CharacteristicsWorked on evenweave fabric, often a double-thread weave 'Kloster' blocks of five satin stitches are worked over four threads Threads in squares are cut and withdrawn and square open spaces decorated Overcast or woven bars may be added, sometimes with picot and loops Threads are thicker for 'kloster blocks' and finer for fillings.
The origins of Hardanger are vague. There is evidence that both style and technique are associated with early Persian and Asian textiles and links with Renaissance white work and lace. Traditional Hardanger patterns often show an Assyrian or Egyptian influence possibly due to the Viking voyages to the Mediterranean Sea or Crusaders in the Middle Ages.
It is thought that since Italian and imported laces were so costly, Norwegian needlewomen created their own version of ‘lace’ through embroidery. About the mid 18th C, the women of Hardanger, a mountainous district in South West Norway, spun flax and wove it into linen fabric with a characteristic double thread. It was on this type of fabric that Hardanger embroidery was developed in its present form, using thick cotton and linen threads.
Traditionally, the embroidery was worked in white yarn on white fabric and the designs relatively simple. It was used to embellish collars, cuffs and apron borders of the bunad, a traditional festive folk costume. Since homes were full of soot until the mid-19th C, Hardanger was used exclusively for bunads, baptismal garments, bridal head coverings, liturgical pieces and articles for special occasions. Its popularity grew due to interest in the Victorian era for lavish decoration on tablecloths, towels, pillows and curtains.
Between the World Wars there was a decline in the popularity of Hardanger. The 1970s saw a revival and more recently colour has been added and the designs have become more elaborate and incorporate other types of stitches.