Hardanger Embroidery from Norway

Hardanger Embroidery from Norway

hardanger butterfly, whitework embroidered butterflies, norwegian white work butterfly

Hardanger, or Hardangersøm, is a form of embroidery brought to exquisite perfection in Norway. Its lineage can be traced from Asian and Persian embroideries and it is a cousin to Ayreshire work, reticella, and other lacy whitework techniques where the ground fabric is cut away.

Hardanger's distinctive style is largely a product of its working - satin stitched blocks called 'kloster blocks' (related to cloister, the covered walkway in a convent or monastery) are sturdy enough to keep the fabric from unravelling when threads are snipped close to the blocks. Once a design is edged in kloster blocks, the secured fabric threads are snipped away and a delicate thread is used to secure and tidy the remaining lattice. Traditionally the entire design is worked in white; keeping things monotone highlights the delicacy of the fillings and the precision with which they are worked. If the blocks are worked over a single thread incorrectly, the design will be misaligned and may begin to unravel. 

hardanger embroidery worked in a small hoop

Due to the geometric nature of the technique, most designs are abstract, and may mix areas of cutwork with areas of surface embroidery. Older examples are almost entirely cutwork and can be worked on a tiny scale - up to twelve squares per inch! These pieces nearly require a magnifying glass to truly appreciate. Despite the airy framework, hardanger done correctly produces a sturdy lace much stronger than it looks. 

Pieris rapae, the small white or small cabbage white, is a small- to medium-sized butterfly native to Europe, Asia, and North Africa. It was introduced to Quebec around 1860 and has spread through North America and has since hitched a ride to Australia and New Zealand as well. Since they overwinter as pupae, they are among the first butterflies to appear in the spring. Though sometimes roundly cursed by farmers (brassica crops like cabbages, broccoli, and mustard are their preferred food) these cheerful little opportunists can be seen nearly from the last frost in the spring to the first good freeze in the fall in open clearings nearly the world over.

pieris rapae butterfly

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1 comment

Jackie, you’re incredible. Love 💕


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