Hardanger needlework course - lesson one

Welcome to lesson one in my Hardanger needlework course. Stitch along with me as I introduce you to this wonderful Norwegian embroidery, in a series of tutorials that will teach you the basic stitches and techniques.

Although traditionally worked in white thread on white fabric, I would suggest that if you are new to Hardanger needlework, you begin by using coloured threads. This makes it easier to see what you are doing and gives a pretty, modern look to your work.

Your first step is to print this page so that you can work somewhere more comfortable.

I am sorry about the copyright info across the pictures. Sadly, it is there because some unscrupulous people stole my content and put it on their own Web sites.

What materials do I need?

Hardanger pattern - stage 1

My Hardanger charts use a graph line to represent a fabric thread. Some other designers reduce the size of their charts by making one line represent two threads, so please check any other chart for this information before you start.


Hardanger Needlework - Kloster Blocks

Find the centre of your fabric by folding it in half both ways and lightly creasing.

Thread your needle with the thicker No. 5 thread and tie a knot in the end. I know, you've been told never to use a knot! This one is different. Called an away waste knot, it won't stay in your work as we will cut it off later. For the time being pop your needle through the corner of your fabric, from the right side, leaving the knot on the top surface of your work.

Count up 18 fabric threads from the centre and bring your needle through from the underside at no. 1 on the chart, to stitch the first Kloster block. Each stitch covers 4 fabric threads.

It is important to follow the numbering on the diagram to ensure that there is the same amount of thread on the back of your work as there is on the front. If you take a shortcut and miss out a number on the diagram, your stitches won't hold when you start the cutting process.

The video above shows the kloster block and cutting processes

Once the first five stitches are in place, move on to the second block, positioned at right angles to the first. Reuse hole 10 when you work stitch 11-12 in this block. In a similar manner, reuse hole 20 when you start block 3. This is to avoid carrying the thread diagonally across a corner, as it would show in the finished work (especially if it is across an area that you will cut later!)

Continue following the chart to work all the Kloster blocks, counting carefully to meet up at the beginning again.

Remember that waste knot? Now is the time to snip it off and check that your stitches have anchored the starting thread on the back of the work.

If you find you run out of thread before completing the Kloster blocks, please try to finish an entire block before starting a new length. As you stitch with the thread, it looses a little of its sheen and it would be noticeable if your block comprised both old and new thread. If the remaining thread is just too short, undo back to the end of the last block and then fasten off by running the needle under at least three blocks. Turn it around and work back under the same blocks, but skip the first stitch to anchor your thread.

Photo showing the stitched kloster block diamond

Hardanger needlework - cutting

The next step is cutting and removing some fabric threads. For this you need small, sharp, pointed embroidery scissors.

Sometimes students have turned up to my workshops with dressmaking shears or children's paper scissors, neither of which will be capable of the delicacy needed here.

hardanger scissors

It is worth investing in a special pair of Hardanger scissors with angled blades if you think you will do much Hardanger needlework, although either of the type shown above will work well.

The most important thing to remember when cutting is to continue breathing. So many of my students held their breath, it worried me they may pass out in the classroom!

hardanger cutting chart

Looking at the chart, can you see the red lines inside the Kloster blocks? These show you where you need to cut the fabric threads. Basically, you always cut along the edge of the block where the stitches go down into the fabric, NEVER parallel to the stitches.

Please count twice, cut once. By this I mean double check you have the right number of fabric threads on the scissors before you close the blades. Then cut all four threads with one snip. If you cut too many threads, it isn't the end of the world, you can take a thread from the edge of your fabric and reweave it through. Time-consuming, but it works perfectly.

Using your fingers, or better still tweezers, carefully remove the cut threads leaving behind a gridwork of remaining threads.

As we are working with coloured thread for this Hardanger needlework project, you may find small tufts of fabric thread show after you have cut them. Do not worry about these, they will shrink back underneath the Kloster blocks when you wash the piece. They would be less noticeable if you were using white thread.

After you have completed the cutting, your work will look like the photo above.

Hardanger needlework - Needleweaving

So far our stitching has been with the thicker thread, now we turn to the thinner perle number 8. Work all the needleweaving and the lacy square filets with this thread.

Use the kloster blocks to anchor the thread, we don't need to use a waste knot here. I have shown this on the chart by a diagonal line underneath a Kloster block.

If you are using Oslo fabric, look closely. Each "thread" is actually two fine side-by-side threads, woven in the same manner. Treat them as one thread.

You will have four fabric threads in each position, forming a grid inside your Kloster blocks. Take the first group of four and weave your needle through them, going over two, under two, backwards and forwards until the threads are comfortably full of stitches. Don't squeeze too many on or the bar you have made will bend and look untidy. If you keep an idea in your head of how many stitches you use, you can repeat this for the remaining bars so that they all match.

We call this process needleweaving. Many Hardanger needlework patterns will use this technique, but some will have wrapped bars (which we will cover in lesson two of our beginner guide to hardanger.

Work the bars in a diagonal direction by working those coloured red on the chart first. Then turn the work and work a second diagonal row in the opposite direction.

Continue until you have worked all the remaining bars.

Square Filets

I have chosen square filets as the decoration for this first Hardanger needlework piece. We can work these after all the needleweaving is complete. The other main lacy stitch is a dove's eye, which I have included in lesson two.

The square filet is simply four buttonhole stitches, taken into each corner of the "square hole".

In order to make the fourth stitch look the same as the rest, you need to take the needle and thread down over the thread already leading from that corner. I will try to make a video of this soon to make it easier to follow.

Run your thread through the back of Kloster blocks again, in between square filets.

Congratulations! You have stitched your first piece of Hardanger needlework!

Go back to the full Learn Hardanger course page for more lessons, or check out my downloadable Hardanger patterns by clicking on the image below. 

Image link to my hardanger patterns store

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