Hardanger Background and Shopping Info

Hardanger Embroidery is most associated with the Hardanger region of Norway. The women there wanted a way to make their every-day linens pretty but serviceable. So they devised a way of embellishing these items so that they would look like lace, but stand up to every-day use.

Before you go shopping for supplies, here are some important points to remember when starting Hardanger:

  • Traditional Hardanger is tone-on-tone – usually white or ecru thread on white or ecru linen. More recently, using colored thread on white or ecru fabric has become acceptable. I prefer to use color, because I like the work to show up. It’s also easier to keep count when you are starting out!
  • Color schemes should be kept simple – too many colors confuse the eye and detract from the simple beauty of the work. I like to keep my color schemes at no more than 3 or 4 colors for the entire piece.
  • Hardanger is always done on an evenweave (i.e., not AIDA) fabric. This is a crucial point. Aida cloth will not cut properly – more accurately, it causes problems when you are removing the cut threads, and the piece will not come out the way you want.
  • Evenweave linen is traditional, but it can get expensive. A more cost-effective option is 22-count, often called Hardanger fabric. It has a true basket-weave pattern, large enough holes to see what you are doing, and the threads are very easy to remove once they’ve been cut.
  • Hardanger work uses a heavier gauge thread than cross stitch to achieve the drawn thread look. The thread-count of your fabric will determine the thread gauge you use. For 22-count, use Pearl/Perle Cotton size 5. For a finer fabric – such as 28- or 32-count linen – use Pearl/Perle Cotton size 8. I usually use DMC because that is what is most readily available in the craft stores in my area. There are more color options in the size 5 range than in size 8. Hardanger work uses thread as fine as size 12. I will get into how you use different size threads in a later post.
  • 6-strand embroidery floss is not appropriate for the satin stitches in Hardanger work, because it is too easy to clip a few strands and cause a problem for yourself. I have used 2-3 strands of floss for weaving and wrapping in an area where I’ve already clipped and removed fabric threads, but usually only if I wanted a particular color. And of course, I also occasionally include cross stitch embellishment. FYI – embroidery floss is considerd 25-gauge thread, so twice as fine as size 12, 3 times as fine as size 8, 5 times as fine as size 5, etc. Just like with wire, the larger the number, the finer the thread.
  • You need super-sharp embroidery scissors to do the cut work. Don’t even use these scissors to cut thread or floss. You need a precise, flush cut – if they dull, it makes it more likely that you will accidentally clip your stitching. I don’t want to scare you – it really isn’t that hard to avoid (or fix!), but isn’t it better to do things properly?
  • You will also want a tapestry needle – I love the blunt point, it saves my fingers! Size 22 or 24 is appropriate for Pearl Cotton thread. In fact, I even only use tapestry needles for cross stitch – they’re easier to thread, and again, my fingers thank me!

I’ve used a few terms above that I will explain in another post. I don’t want this one to get too long or involved in the details of “how to”. But this should give you a place to start, and some guidelines to take shopping! Have fun!

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