[HNW] Hardanger

Kim Salazar kbsalazar at mediaone.net
Wed Jan 23 11:58:55 PST 2002

O.K.  I'll open myself up for slash and burn criticism here by leaping
blindly into this discussion.

As others have echoed here, not every work that includes areas of flat
satin stitching combined in geometrical arrangements with openwork can be
grouped into Hardanger.  Remember first of all that styles of motifs in
counted embroidery styles are somewhat constrained by the nature of the
medium - in effect the grid formed by the linen's weave ornamented by satin
stitch in threads complementary in size to those of the ground cloth.

There are many, many styles that have design elements in common with
Hardanger, but they are not Hardanger and should be appreciated in their
own cultural context rathe than being lumped in with the Norwegian style.

First, let's look at some Hardanager.  This site has a couple historical
examples on it:


This website claims it to be a descendent of multiple forms.  I can't vouch
for the site's accuracy (I haven't done my own research on the topic), but
some of what is said sets well with me.  Still, look at these
samples.  Most are characterized by satin stitch blocks that define areas
in which openwork stitches are done.  There's a strong geometric flavor to
the whole thing.

Here's a dress done in Hardanger from around 1900:

And some modern samples:

There are lots of similar looking styles going back in history.  For
example, this English band sampler, 1671 has some geometric/satin stitch
bits in it that:


(click on the red zoom button, then in the pop up window drag a box around
the area at the "waist of the piece - the part that on the thumbnail looks
like a row of donuts.  You can usually do two or three magnifications to
see better.  You can also click on the little magnifying glass icon on the
bottom to get a super close-up.)

You can see satin stitched areas and openwork on withdrawn threads - but
it's not hardanger.  There are no uniformly sized satin stitch blocks
defining the openwork areas, and the placement/arrangement of the motifs is
very different. Also the infilling stitches used and ornamentation in
between the satin stitch area is different.

Now here's a Spanish sampler from 1841 (do the same zoom trick on the green
flowers in the middle


Again, areas of satin stitch worked into quaternary flowers, surrounded by
satin stitch squares.  Very nice, and vaguely reminiscent, but not Hardanger.

And here's another English piece from 1656.  Again satin stitch, some
geometric and openwork done in withdrawn thread frames - but it's not
Hardanger either.


Here's a Spanish sampler from 1822 that clearly shows motifs that elsewhere
are worked in satin stitch, in this case depicted in cross stitch.  Again,
similar geometrics but the technique is entirely different:


For what it's worth - my opinion is that embroidery styles are living,
evolving things.  They don't become crystallized under a heading until a
buyer, cataloger, collector or other outside observer takes a "core sample"
in time and codifies what he or she has found under a succinct name.

Hardanger as we know it today is a style first collected in the Hardanger
district of Norway in the mid 1800s, plus the self-identified descendents
of that work.

Prior to that point in time there was a continuum of stitching techniques
and aesthetics - but what preceeded the date of collection while congruent
from an ancestral point of view is not Hardanger as we know it.

Even though there are threads of continuity, Hardanger as practiced in the
1800s is a separate and distinct form and aesthetic from what went on
before, and from what went on in other places.  You cannot say based on
what was done in the mid-1800s that Hardanger as a style existed as a
recognizable entity before that date.

If you want to do openwork with satin stitch and are concerned with
producing artifacts identifiable as being from particular times/cultures
other than Norway in the mid 1800s through today (including derivative
emigrant communities), there are many examples and styles that are specific
to other eras and places.  Hardanger as it is expressed today is not one of

Hope this helps,

Kim Salazar, Yarn Review Shepherd and Needlework History Dilettante
kbsalazar at mediaone.net

ps:  Flames cheerfully deleted at no extra charge.

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