Sunday, February 17, 2013

Handanger, what is it and how do I pronounce it?

Folks, a few times in my posts I've mentioned Hardanger Embroidery. I just wanted to take some time and explain this particular needlecraft a bit as it is very near and dear to my heart.

Hardanger (pronounced hard-unger, like "Hunger" without the "H") is a traditional form of Norwegian Embroidery using 22 count cotton weave cloth (this is the standard, but other weaves can be used) and Perl cotton thread, typically ranging from #5 to #12 weight depending on the fabric being used, and the stitches being made. Traditionally it is done with the thread and the cloth being the same color, usually white or cream.

I am originally from southern Minnesota where there is a large community with strong Norwegian heritage. My Grandma Johnson (doesn't get much more Norwegian American than that, does it?) wasn't taught by her mother or grandmother or anything nostalgic like that. Rather, she and some of her girlfriend decided to take a class offered through the town's Community Ed. services, and after the class finished, they continued to meet up once a week to work on their various projects, share tips and experiences, learn/new stitches, and chit chat. They were lucky enough to have the lovely lady who had lead the class join them and help with any tips or advanced techniques.

My Grandmother has been gone for 8 years this coming April, and to this day, some of my most vivid memories of her involve her sitting in her armchair and working away at a doily or table runner while Grandpa sat watching TV.

So when I decided to do a "homemade" Christmas this last year (honestly intended to save a bit of money on a tight budget), I chose to begin teaching myself Hardanger in honor of my Grandmother's memory.

The basic supplies needed are cloth, thread, and needles. Typically two weights of thread are used for any given project, if your heavier thread is #5, then you will usually use #8 (one level finer) for any needle-weaving. Whereas using #8 for your blocks would mean buying #12 for the detailed work. I typically use #5 and #8 as there are more colors readily available in these sizes than #12.

A close up of my current Hardanger supply box featured in yesterday's organizing post. Different colors and weights of thread, fine point scissors, and two different sizes of tapestry needles (20 and 22) along the right side.

The basis of all Hardanger pieces is a block of stitches referred to as a Kloster Block. It looks like this.

These are places corner to corner or end to end to create "step" and "row" type patterns to create an outline shape, then further blocks are places inside as well as decorative blocks, needle-weaving, and other patterns to create the details of the design.

Hardanger today is used mostly for doilys, table runners, and decorative pillows, but the possibilities are endless. Full tablecloths, window treatments, Christmas ornaments, card inserts, bookmarks, even full bed coverings.

Here are some samplings of the simple doily patterns that I currently own.

The top is a pictured design in a book I was given by one of Grandma's stitching buddies (Thanks Kathy!) The bottom is a spare card insert from Christmas, I wanted to have one almost all the way done in case it turned out I had forgotten somebody, or one got messed up during the card assembly process.

Personally, I find hand stitching to be extremely relaxing and I always keep a Hardanger piece in progress to keep my hands busy and give my mind (slightly ADD here) a task to focus on. I am addicted to classical Minnesota Public Radio, and often prefer this to watching TV, unless there is a specific movie or show on that I want to watch. I also listen to a lot of audio books and these are great to do while stitching away because you don't need your eyes.

What sort of projects do you do for "crafting therapy" either when you're in a slump, or just on the side? Have you ever looked into the creative and cloth based traditions of your own heritage? If not, hop online and see what you find, it's great way to connect with your roots, and can lead to some very meaningful pieces to give as gifts to family members.

Writing Sewing is a form of therapy; sometimes I wonder how all those who do not write sew, compose, or paint can manage to escape the madness, melancholia, the panic and fear which is inherent in a human situation.”
-Graham Green (altered slightly)


1 comment:

  1. Lovely story about your grandmother. I commend you for carrying on a family tradition. My own maternal grandmother knit, crocheted, and tatted and I can knit and crochet but I have been trying to find someone in my area to teach me how to shuttle tat like my grandmother did.