Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Hedebo whitework embroidery

Looking through my box of 'Work in Progress' this week I thought it was time to consider the next step on a tea cosy I started on a Hedebo course given years ago by Margaret Roberts. The Cape Embroiderers' Guild is having its biennial or two-yearly exhibition in October and we are being encouraged to complete as much work as we can work to fill the big hall at Fish Hoek Civic Centre with lots of glorious inspiring embroidery.

Hedebo embroidery began in Denmark in the mid 1700's and was used to decorate clothing and household linens. It originated among the people who cut and dried peat for a living and who lived on the Heath or heden. Hence the name. Although there are various types of Hedebo that have developed over time, I rather like the the oldest form which is quite distinct. It is characterised by rich surface embroidery usually with two rows of chain stitch outlining graceful motifs such as leaves and flowers. The shapes are filled with drawn thread fillings similar to Russian Drawn Thread.

The design for my tea cosy is adapted from Hetsie van Wyk's book Embroider Now. I think the book is out of print but every now and then a copy pops up at the good second hand bookshops around Cape Town. I have always admired the photo of a Hedebo tea cosy in the book and wanted to try and make a similar one. Unfortunately there is no pattern, so I set to work drawing up individual shapes and laying them out until I had a pleasing design similar to Hetsie's. Whew! When I say it in one sentence like that it sounds easy, but actually it took me ages to do.

I tacked the design onto my linen and as I was ready to go. I wanted to dive in and stitch the drawn thread areas first, but of course I had to do the chain stitch outlines before I could do any cutting of threads. Surprisingly, although chain stitch is one of the first surface stitches that one learns, I found it quite challenging to make two neat rows of a consistent tension. I tend to work quite tightly and this makes the chain stitch bunch up rather than lie evenly and flat.

The buds and leaves, those pale blue tacked shapes, are the point where I got stuck. Now I have to try and work out what stitches I should use to stitch them. I've pinned the embroidery up in my sewing room and hope that inspiration will strike when I least expect it...

As always do leave a comment. I'd love to hear from you.

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