Phylogenetic networks are a generalization of phylogenetic trees that are used in biology to represent reticulate or non-treelike evolution. Recently, several algorithms have been developed which aim to construct phylogenetic networks from biological data using triplets, i.e. binary phylogenetic trees on 3-element subsets of a given set of species. However, a fundamental problem with this approach is that the triplets displayed by a phylogenetic network do not necessarily uniquely determine or encode the network. Here we propose an alternative approach to encoding and constructing phylogenetic networks, which uses phylogenetic networks on 3-element subsets of a set, or trinets, rather than triplets. More specifically, we show that for a special, well-studied type of phylogenetic network called a 1-nested network, the trinets displayed by a 1-nested network always encode the network. We also present an efficient algorithm for deciding whether a dense set of trinets (i.e. one that contains a trinet on every 3-element subset of a set) can be displayed by a 1-nested network or not and, if so, constructs that network. In addition, we discuss some potential new directions that this new approach opens up for constructing and comparing phylogenetic networks.