Adapted from Mary Thomas' Embroidery Book by Angela Thompson:
Hedebo Embroidery is a Danish form of cut and drawn work on white linen, and flourished chiefly in the 18th and 19th centuries among the peasants who lived on the flat land known as "Heden" or the Heath. Originally a simple Peasant Art used to decorate men's shirts, women's underclothing, sheets etc. There are three very distinct forms:
(1) Oldest Period -The oldest, 18th century, have designs adapted from peasant woodcarvings on old furniture. Surface chain stitch predominates over openwork portions.
(2). Geometric period- Came in about 1840. The conventional floral shapes with their drawn fillings were retained but further cut and drawn spaces, similar to those found on Italian Cutwork or Reticella, were added in the form of squares making the designs more geometrical.
(3) Discovery Period -The third form, dated about 1850, coincided with the international 'discovery' of Hedebo embroidery and exploitation by dealers and its simple peasant qualities were lost. The shapes became highly conventional and the spaces were cut out and filled with elaborte lace stitches
Hedebo or Schwalm, early 19century
click here to see a drawing scanned from Mary Thomas Embroidery Book
The name Hedebo originates from the region where this particular type of embroidery was worked. The Hedebo region lies in a triangle between Copenhagen, Roskilde and Køge. A direct translation means heath dwelling, but this area of Zealand is by no means a heath and it has some of the most fertile soils in Denmark. In the midst of this area we now have a local museum in a small village called Greve, and the museum is housed in an old and very tastefully restored farmhouse, which dates back to 1826. The museum has a growing collection of Hedebo embroidery and the cream of the collection is now on permanent display in an exhibition of the Hedebo culture. Future plans hope to include a textile study collection in display drawers and there are also plans for the textiles to be scanned for computer study.
Hedebo whitework embroidery is worked on linen and comes under 5 different categories. The oldest type is called “tællesyning” and this dates back to the pre 1800’s. It is what is known as flat stitch counted thread embroidery and was used to decorate men’s shirts and women’s shifts. The motifs for this type of embroidery were often stars and diamonds.
The next type of embroidery, which became popular from about 1750-1800, was called “Dragværk”, and this is drawn thread work. Here, about every second pair of threads was removed from the warp and weave of the linen, over the width of the fabric, leaving a network, which was strengthened by a whipping stitch. Fillings were then worked over the network to produce various designs. This was particularly used for what was known as “pyntehåndklæder”, which were ornamental towels. These were hung on the alcove beds as decoration for special occasions.
The next technique to appear about 1820-1840 was simple cutwork called “Rudesyning”. This consisted of motifs built up of small square sections of cut work, where sometimes all the threads were removed to leave a small square hole and sometimes a network was left, over which drawn thread fillings were worked. This technique was used for ornamental towels and also for sewing monograms.
About the same time, a technique developed called “Maskesyning”, which consisted of areas of drawn thread work sections with a contour of chain stitch. This was used for clothing, ornamental towels and for a type of ornamental cloth called “knædug”, which was hung over a rod above the heating stove.
Later, about 1840-1845, there developed the technique called “Baldyring”, which was very similar to Reticella embroidery, with needle lace embroidery worked over the remaining drawn fabric network. To soften the geometric motifs, a surrounding of flowing floral designs of flat stitch embroidery was used.
Around 1855-1870, there came the technique called “Udklipshedebo”, where areas of fabric were cut out and completely replaced with needle lace fillings. Needle lace was also used similar to Punto in Aria, to produce the “Hedebo Blonde” which is a needle lace edging and this was often combined with the “Udklipshedebo” technique. Often in this type of Hedebo embroidery can be found the “Hedeo Ring”. This is a ring of linen threads formed around a tool called a couronne stick, which in Hedebo is a gauged to give various sizes. Buttonhole stitch is then worked on the rings of thread. “Udklipshedebo” became known as the “true” Hedebo embroidery, although the museums and collectors initially shunned it. It was used for elaborate collars and edgings and also for tablecloths and other home decorations.
The names given to these techniques have only come in latter years, as it is not known which terms the local woman who embroidered these beautiful textiles used. Often, several techniques are used on one piece. The development of the various techniques is still undergoing discussion, and the source of the motifs used is also an interesting consideration, which is under investigation. Whitework was also worked in other areas of Denmark but the above mentioned techniques are quite specific for the Hedebo area, especially “Maskesyning”, which is not seen in other areas of Denmark nor as far as we know, is it seen in other areas of Europe.
TO DO HEDEBO EMBROIDERY
Old Hedebo Hearts
CUTWORK, HEDEBO & BRODERIE ANGLAISE, Edited by Jules & Kaethe Kliot.