Ask Roz: What suggestions do you have for left-handed Hardanger stitchers?

I have enjoyed your on-going questions/answers and discussion of Hardanger. A number of years ago I belonged to a cross-stitch group, and our "leader" challenged us to try other needlearts, one of them being Hardanger. I remember that I struggled with the illustrated instructions because of being left-handed. After so long, I gave up and passed my books along to others. The first Janice Love book you mentioned, Hardanger Basics and Beyond, looked familiar to me. I seemed to be okay at the start of projects, but as they became more involved, I couldn’t make the transition, nor could our "instructor" assist me.

I’m wondering if other lefties have experienced difficulties and if any left-handed instructions exist.

Thank you,
Janet in Ohio

Roz Answers:

Yes, you are not the only one to have difficulties stitching if you are left handed. At our Retreats we often have left-handed stitchers and sometimes for them to see a stitch worked, the instructor sits in front of them and demonstrates the steps. The person learning sees it done as if the stitcher was left-handed. If you do not have a teacher with you, there is a very good book available to you. Yvette Stanton is a left-handed stitcher and she has written several needlework books including a very good one entitled, "the left-handed embroiderer’s companion".

Yvette writes, "Are you frustrated by right-handed embroidery instructions and having to mentally flip them, use a mirror, or substitute right for left and vice versa? This book is just for you. It will show you how to work over 170 different embroidery stitches, easily and comfortably as a left-hander."

Besides several basic Hardanger stitches, she includes surface stitches, needlepoint and counted thread stitches in a step-by-step format.

If you have a Hardanger question, just ask Roz!

Ask Roz: How do you keep the buttonhole edge from unraveling?

Dear Roz,

How opportune this is! I’ve been wracking my brains as to how to fix this problem and would love some help.

I worked the Peach Doily on page 24 of a booklet you compiled with Sue called Charlotte’s Hardanger Embroidery Designs III by Charlotte O. Gibson. I worked it white on white 22ct Zweigart Hardanger fabric. I loved the design and ended up giving it to a friend who also absolutely loved it. She is very careful with hand worked pieces and I had given her a few before this. Sometime afterwards she showed me that the buttonhole edge stitching had unraveled in a few places. The fabric had actually frayed. The edge is in peaks and valleys and the unraveling had happened at the edges of some of the peaks. It is worked over 2 squares of fabric.

In reality I feel that it’s not going to be possible to fix this problem, and I don’t object to reworking it, but I would like to know if there is anything I should do to stop it happening again. I hope I have provided enough information as I cannot provide a picture.

Looking forward to any advice you can give me as this is the first Hardanger piece I’ve done that I’ve had any problems with.

Many thanks


Dagnija McAuliffe


Roz Answers:

I know exactly what you mean and have experienced that myself. Early in my stitching experience I stitched a tablecloth for someone. Unfortunately, she did not know how to care for it and actually washed it in the washing machine and then hung it out to dry on a windy day…………..aarrggghhhh! She brought it back to me and I almost cried. It was beyond repair and use. Here are a few helpful hints but I don’t know if these would have even made a difference with the tablecloth incident! Hopefully, they will help you!

A. When working the traditional buttonhole edge, it is always best to "stitch in the ditch" around the entire finished buttonhole edge. This means you use your sewing machine to sew in the ridge just inside the outer edge of the buttonhole stitch. This is not always easy to do but go slow, use the same color sewing thread as you stitched with, and try to match the machine stitch length to your hand stitches. This is especially necessary when a buttonhole stitch goes over only two fabric threads.

B. If using a sewing machine to "stitch in the ditch" is out of the question for you, the next best thing, but not as safe, is to use a good quality fabric glue like Miracle Muck (which I have used numerous times) or at least a fray stop product after you have cut around the buttonhole edge. We have three products in this category, Fray Stop, Fray Check, and Fray Block.

C. A few years ago (in 2000 and earlier) we published three Hardanger books by Elaine Holm and Marion Keebough. These books are no longer in print, but what Elaine and Marion brought to us besides the many beautiful designs, was the "Tailored Buttonhole Stitch". This is one of the stitches we give instructions for on our site. I use this method exclusively now on everything I stitch with a buttonhole edge. It locks the stitches much better and I have not seen the fabric fray beneath the stitches when using this technique. If you are still going over only two fabric threads, I think I would still use one of the Fray or glue products as a back-up.

