Norweave

Norweave embroidery originated in Norway and is a term which describes a type of counted embroidery often using a special canvas and yarn. Nordic Needle published one book on Norweave in 1981 and sold supplies and kits for many years. Read what Roz has written about one very special customer who loved Norweave.

"My dad, Lloyd Wold, didn’t start stitching until he was in his 60’s. He began while still living on the farm but when they moved off the farm and into town in 1990, his stitching time increased. Moving off the farm was necessary after his diagnosis of MS and stitching was a way to keep his hands exercised. Having a daughter who owned a needlework store that carried these kits, he didn’t have to ask twice if he could buy a kit and try stitching!

Dad used his hands for many creative things over the years. Besides farming and fixing machines, he did woodworking, played musical instruments including his mandolin which was his favorite, and he also played the harmonica, the fiddle, banjo and accordion. Dad took to Norweave embroidery immediately. He created dozens of pillows, bellpulls and wall hangings in Norweave and cross stitch. In his later years he worked more with plastic canvas as that was easier to work with as the MS had affected his dexterity and it was easier for him to see the work and the smaller projects didn’t require so many colors. He made dozens of plastic canvas items that he freely shared with anyone who admired them. The "Cross In My Pocket" was his favorite thing to make and he made over 4,000 all total.

I think Norweave embroidery was easy for my dad because the canvas was easy to see and working with yarn was easier than thread for him. Being a Norwegian himself, added to his interest in this Scandinavian needlework. The kits came from Norway and many of the designs included scenes and sayings from Norway. I’m thankful he made so many beautiful needlework pieces before his death in 2008. Each of his four children and 8 grandchildren has several pieces he stitched. Stitching was good therapy for my dad’s hands and it gave him hundreds of hours of pleasure as he created beautiful heirlooms for generations to come." Here are some of the things Roz’ dad stitched.

The piece shown to the right was brought back from Norway by Roz.

There is not much written about the history of Norweave, so I have pieced together the following information from these resources.

  • "Bellpulls – Charted Designs for Norweave Embroidery and Cross-Stitch (5240)", a Nordic Needle booklet published in 1981. We have scanned the book and it is available for purchase at the original price of $5.00.

    NOTE: The book will be printed in color as a chartpak rather than in book format.

  • "Scandinavian Folk Patterns for Counted Thread Embroidery" by Claudia Riiff Finseth
  • "The Complete International Book of Embroidery" by Mary Gostelow
  • "Vakre Broderier, 3 boker i 1", by Lillill Thuve (in Norwegian)

Cross-stitch has a long and celebrated history that spans every continent and most ethnic groups. Many resources contend that counted thread originated in the Mediterranean. However When I think of counted thread, I think of those samplers done in the English schools for girls and the designs with Quaker-inspired motifs. Perhaps it is because so many examples remain today giving us a pictorial and chronological time line of the development of cross stitch.

The Scandinavian areas were very remote and early needlework was done on roughly woven linens with wool yarn. The areas growing flax also produced linen fabric and threads. It is estimated the cross-stitch type of needlework did not appear until much later in the Scandinavian countries, until trade routes were established and foreign-made products were introduced. The first foreign designs were most likely by the German and English because of the availability of printed patterns.

The cross-stitch evolved into a unique stitch in Scandinavian needlework. This stitch actually became more popular than a cross-stitch in some areas. This stitch is called the long-armed cross stitch. I have to wonder if it was created by mistake, but it worked up so fast the stitcher kept using it! It also seems to take less thread, which might have been a factor in its popularity. The stitcher used a loose weave fabric called tvistur which does not have a good translation into English. This fabric and long-armed cross-stitch evolved into a technique known as: Tvistsöm (Swedish) and Twistsøm (Norwegian) embroidery. Loosely translated this means twisted seam (stitch). I have shown three options for the Long-armed cross-stitch. The American Needlepoint Guild (ANG) shows starting with a normal cross stitch. The A-Z of Embroidery Stitches (1659) and The Embroidery Stitch Book (1885) shows it starting with the long armed stitch and no compensating beginning stitch. The Stitch Sampler (140-374-5283) seems to indicate the compensating stitch in their pictures as does several websites.

Long-Arm Cross Stitch »

Designs evolved in the Scandinavian countries and became a method to create and tell stories. Many of the designs became very geometric with rich patterns repeated throughout the piece. Two additional stitches were created over time which are used for the technique we are discussing today…the double cross-stitch and the Gobelin stitch. The double cross-stitch may be better known as the Smyrna.

Cross Stitch & Variations »

Two examples of the regular cross stitch.

Here are two examples of the double cross stitch. Notice that one of them is the same design as the cross stitched one above.

Smyrna Cross »

The basic Gobelin stitch probably resulted from darning stitches and looks like a satin stitch but it is usually done over two fabric threads in a consistent upright pattern. Here are three ways you can use this stitch depending on your technique.

Gobelin Stitch »

Here are two examples of the Gobelin stitch. Notice that one of these designs is the same as the one above in cross stitch.

Norweave uses two basic stitches depending on the size of fabric and thread. The double cross stitch is used on a 7- or 8-count fabric. The Gobelin stitch is used on a 9- or 12-count canvas.

Fabric:

Norweave was very popular in the late 70’s early 80’s and more fabric choices were available. There was a wonderful 7-count wool and a 6-count cotton fabric called Herta. An appropriate fabric that could be used today is Penelope Canvas which has two threads instead of one woven into the canvas.

However, we do not carry Penelope canvas. Instead, you can stitch the designs as a cross stitch pattern on Aida fabric in the count you prefer. The designs in the Bellpull leaflet are charted as counted cross stitch in addition to Norweave. I also was able to do the Smyrna cross on 13-count white canvas (9281-052) with size 5 pearl cotton. I am wondering if perhaps Monk’s cloth could be used in place of 8-count Aida or 6-count Herta fabric. You would need to pre-wash and shrink it as much as possible. If you had a lot of stitching, you might need to put a backing on it, such as muslin, and use a sharp needle to stitch.


FREE DESIGN – Elskede Norge (Beloved Norway)

In honor of Syttende Mai, I have created a design featuring some traditional elements and incorporated the Norwegian flag. I stitched the model on 11-count white Aida (1007-100) with DMC Size 5 pearl cotton #817 (DM005-0817) and #820 (DM005-0820). The design is 4" x 15.5". I finished it as a bell pull with the 4" Flat Satin Brass hardware (710-942-0010).

You can stitch the design on 13-count canvas with either the Gobelin or double cross stitch. You would need to stitch the open areas in white to cover up the canvas.


We hope this guide makes your stitching easier and more enjoyable!

For those interested in using this article or others published by Nordic Needle, Inc., please use this copy when referencing the information:

“The following article was written by Debi Feyh of Nordic Needle and published in their weekly e-mail newsletter. Permission was granted by Nordic Needle to share this article in (name of your publication). For information on subscribing to their weekly e-mail newsletter, visit www.nordicneedle.com. A free mail-order catalog is available to you upon request if you live in the USA or Canada.”

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