FAQSome useful information about Hardanger embroidery, essential and optional materials & equipment, our designs and our chart packs and mini kits. If you have any questions that aren't answered here, do contact us and we'll do our best to help.
Q: What is Hardanger embroidery?
A: It is a type of needlework which is associated with the Hardanger region of Norway; it was traditionally white-on-white or cream-on-cream and many available designs use this colour scheme, or choose a coloured fabric with self-coloured threads. Originally, the women would spin and weave their own flax to make the linen fabric and threads needed for the embroidery – fortunately that is no longer necessary!
Hardanger is a very recognisable technique, with as its most characteristic element the Kloster block. This is a rectangle of 5 satin stitches over 4 threads. These Kloster blocks anchor the fabric threads so that the area enclosed by them can be cut. There are also other recurring satin stitch motifs, like stars, ships and tulips. These motifs and the Kloster blocks are stitched in the thicker of your two threads.
The threads left within the cut areas (called "bars") are covered in some way – usually wrapped or woven. The gaps enclosed by Kloster blocks and bars can then be embellished with filling stitches, or left empty. The most frequently used filling stitches are dove's eye and square filet; other examples are Greek cross and spider's web. The bars and filling stitches are done with the thinner of your two threads.
Q: I've finished my cutting, but I've got lots of little fabric ends poking out. Is that normal, and is there anything I can do about them?
A: Those cut ends are annoying, but hard to avoid – if you cut too close to your stitching you risk cutting the stitches that hold the fabric together. Better, then, to tackle them after you've done all your cutting but before you start on the filling stitches. Mabel's method is as follows: if you look at the cut ends you will see that along every Kloster block there are four, and two of them will naturally point up, and two down. Using a size 24 needle inserted into the Kloster block, stroke the two that point upwards back on themselves until they disappear into the Kloster block, then turn the work over and do the same with the two pointing downwards. It's labour intensive but in the end all cut ends are invisible!
About materials & equipment
Q: What materials or equipment do I need for Hardanger embroidery?
A: Very little, you will be pleased to hear! A piece of evenweave fabric, perle cottons in two thicknesses (speciality threads are optional), needles in two sizes, and (very important) a pair of sharp, pointed scissors. A hoop or frame is recommended but not essential.
Q: What fabric and threads can I use, and which go together?
A: You can use any fabric you like, as long as it is an evenweave (with an equal number of threads per inch horizontally and vertically, called its "count"). In needlework shops you may have come across a fabric called Hardanger. This is a 22ct fabric with the threads woven in pairs (when stitching, such a pair is treated as a single thread). It is, not surprisingly, often used for Hardanger embroidery, but is by no means the only option. Evenweaves range from 18ct fabrics like Zweigart's Davosa, to 55ct linens (however, unless you have experience with miniature embroidery and very good eyesight, it is probably best to go no finer than about 32ct).
The threads most often used in Hardanger embroidery nowadays are perle cottons; both DMC and Anchor produce them a wide range of colours. They come in various thicknesses, and the three you are most likely to use are (from thick to thin) #5, #8 and #12. Most Hardanger designs use two thicknesses of thread, the thicker for satin stitch (including Kloster blocks) and the thinner for filling stitches and backstitch. On 22ct and 25ct fabric this is usually #5 and #8, on finer fabrics #8 and #12.
Caron produces hand-dyed speciality threads used in many of Mabel's designs; their Watercolours line is a 3-ply cotton, 1 ply being equivalent to #5 perle. The thickness of Wildflowers (cotton) and Impressions (silk/wool) lies between #8 and #12.
Q: Which needles and scissors should I use?
A: Hardanger embroidery uses tapestry needles, which are blunt and will therefore not split the fabric threads. The size of the needle depends on the thickness of the thread, and also on personal preference. Generally, use a size 22 needle for perle #5, a size 24 needle for perle #8, and a size 24 or 26 for perle #12. Metallics like Petite Treasure Braid are best worked using a size 26 or 28 needle. A size 28 is also needed for attaching seed beads (size 11/0); petite seed beads (size 15/0) will require a bead embroidery needle.
Scissors are very important in Hardanger embroidery – after all, one of its characteristic elements is cutwork. Your scissors need to have blades that are both sharp and pointed: sharp so that fabric threads are cleanly cut, and pointed so that you can accurately insert the blades into the fabric holes and position them around the threads you are cutting. Traditional stork scissors will perform this task quite happily on 22ct fabric, but for anything finer Mabel wouldn't be without her titanium Squissors, a cross between tweezers and scissors which allow for very accurate cutting.
Q: There are lots of hand-dyed and variegated threads in your designs; are they any different to use from ordinary threads?
A: Hand-dyed and variegated threads often overlap, but aren't necessarily the same – there are variegated threads which aren't hand-dyed (like the DMC and Anchor ones), and hand-dyed threads which aren't variegated (like Carrie's Creations' solid shades), so the first step is to identify what you've got.
