Hardanger embroidery made an impression on me at a very young age.
I was visiting my grandmother's bungalow and, as usual, the first thing I did upon arriving was to check out her dressing table.
She always placed hand embroidered doilies on top, to protect the wooden surface from scratches. Normally they featured brightly coloured flowers or even crinoline ladies. That day I was in for a surprise.
In pride of place lay a crisp white mat encrusted with neat white stitchery. She had decorated the open areas of the cloth with fine lacy stitches. It was stunningly beautiful.
During the time we shared, I often watched her creating her masterpieces with needle and thread, and sometimes she let me add a stitch. She would then say that we made the project together.
When Nan started her next piece of hardanger embroidery, I watched intently, keen to see the process in action. I didn't understand at that age, that you couldn't fill holes with lace without working the stitches around the perimeter first. I couldn't wait for the fancy work. Taking her stork-handled scissors, she started carefully cutting threads in between her solid stitching.
Then she laid her work on the chair arm while she went to boil a kettle.
Of course I had to help. Oh dear. Disaster!
Let's just say that Nan never finished that project, and it was many years before I plucked up the courage to try Hardanger embroidery again. But once I did, there was no stopping me.
Traditional hardanger embroidery originates from the Norwegian area that gives it its name. The women there would embellish their aprons, caps and household linens such as tablecloths and runners with Hardanger stitching.
Whether you stick to the traditional white on white method, or introduce some colour, is your decision. It looks lovely either way.
You may decide to frame your work or complete your finished pieces as bellpulls, coasters, Christmas tree ornaments or perhaps a mat to place on your own dressing table instead of decorating your garments.
Most Hardanger designs are geometric. However, I like to be inventive and enjoy designing pictorial pieces, such as the little owl shown here, although it still uses traditional stitches.
The method of working is just as my grandmother showed me all those years ago.
Start with the satin stitch blocks known as "kloster blocks" that form the outer boundaries of the cut areas. Add decorative surface stitchery, such as the cable stitched feathers on the breast. Next you need those sharp-pointed scissors, which I caused so much damage with! However, once you know which threads to cut and which to leave in place, it is simple. The pretty lace stitches complete your project.
In just six lessons, I provide hardanger needlework instructions that will cover the basics. You learn to stitch small pieces that can become coasters, greetings cards, or a bookmark. As you progress through the course, I introduce you to the different stitches that you need. I list those you will learn in each step under the clickable images below.
Next, in this beginners guide to hardanger let's look at the materials you will need to try this type of embroidery yourself.
You need two different thicknesses of Pearl cotton. Which you choose will depend on your fabric. The lower the number, the thicker the thread.
Unless you are working on fabric with few threads per inch, we normally ignore the thickest, Pearl cotton number three, as it would be too chunky. Instead, we either pair numbers five and eight, or eight and twelve, to give the best results.
As shown in the photograph, Pearl cotton comes in both balls and skeins. You will normally find only the finer versions, eight and twelve, sold in balls.
Use the thicker thread for your kloster blocks and any other satin stitches. Work the rest of your design with the finer thread.
You need an evenly woven fabric on which to work Hardanger. This means it needs the same number of threads in both directions. However, that number can vary.
Oslo, a fabric with 22 threads per inch, is the most commonly used. If you want something a little more delicate, you can choose either 28 or 32 count linens.
The table below shows which threads to use with which fabric to give the best effect. You can find more information on hardanger fabrics by clicking the link to my dedicated page.
22 count Oslo - Pearl 5 and 8
28 count evenweave - Pearl 8 and 12
32 count Linen - Pearl 12 only
You need two needle sizes, one for each thread. Try a size 20 for the Pearl number 5 thread, size 22 for the Pearl number 8, and a size 24 for Pearl 12.
Sharp-pointed embroidery scissors are necessary for cutting the threads. Those with angled blades make life a little easier.
I recommend you use an embroidery hoop while working the surface stitches. Remove it before cutting the fabric threads and doing the needleweaving.
Light to work by
A magnifying lamp proves useful in preventing eye strain when stitching in low light.
A pair of pointed tweezers may also come in handy for teasing out the cut fabric threads.
A container in which to pop the cut threads helps to keep your working area tidy.
You won't find the design printed onto the fabric as this is a form of counted whitework embroidery. Instead, you will follow a chart which shows where to place the stitches.
