

The final picture is a close up of a wide hole bead I slipped over the chain.  The final necklace was about 24″ long.  How long do the chains get when you draw them?  There isn’t a hard and fast answer.  It depends on the stiffness of your wire, how many times you draw the chain and how many stitches around your chain is.  The only thing I can say for sure is better two long than too short.

So now that you know how to make a double or triple Viking Knit chain without all the up and down maneuvering, go ahead and give it a try.  OK, you might think it’s cheating.  You might be a purist.  Just remember, as someone wiser than me once said, “Virtue is its own reward and little else.”

Here’s a late addition:  the Viking Knit is the same as the “Acorn Stitch” or Celyon Stitch” used in embroidery, only it’s worked upside down.  Sometimes you can get the hang of a technique by trying it in another medium first.  If you’re new to wire work but good at sewing,  try the technique with thread to get the hang of it.

20 responses to “Viking Knit Unraveled and Revealed

  1. You have saved my life, I too tried to follow the old form v knit double but it was a disaster. I googled it tonight, Aussie insomniac, and found you! Hooray. your method.is so elegant. I.am so your newest follower.

    • I would not be surprised to learn that it started out as a textile technique. I don’t know a lot about the history, but you find the technique in many cultures.
      Thanks for your kind comments.

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  3. This is a great idea! I’ve been trying to figure out how to do a viking knit bracelet using two different colors of wire for a few days at least and have also tried doing it but couldn’t come up with anything. After reading this, I’m going to try this method out but use two different colors instead of one. :-) Thank you for this great idea and for making it available to the rest of us. Have you done a viking knit using two different colors? If so, can you post it? Thank you again.

    • No I have not. I like the look of metal and one color. I’m glad you found the post helpful. It might not suit Viking Knit purists, but it is an easier way to achieve results that are very close. Remember that softer (as opposed to stiff) wire and thinner gauge (24-26) looks better.

  4. I love your creativity. I have done the traditional viking knit technique in single, double & triple and love the chains I have made. However I love the more open “braided look’ of your technique. I cn’t wait to give it a try!
    Do you know how to do something similar to viking knit in a flat bracelet style?

    • Thanks for your kind comments. This is a variation and, while some people think the open look doesn’t look as good as the real thing, it’s only meant as an easier alternative.
      But you got me thinking!!! I never thought about a flat Viking knit, but why not? I’m sure someone has already done it in wire and certainly with yarn or thread. So many of these techniques were originally used with textiles. Imagine starting off off with four or five loops but instead of arranging them around a dowel, have them flat and secured on a work board (think macrame or knot tying). You would start the knit as usual from left to right looping the working wire through the top loops. When you get to the end of the row, go down and make a new row by looping through the row you just added, but this time you go from right to left. I think it would look a lot more open done in wire but so does wire crochet.

      If you try this, please send me some pictures!

  5. This is great! I’m definitely going to try this. I don’t find the traditional double weave to be troublesome but this techinique looks great and seems like it saves time. Thanks

  6. I can’t wait to try this out. I like doing the double weave technique but this also looks cool and seems faster. I did not think to try brass before either. Do you seal your brass and copper chains with anything?

  7. I have been making a single 4-stitch Viking Knit in 25G copper, using a stick pen as the dowel. It is now 14 in long and I am wondering if there is some chart that will give me an idea how long it will be after drawing it through the draw plate to a fairly fine. ???

  8. Wonderful!! I too had tried the traditional method and even though I can make great single chains, the doubles were ending up as one big glob of wire that could not be helped by pulling through a draw plate. Your directions are perfect and I really appreciate you posting them! Your photos were great too!

    • Thanks! I have been fooling around with the traditional way of doing the double weave and my big plan is to post clear instructions for that. The methods do have different looks and I like them both.

  9. I enjoyed your instructions even though I do single, double and triple Viking and even tried 5-color/5wire Viking technique (twice was enough) so this will open new possibilities. I did a 5-loop double strand today and am excited to pull it through the draw-plate to see the finished chain.

  10. This was great information. I am using a silver wire and a turquoise wire to do a double knit. This helped me achieve my goal.

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