The one thing to remember about hand-dyed threads is that they are not guaranteed colourfast. Generally, if you can wash them at all, it is by hand. Some will be quite well-behaved when you wash them gently in hand-warm water, others run at the slightest provocation (one ran when very lightly sprayed prior to ironing) or unexpectedly (a red silk that had behaved beautifully while being hand-washed ran when ironed while it was still a little damp). If your project will have to be washed often or thoroughly, choose guaranteed colourfast threads to be on the safe side. Also bear in mind that hand-dyed threads can vary dramatically between dye-lots, so buy enough to complete the project.
The one thing to remember about variegated threads is that by their very nature they will not produce exactly the same piece of stitching twice. How much two pieces stitched with the same variegated thread differ, will depend on the number of colours in the thread and the frequency with which they change; the more colours and the quicker the changes, the more different the pieces will be. It is to some extent possible to "direct" certain colours to certain places (e.g. by cutting your thread so that it begins with the colour you want, and then start stitching at the bit where you want that colour), but on the whole it is best to go with the flow – their unpredictability is a great part of their charm, so just enjoy the way the colours change and the piece develops!
Q: Where can I get the materials I need?
A:If you are lucky enough to have a local needlework shop (LNS) which stocks or can order in what you need, please support them! There are fewer and fewer of them and we can't afford to lose any more – it is wonderful to be able to compare and match threads, fabrics, beads and so on "in the flesh" instead of trying to do it on a monitor. Quite a few LNS have a web presence (or even an online shop) so do try and find them.
Some bricks & mortar shops Mabel has got supplies from are Smugglers Needlecraft in Ilfracombe, the London Bead Company, Burford Needlecraft, and the Stitches' Coven in Shanklin, Isle of Wight.
If you have no access to a LNS, some of Mabel's favourite online suppliers are Sew & So (UK), Stitching Bits & Bobs (USA) and Hardanger Atelier (The Netherlands).
About our designs
Q: Do you design all the charts yourself?
A: Yes, all our designs are originals, designed from scratch based on Mabel's own ideas; these initial ideas can come from fabrics, threads, nature, food, or anything else that happens to spark a thought.
Q: Can I make changes to the design I bought?
A: Yes, you may make any changes to it that you would like; use different threads or fabric, stitch only part of the design or stitch it several times to make a tablecloth, change the colours – your imagination is the only limit. The original fabric, threads, colours and layout of the design were obviously chosen for a reason, but they're not engraved in stone, so please enjoy playing around with the design.
Q: When I buy a design, can I then do with it whatever I want?
A: Because of copyright, there are certain things you can do, and some you can't. You may stitch the design as often as you like, make working copies of the chart for yourself, and change it to your liking when you stitch it. You may not share, copy, forward or sell the design or part of the design in any form (including stitched), use it to make up kits or teach classes, or allow someone else to use the stitched piece (or a picture of it) as a pattern to stitch from.
If you want to use the design for teaching purposes, or sell your stitching for charity, please contact us to discuss the options.
About our chart packs and mini kits
Q: I'm an absolute beginner – can I learn Hardanger from your chart packs?
A: Although we give detailed instructions, illustrated with stitch diagrams where necessary, the chart packs are not intended to be a Hardanger course. We do have a set of three Mini Kits which have been put together especially for beginners (although they also make great "in-between" projects for experienced stitchers). They contain all the materials you will need, cover the basic Hardanger stitches and come with extra detailed instructions.
But what if you'd rather jump right in and start with one of the chart packs? If you enjoy learning by doing, and you have some experience of other types of needlework, you should have no great trouble completing the projects, but if you are at all unsure please consult one of the many Hardanger manuals available, such as Mary Hickmott's excellent "Easing into Hardanger".
Q: Why do your designs come as chart packs and not as kits?
A: Apart from the three Mini Kits for beginners, we have decided to offer the designs as chart packs because many of them can be stitched on different fabrics using different threads in different colours – indeed, some of them were designed in various different versions! Offering the designs as chart packs gives you the choice whether to follow the original version to the letter, or to change one or more aspects of it so that it becomes uniquely yours.
Q: What does a chart pack consist of?
A: Unless stated otherwise, chart packs include a colour photograph of the finished design, a chart, a list of the materials needed to complete it (often with suggestions for alternative versions), instructions and custom-made stitch diagrams.
Q: Why do your chart packs come in PDF format?
A: There are several advantages to chart packs in digital format. For one thing, it means we don't have to charge printing or postage costs, so we can offer the packs at a better price. It also gives stitchers the opportunity to print the pack or parts of it again (for example if someone spilled coffee all over your chart) or to print an enlarged version of it. Digital packs are also easier to back up and store.
Q: I haven't got a printer. Can I buy a printed pack from you?
A: If you don't have a printer yourself but you do have a friend or relative with a printer who is willing to help, you can email the chart pack to them and they can print it for you (as long as they delete the digital chart pack after they have printed it).
If you have no access to a printer at all, we are happy to provide a printed chart pack; please contact us for information about printing and shipping costs.