The grid lines on the chart represent fabric threads. It is important to take care to check whether each line shows a single thread or more. Large designs often use a line to mean two fabric threads. This makes the pattern smaller and easier to handle.
For the same reason, a chart may only show a quarter of a symmetrical design. You turn it 90 degrees to work each quadrant.
While learning, it is easier to follow charts that show every fabric thread. The patterns in my beginner course follow this method, as do my larger designs.
As I discovered as a little girl, cutting the wrong threads can be devastating. But don't panic as there are ways to rectify minor mistakes. But please keep your scissors away from young children, especially those with an interest in stitching!
To eliminate such errors at source, my charts have special red lines so you can see which threads to cut and which to leave well alone.
Please remember to breathe whilst cutting the threads. Every time I teach someone, I find they forget to do so at this stage in their project.
If you want to learn more about Hardanger, the following books by Janice Love will prove indispensable...
Whether you are a beginner to Hardanger embroidery or you have been stitching it for years, this is the place to ask for help or share your knowledge.
Click below to see contributions from other visitors to this page...
Can I change to a different fabric count for Hardanger?
I have a pattern calling for 28 count cloth. I have lots of 22 count cloth and must use it. How would using 22 Cloth instead of the 28 Cloth the pattern …
Can I use crochet cotton for Hardanger?
Can you use crochet cotton for hardanger embroidery instead of pearl cotton?
Need help with Hardanger pattern instructions please
I purchased a pattern for three angel ornaments. Permin 01-2632 The instructions are not very clear. There are 4 different kinds of lines on the pattern …
hardanger patterns on paper
I want to do hardanger on paper and will use stitches only, no cutting out. Should I use embroidery cotton and can I use a small hardanger pattern to put …
Perle cotton size for 22 count hardanger fabric
I started s project on 22 count hardanger fabric using number 8 perle cotton thread and after doing 1 side I feel I should use number 5 perle cotton. …
Fabric do I cut?
Hello Carol, what a fantastic website. I am a complete novice to hardanger and have gone ahead and purchased 22 count hardanger White material 50x55cm. …
Please could you help me with what fabric count is suitable for making table linen? I would like to use a very fine closely woven linen. I have found …
Repairing cut threads in hardanger
I am busy embroidering a hardangar Tea with a beautiful border. I cut 4 threads on the one side of pattern incorrectly. I used the same fabric threads …
Little boxes in a hardanger pattern - what is the stitch called?
I am working on a pattern that confuses me. The pattern looks like it is showing box stitches, but in the picture it looks like there are openings. It …
cleaning hardanger embroidery
My aunt made some lovely hardanger pieces for me but over the years they have become soiled...how do i clean them without ruining them?
Hardanger Tablecloth Pattern
I am wanting to make a table cloth (fairly big) for my brother and his wife for their 25th wedding anniversary as a gift. I would like to make it in white …
Repair a mistake on hardanger
I found a 45 inch square harndanger table cloth in my archives that I started some 10-15 years ago. Now want to finish it but see why I stowed it away. …
How to Fix Hardanger Cutting Mistake
I've done hardanger before without any problems so when I started my piece I didn't review any tips or tricks. (OK, it was 15 years ago, but I look at …
Hardanger apron Not rated yet
It was my grandmother’s! Just got it after my Dad died going through his things. Found in a small desk his Grandfather made in Norway. It’s definitely …
Hardanger on 32count Not rated yet
For the satin stitches, do I count over 4 or do I count 8 threads? Carol answers Hi Shelley, Thank you for your question. Hardanger kloster …
My first try Not rated yet
I know this is going to seem like a very simple question but the pattern I bought doesn't really say a whole lot. I was going over the design and its …
May 25, 22 01:08 PM
The first step in our hand embroidery for beginners course, learn how to embroider names and letters, using a variety of embroidery stitches
May 25, 22 12:51 PM
I am often asked if I use cross stitch software to design. I do now and this is my story of how I started designing needlework
May 23, 22 02:47 AM
This stem stitch tutorial covers the basic stitch, raised stem and portuguese knotted stem. Videos explain how to work the stitches.
May 20, 22 06:26 AM
Simple embroidery stitches for small flowers - ideas and videos showing how to stitch them