HEDEBO (Modern – 1850 onwards)


Worked on tightly woven fabric, usually linen Designs based on shapes such as scallops, hearts, crescents, circles, half circles, diamonds, leaves and tulip shaped flowers Shapes outlined with buttonhole stitch Buttonhole stitch fillings such as bars, scallops, wheels and lines may be worked over the shapes Hedebo buttonhole stitch is worked using an extra twist for stability Satin stitch, eyelets and French knots may be added Edge is finished with simple buttonhole or an Antwerp or Armenian edge Background fabric is cut away after working.


Hedebo is a peasant embroidery from Denmark which flourished in the early 18th C. Danes call it ‘Hedebosyning’ meaning ‘Hedebo sewing’ . It takes its name from the principal workers who live in the district called `Heden’, a heath, and ‘ Bo’, to live, meaning people who live on the heath, the land that lies between Copenhagen and Roskilde, the former capital.

It is very closely related to Reticella lace. The embroidery was bold and strong, not as fine as Dresden work of Saxony or Ayrshire work from Scotland. The designs appear isolated and sparsely decorated as they do not have the supporting or connecting surface stitchery.

Early Hedebo, 1790 1850, used a square mesh with designs of simple abstract shapes, often resembling flowers and leaves and using cutwork and pulled fabric techniques. The shapes are outlined with two close rows of chain stitch. Some of the threads in the motif are removed in both directions and then strengthened and decorated. Later, the simple mesh outline and surface stitchery were replaced by cut out shapes.

In the 20th C, the technique became very popular through Europe. It was commercially successful and featured in magazines for dress and table linen. Sometimes the open spaces were filled with tatting or crochet, debasing the original work

Hedebo is unusual in that there are three distinct forms that all fall under the same name but use quite different techniques. It is the most recent form that is described here.