D. One last thought on this subject; when you need to start a new thread, be sure you end an old thread and start a new thread correctly. The new thread you are coming in with has to loop through the old thread so they connect. If they don’t, when you trim the edge, it will unravel. Begin the first step of the stitch with the old thread, keep a loop of it on top of the fabric but pull the end out on the back. Run the new thread beneath some of the stitches on the back and bring it to the front, going through the loop of the old thread. Pull the end of the old thread on the back until it is tight and adjust the top new stitch so it is in place before you take the next stitch. Make the next few new stitches, holding the old thread tail in place on back so the new stitches cover it and keep it in place. Trim off extra thread ends on back.

If you have a Hardanger question, just ask Roz!

Ask Roz: How do you prevent “thread nubs” when cutting?

Thread nubs, gotta love them. I would love to hear how you cut without them showing. My best friend Claudia and I Love Hardanger and will be stitching as a group at stitch night every week Emmie Bishop’s Christmas Star. Some of our group have not done any Hardanger and it would be great to have an intelligent answer for these nubs.

Thanks Roz,
Brenda Hass
Northglenn CO

Roz Answers:

I was hoping someone would ask this question! Some fabric is easier than others when it comes to eliminating those little fabric nubs. The looser the weave of fabric, the easier it is when you do it this way:

A. When you are sure your stitches are correct and the stitches to cut line up to the other side where you will cut the same fabric threads, here is how you begin. Insert the tip of the embroidery scissors into the fabric at the base of the first of the four fabric threads to cut. Before you cut, be sure the tip of the scissors is showing out of the fabric, four fabric threads away. You will cut four fabric threads at a time. But, don’t cut yet.

B. Use your thumbnail to gently pull the fabric back from the threads you will be cutting.

C. Push the blades of your scissors as close to your stitches as possible without cutting your stitches.

D. Apply gentle pressure towards your stitches as you carefully make the fabric cut. When you have cut the fabric threads, the stitches will go back into place, covering the cut with no nubs showing.

E. IF there are still some small nubs, use the very tip of your scissors to snip one nub at a time. This is one reason why your Hardanger scissors has to have a very sharp fine point.

If you are cutting a stiffer fabric, like Congress, sometimes I actually cut one fabric thread at a time, using the same technique with my thumbnail as above.

If you have a Hardanger question, just ask Roz!

Ask Roz: On a Hardanger piece with cross stitch, how should you stitch the cross stitch?


On a Hardanger piece with a little bit of cross-stitch at the edge of each of the four sides, should all the cross-stitch be crossed the same way, so that when looked at as a whole piece they all cross the same, or when you turn it to stitch the sides should you stitch each side your usual way, so that as you look at the finished piece one side at a time it’s consistent?


Roz’s Answer:

That is a good question, Susan.

My preference would be to have them cross over in the same direction throughout the entire piece so when you look at it as a whole, all the cross stitches are consistent. Most Hardanger designs do not have stitches that have an up and a down, or top and bottom, unless you consider certain motifs that appear that way. Most Hardanger designs are symmetrical (which is why it appeals to me so much). I think it is best to keep with the traditional rule of cross stitches all going in the same direction throughout the piece.

Thank you for your question.

Roz Watnemo

If you have a Hardanger question, just ask Roz!

Ask Roz: What Hardanger books do you recommend for a beginner?

Hi Roz,

I would love to learn to do Hardanger, but am scared to death to try it. What is the best way to get started and do you recommend a particular book with great instructions?

I love getting your weekly newsletter! It is fun to hear what others are working on.



Roz’s answer:

I recommend these four kits that are for the person who is in your shoes;

The first three kits teach the basic Hardanger stitches, step by step with clear graphs and text. They do not include any cutting yet! The fourth kit introduces cutting but by then, you will be very comfortable with taking that step!

Perhaps you want to start with the first one and skip to the fourth, or maybe you will choose to do all of the first 3 to get more comfortable with the basic stitches. We have had really good response from people who have tried these and had success!

For those of you who would rather learn from a book, Sue and I wrote these instructions about a hundred years ago (slight exaggeration). They were created for those people who did not have a teacher sitting at their side. I still recommend these two books:

Beginner’s Charted Hardanger Embroidery or Hardanger Embroidery Favorites 1.

And for more advanced stitches, Advanced Charted Hardanger Embroidery.

I also recommend these two books by Janice Love:

And Emie Bishops A Collection of Beautiful Stitches.

If you have a Hardanger question, just ask Roz!