In the late 80's or early 90's, I was shopping at my favorite store in my hometown of Huntsville, Alabama. Patches & Stitches sells fabric for quilting but also carries supplies for canvas needlework and Hardanger Lace. I was intrigued with the lace and purchased a beginner's book, thread, fabric, and needles. My first piece was a small sachet from the book and I was hooked.
Hardanger comes from Norway, specifically from the Hardanger region, although it probably originated in ancient Persia and Asia. Hardanger is worked on an evenweave fabric using blanket stitches and kloster blocks with specialty stitches (such as picots and spiderwebs) worked in openings created by cutting away threads in the design.
You can see photos of the Hardange project I did for my last class in my Crafts gallery. If you'd like to try your hand at this wonderful craft, I highly recommend Hardanger Basics and Beyond and Hardanger Fundamentals Made Fancy by Janice Love. Nordic Needle also has some tutorials to follow where you can see how to do the stitches. Hardanger looks very complicated, but the basic stitches are very simple.
Kloster blocks are the base of the piece and are the first thing you do, followed by blanket stitches around the edge of the piece. These two stitches stabilize the fabric and provide a guideline for where to cut threads. On medium to large pieces, it's very important that you use a colored thread (sewing thread will do fine) to stitch loose guidelines every 10 to 20 threads so that each side matches up perfectly. Nothing is more frustrating than getting all the way around the piece only to discover that you're off by one stitch. You'll then have to check back along the stitches to find where you made the mistake. If you do have to redo stitches, don't reuse the thread you pulled out. By now it has lost its sheen and is a bit ragged. Let's assume you got all the kloster blocks and blanket stitches done without incident.
Next comes the scary part, cutting away the threads to create the openings in the piece. Use a sharp pair of small scissors for this to keep control of the situation, take a deep breath, take another one, check to make sure you're about to cut the right thread, take another deep breath, and cut the thread. See, that wasn't so bad, was it?
After the threads are cut, you're left with open areas on the fabric. The "bars" left between the spaces are wrapped into a round bar or woven. Any picots or dove's eyes are added while wrapping the bars. With the bars done, you can add other stitches, such as spider webs, eyelets, ships, and tulips, and add beads, silk ribbon embroidery, or other elements.
Once the piece is done, it's time to cut away the threads around the outside of the piece. This is as nervewracking as cutting the threads for the open areas, but patience and perserverance will win the day. Time to wash the piece and block it. When it's almost dry but still slightly damp, I like to place the piece upside down on a fluffy white towel and iron it to remove any wrinkles from the working and washing process.
Hardanger can be used on bedspreads, coasters, doilies, table runners, sachets, curtains, aprons, collars, and much more. Nordic Needle has some absolutely sweet Hardanger Angel Dolls for topping your tree at Christmas.
Why not give Hardanger a try? If you don't have a craft store near you, Patches & Stitches will send supplies to you as will Nordic Needle. If you live in the Clear Lake Area of Houston, Harbour Stitchery in League City has books, supplies, and classes (where I get my supplies).
Try something new today, you might surprise yourself.