Diane Fields - Scandinavian Nalbinding

Master: Diane Fields, Aberdeen
Apprentice: Mitchell and Jenelle Fields, Aberdeen
Art Form: Missouri Valley style fiddling

Diane Fields of Aberdeen learned the unusual rug-making technique of nalbinding from her Finnish grandmother while growing up in Minnesota. Also known as toothbrush weaving, because old toothbrush handles are used as sewing needles, nalbinding is a complex method of making rag rugs with an intricate stitch repeated over and over. The rugs look a bit like crocheted or braided rugs, but they are much thicker and heavier, and don’t come unraveled.

Diane learned the skill as a teenager, and has had apprenticeships to pass the art form on to two of her children, Mitchell and Jenelle. Mitchell started learning nalbinding several years ago, dropped it for awhile when he got too busy with school, but has now completed his first rug, in bright primary colors. He did a lot of work on it while riding the bus to high school track meets around the state.

Jenelle, a college student, has to make time between classes and work to make progress on her more traditional pastel calico rug.

Diane always uses new fabric for her rugs—“When it takes this much work, why use old fabric,” she says—and reports that it has taken her as long as two years to finish a large rug.

Woman and young man sit together on a couch (Diane Fields at left, Mitchell Fields right) working on rugs.

Diane Fields and her son Mitchell working on their rugs.