[HNW] History of Hardanger

Mary M. Riedel mmriedel at mindspring.com
Sat Jan 19 01:10:52 PST 2002

Please go to this link on the Caron site for an interesting article on
hardanger that includes some historical background:


Here a just a few paragraphs from the article:

The historical origins of Hardanger are rather obscure. It's roots are said
to have sprung from ancient Persia and Asia where a similar technique was
worked on fine gauze netting with colored silk and metallic threads. Apparel
which incorporated this type of embroidery was worn only by nobility. This
art was popularized during the Renaissance, having been introduced into
Europe through Byzantium from other Asiatic cultures. During the
Renaissance, there was increased interest in geometric and ornamental
patterns, some depicting human and animal figures. As the use of linen for
making garments increased, the technique was spread by the distribution of
pattern books and imported textiles which were copied by local artisans.
These books were available from Germany and Italy. The best known was
Munsterbuchlein by Peter Quentell, published in approximately 1528.

The technique is believed to have traveled first to Italy where the
exquisite lace motifs of Punto Taglito and Punto Rialto were executed and
later evolved into the Italian reticella patterns, which eventually
developed into the Punto Aria patterns of Venetian lace. Assisi embroidery
was already coming into its own in the 1200-1300's. The stitches, Holbein
and cross, were worked with silk in many colors. In the 1500's designs were
worked on linen with bright colored silks and the motifs were similar to
those used in Norwegian blackwork. Some traditional Hardanger patterns
exhibit an Assyrian and Egyptian influence which can be traced to the
Vikings' forays far into the Mediterranean Sea. The Crusaders of the Middle
Ages may even have been instrumental in introducing this type of embroidery
to parts of Scandinavia. Another motif found in Hardanger, the eight-pointed
star is also a common element in the embroidery of India as well as being a
universal symbol. This star has, throughout recorded history, signified good
fortune in virtually every culture throughout the world. The eight points of
the star also signify the eight directions of the compass, representing all
the different directions one may follow to find happiness. Specifically
throughout Scandinavia, the eight-pointed star has been a magical invocation
and protective ideogram going back to pagan times.

As these embroidery techniques and the textiles incorporating them spread
northward through Europe, they evolved into Norwegian Drawn Work, Danish and
Dutch Hedebo, English Ayshire work and Ruskin lacework. The Hedebo work
dates to about the 1700's. The Norwegian form of this embroidery, now known
as Hardangersom (meaning work from Hardanger area), developed and flourished
between 1650 and 1850. True Hardanger is a direct offshoot of reticella
embroidery. Reti means net and the Italian reticella consisted of a
background of double drawn work and cutwork embroidered with motifs of
squares, stars, crosses, arrows and wheels which filled the openings. This
embroidery was also done white-on-white. The technique first sprang up in
Rindalen in Nordmore, Norway in the 1790's but it was much more substantial
looking than the traditional reticella.

Toluca Lake, CA

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