Basic Training: Hardanger Embroidery

Lindee Goodall & Ramona Baird
Basic Training: Hardanger Embroidery

Traditionally, Hardanger embroidery is a labor-intensive process created by hand pulling and cutting threads on even weave fabric. Learn how the latest machine embroidery designs create a similar look in half the time.

Hardanger History
Hardanger, or “Hardangersom” (literally “work from Hardanger area”) is typically credited to an area in Norway; however, the technique can be traced back to ancient Persia and Asia. It was popular in Norway from the 17th century through the 19th century. Flax was grown, carded, spun and woven into white fabric and thread, and then used to create and decorate traditional Norwegian costumes, everyday clothing and household linens.
Traditional Hardanger is typically created on cotton or linen using coordinating white or ivory thread. Fabric threads are pulled and cut along the warp and weft and stitching is worked along pulled edges and in open areas. Most motifs are geometric designs formed by satin stitches, creating a sculpted appearance. Woven bars is a technique used in Hardanger that’s created by weaving the needle over and under groups of thread until they’re completely wrapped. Needle weaving is used to create a braided appearance. The featured Hardanger technique created for machine embroidery is a combination of freestanding lace and cutwork designs.

Cutting away the excess fabric from the embroidery design is crucial in order to create precise and professional-looking Hardanger embroidery.

  • Hoop the fabric with a piece of woven water-soluble stabilizer. Place the hoop on the machine, and then stitch the cutline, which outlines the area to be cut away.
  • Remove the hoop from the machine and place the hoop on a flat work surface. Don’t hold the hoop when cutting, as the hoop tension can alter and misalign the design registration.
  • Use a seam ripper to cut the upper fabric layer close to the cutline stitching, being careful not to cut through the stabilizer. Use scissors to cut diagonally into each corner, and then along the stitching edge (A).
  • Place the hoop onto the machine and stitch the tackdown zigzag stitches over the raw edges.
  • Embroider the remaining design. Remove the hoop from the machine and the fabric from the hoop. Remove the stabilizer, following the manufacturer’s instructions.

Fabrics & Thread
Choose tightly woven fabrics, such as cotton and linen, as they look traditional and work well for Hardanger designs. Osnaburg fabric is a plain-weave fabric that’s similar to canvas and has a traditional feel that complements the look of Hardanger embroidery. Add stability to fabrics that easily ravel by placing a second fabric layer under the stabilizer. Experiment with different fabric types to create a variety of untraditional looks. In the featured sample, yellow chiffon was used for a linen ring bearer wedding pillow, adding an additional decorative touch (B).
Most Hardanger embroidery designs are digitized for 40-wt. rayon or polyester thread. Experiment with different thread types and weights, such as polyester thread that has a matte finish to create new and unique looks. Use monochromatic or tone-on-tone thread colors for a subtle look (C).

Purchase the March/April '11 issue of CME at to make the blouse below.

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