401: Hardanger

The Icing on the Cake

Hardanger embroidery was one of the driving forces for the creation of Nordic Needle and we’ve done several newsletters about Hardanger.

It seemed like a perfect time to do another newsletter on an aspect of Hardanger. You know how I like to use non-needlework illustrations and try to tie it to a theme. I bought Course 1 of the Wilton Method of Cake Decorating and today I am going to tie some of the techniques into a few wraps and filling stitches. These wraps and stitches are just like the icing (decorations) on a cake, they can add that special touch to the design. These stitches can be used in other techniques like drawn thread, so even if you don’t do Hardanger embroidery, I hope you enjoy this newsletter.

Lesson 1 in Wilton’s course talks about the Fundamentals: "Successful decorating begins with the basics of making and coloring icing, preparing cakes, filling and using decorative bags," (Page 8, Course 1.) We do the same thing when preparing to start a project: choosing the types and colors of fabrics and fibers. Preparing the fabric means stitching the kloster blocks, satin stitches, and any other surface stitching. Then we can get to the fun part, deciding on our decorating designs and determining the filling stitches.

Lesson 2 says "You’re well prepared! You know the fundamentals and your cake is ready. Now the real fun begins. You’re ready to start decorating!" (Page 20, Course 1) In this lesson Wilton shows me how to spread the icing on the cake, preparing the surface so I can create stars and pipe lines. I can liken this step to doing all the kloster blocks, satin stitches, and motifs so I am ready to embellish the remaining surfaces and cut threads so I can start the wraps and weavers.

Let’s jump into our Hardanger lesson to learn how to do some of the same decorating techniques, but in thread. The illustrations I am providing come from Nordic Needle’s Advanced Charted Hardanger Embroidery Book (0106). This book was first published in 1982 as a sequel to Beginner’s Charted Hardanger Embroidery (0105). The designs and instructions are still as relevant as when they were first published. In fact, we are using the sampler bell pull project in the Advanced Book as a class project this fall. You’ll see parts of the finished model at the end of this newsletter.

One of the easiest cake decorations to do is the star filler. You can use it by itself, as a border, or fill-in stitch. We have the same opportunity with several filling stitches. Here are three ideas:

Satin Pairs »


Star Filler »


Adjoining Eyelts »

The enclosed web is a quick and easy filling stitch for a 13-thread bar kloster block as shown below. With our needle and thread we can "pipe" the lines inside of the grid.

Enclosed Web »

Lesson 3 is on Flowers and Figures: "Flowers are the most traditional and one of the most charming ways to top a cake…In addition, you’ll learn how to make the most popular icing border…the shell!" (Page 28, Course 1)

We’re going to combine two techniques to create our Hardanger "rose". Start with an open 13-thread grid as we did above.

Circular Web »


Double Circular Web »


Flower Filling »

In cake decorating, the shell is an essential design element, perhaps the most popular icing technique of all. It can be used in many decorations, borders, and figure piping.

When I look at the shell design, I am reminded of several woven stitches. Let me show you one of the techniques you can do to decorate a woven bar, Woven Triple Spokes. This is done on a 13-thread grid where all the fabric threads have been removed except the center four on both sides. An example is shown below with a solid kloster block. You will notice in the stitch diagram that satin stitches were used for the corners only and the middle part of the kloster block was left unstitched. You can do it either way.

Woven Triple Spokes »

We’ve only done three lessons and look how much we’ve learned so far! The model of this bell pull is hanging out in the store, so I’ve taken a few pictures to show you how the "icing" looks! Here is the series of circular webs ending on the left with the flower filling stitch. The diagonal line is adjoining eyelets.

Here is a set of spokes including the branched spoke and reversed branched spoke, which we did not talk about. However, the woven triple spokes is shown at the very point.

Last but not least is the enclosed web shown here:

One of the questions in the Wilton’s Cake Decorating book asks: "How will you get the most out of this class?" Their answer applies to any technique – "Practice, Practice, Practice." In my earlier life I was studying to be a court reporter and the school’s motto was "Perfect practice makes perfect." It’s the same with needlework. Practice, especially taking the time to do a stitch correctly, is the only way you are going to improve. If you want to stitch the sampler bell pull shown above, you can find all the information in the Advanced Charted Hardanger Embroidery book (#0106).

There are several other wonderful resources to take you beyond the basic Hardanger embroidery stitches, including:

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