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Hardanger Embroidery Tutorial

Hardanger embroidery tutorial

This hardanger embroidery tutorial is written and designed by Little Miss Fancy Frocks, the dynamic mother and daughter duo who lovingly create handcrafted clothing for adults and children. Visit their Facebook page here.

The series is sponsored by Minerva Crafts, suppliers of all your embroidery requirements.

Introduction to hardanger embroidery

Cushions with Hardanger embroidery

Hardanger embroidery had its origins in Asia but by 1650 it had travelled to Hardanger in Norway where it flourished.

It is a counted thread and drawn thread embroidery and was traditionally worked in white on a white even weave linen fabric.

Today Hardanger fabric is available by the ‘count’. It is woven in pairs of threads and where 18 pairs of threads per inch are woven it is known as an ’18 count’; where 22 pairs of threads per inch are woven it is known as a ’22 count’.

Cotton Perle thread is used to work the embroidery, Perle number 5 is the thicker thread and is used to form the blocks and Perle number 8 is the finer thread and is used to weave the bars.


Hardanger using variegated threads

The blocks are worked in Perle 5 in pale blue, the bars are worked in Perle 8 blue variegated.

 You will need…

Materials for hand embroidery

Hardanger fabric count 22 (this can be purchased in a pack 12 inches x 18 inches). Alternatively you can use AIDA cross stich fabric

Perle cotton number 5

Perle cotton number 8

Tapestry needle, an eye large enough to take the thread and a blunt point

A pair of embroidery scissors

An embroidery hoop

A fabric pen


Sample of Hardanger embroidery

Hardanger is recognised by blocks of satin stitches worked in Perle 5. The blocks form a framework for cutting away some of the threads encased by the blocks. The threads left inside the blocks are woven to form a bar. The effect created is a lacy look. Stitches such as cross stitch, outline stitch and loop stitch can be used to enhance the blocks and bars thereby creating an interesting effect.

 The blocks and bars are worked in white and the cross stitches are worked in pale, mid and deep pink.

Satin Stitch Blocks

Satin stitch

The blocks are traditionally worked over an uneven number of holes. We have worked the blocks over three holes. The number of stitches worked in a block must be an odd number because when you cut the threads you will reveal an even number of threads to needleweave.

Bring your thread (Perle 5) onto the surface and count up three holes and take your needle underneath the fabric bringing it onto the surface in the next hole along from where your first stitch commenced. Work five stitches and on the fifth stitch take your needle back through the hole where the fifth stitch commenced and now change the direction for the next block. Carry on working blocks until you have completed a diamond effect.

Take your thread onto the underside of the fabric and weave the end through the blocks and cut. The starting thread can also be woven through the back of your work and cut. This will keep the reverse of the embroidery neat with no loose ends.

Needleweaving Bars

Needleweaving in Hardanger

The threads are cut at the base of the stitches in each block. Cut the vertical threads first and then the horizontal threads. Use your needle to tease the first threads out, they may be a little stubborn.

 Remember to keep your work in a frame to cut the threads.

 Using Perle 8 bring your thread onto the surface into the middle of the set of four double threads so that you have two sets of double threads either side of the needle. Work in a figure of eight wrapping the thread around the sets of double threads. When the bar is complete take your thread to the wrong side and resurface ready to work the next bar. You may find it easier to work the bars in a diagonal manner.

Eyelet Holes

Eyelet holes in Hardanger

Eyelet holes can be very effective when worked on a small scale. I have worked three different sizes to show the effect created. I have worked square eyelets but you can also work oblong eyelets in the same way.

 Using a fabric pen outline a square on the fabric. Bring your needle onto the surface at the edge of the square and take your needle through the centre of the square and resurface next to the first stitch. Work your way around the edge of the square until you have worked through all the holes outlined by the square.

Edging – base stitches

Work edging for Hardanger

To complete a sample you can work loop stitch along the edges.

 Bring your needle onto the surface of the fabric, count up three holes and one hole to the right, bringing your needle onto the surface one hole to the right of your first stitch, loop the thread around the needle thereby forming the loop. Continue in this manner until you have completed a row.

Edging – cutting

Snipping edges in Hardanger

Cut one set of threads away from the stitched edge. Don’t try to cut too close to the stitching at this stage.

Edging – pulling and trimming

Counted thread embroidery

Gently pull away the remaining double set of threads. Carefully trim the remaining thread ends. I find it easier to trim the ends with the right side facing me.

Example of Hardanger work

Have a go at producing some samples using the stitches shown in this hardanger embroidery tutorial with different colours, shapes etc. Make up your own patterns or copy the ones we have used.

Ideas for Hardanger work

 For those of you who have been following the hand embroidery series you will know that we try and convert our samples into something useful. 

 We are very happy with the tissue box cover, the coaster and bookmark.

Ideas for embroidery projects

We are delighted with our candle covers and will definitely be making more of these for Christmas gifts.

To read the other tutorials in this hand embroidery series please visit our techniques page and click the ’embroidery’ tag.