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What Is a Drawnwork Tablecloth?

A tablecloth embellished with elaborate geometric designs combining straight lines with open areas would probably be designated a drawnwork or Hardanger embroidered tablecloth. All drawnwork must be worked on fabric with an even weave such as Aida cloth or linen, usually measured by the number of threads per inch such as 14 count or 22 count. It is most commonly stitched as a white on white design but blackwork is also fairly common as well as colored thread on solid color backgrounds.

  1. What is Hardanger?

    • Throughout European and Asian history, embroidery has tempted the artist to embellish almost any fabric item with thread, needle, beads, and gems. For that reason it is not easy to trace the development of the contemporary Norwegian art of drawnwork or Hardanger embroidery, a specific tradition of stitching and cutting.The more recent name for this needlework is derived from the name of the village in Norway where it flourished for a century or two in a relatively isolated region.

    Embroidery Ttravels

    • While specific influences are difficult to trace, there is evidence that these embroidery techniques made their way through Renaissance Italy where the art of reticella embroidery developed. The Italian variety of drawn thread work is generally performed on net fabrics and has evolved into the art of lacemaking of all varieties. Some scholars believe that the embroidery techniques could have traveled with the Crusaders or even with the Vikings who had every opportunity to bring influences to Scandanavian countries, specifically Norway.

    Beginning a Pattern

    • Hardanger, or drawnwork, patterns are created by stitching blocks of 5 satin stitches over four threads of the base fabric to form a kloster block. Another block is stitched at the corner of the first and then another in the next corner, and so on to form the desired shape. Pattern shapes are generally limited to geometric forms such as squares, rectangles, triangles, diamonds, diagonals, and zigzags.

    Completing the Pattern

    • Once the desired kloster blocks are stitched, the artisan checks to see that the same four threads have been stitched over, selects and cuts those threads, leaving square openings edged with blocks. In addition, the remaining uncut threads are wrapped or woven to complete that portion of the design.

    The Very Special Star

    • One remaining evidence of the far-reaching origins of drawnwork or Hardanger embroidery is the tradition of an 8-pointed star. This unusual star design is found nearly all over the world and represents good fortune to all who recognize it. For the Norwegian Hardanger artist, the 8-pointed star signifies good luck but may also have both magical and protective power.

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