Collectors’ Bookmarks

Stitching for Literacy, Don's hedebo bookmarkDon, our bookmark-collecting friend, shares another hand-embroidered bookmark with us today. You can see much of his collection on his donmervin flickr pages.

I’m going to take a stab at identifying how this bookmark was made, based solely on images I have from Don and my not-at-all-extensive embroidery knowledge.

For starters, I’m fairly certain the fabric is linen. The fiber is probably linen, too, or I suppose it could be cotton. White fiber on white fabric, or “Whitework,” encompasses many different techniques (reticello, schwalm, Hardanger, Hedebo, etc.) developed in many different places (Greece, Italy, Norway, Denmark, France, etc.).

Clearly, this is some form of cutwork: all the fibers in the circles have been removed, and the open areas are decorated with stitched fillings. Because the shapes are circles and because so much of the ground fabric remains, I’m going to call this Hedebo embroidery.

Hedebo was developed by Danish peasants in the middle of the 18th century. The name “Hedebo” is pronounced “HAY-the-bow” or “HAY-ta-bow” and means “Heather-born,” or people who live on the heath. As the Hedebo style developed, it was influenced by lacy reticello techniques.

Stitching for Literacy, filled circle in Don's hedebo bookmark

This circle is edged with what is commonly called a buttonhole stitch. We’re not going to get into the buttonhole/blanket stitch debate right now. The Hedebo buttonhole—and I can’t tell if this actually uses an Hedebo buttonhole—is closer to a knotted buttonhole than the blanket stitch buttonhole.

See how short those buttonhole edge stitches are? I’m going to guess the fabric in the center of the circle was snipped into wedges and folded back before being stitched in place with the buttonhole and subsequently trimmed.

That’s unlike Hardanger where we stitch the buttonhole first and then remove the internal fibers, cutting them flush with the edge stitches. I have never come to thoroughly trust the security of Hardanger edges despite repeated assurances from those who know way-yonder more than I do. What can I say? I’m a skeptic. I can get on board the folding back of hems, though.

Stitching for Literacy, a filled circle in Don's hedebo bookmark

Once the circles are open, they are filled again with lacy designs. With the working thread, we “throw” some base stitches across the open space and then wrap, weave, loop, and knot the fiber to make all sorts of interesting patterns.

Stitching for Literacy, hemstitched edge of Don's hedebo bookmark

The edge is hemstitched.

Anyone want to try duplicating this or making a similar one? I do! Have any of you done Hedebo embroidery or seen other samples of it?

Thanks, Don, for sharing this with us. If you remember where or how you got this, please let us know.

Categories: Needlework

4 replies »

  1. this is art!
    what a beautiful handcraft this is! And those tiny, tiny stitches! Even I will have a hard time copying this pattern, even though I make tiny stuff… I like the way you describe the work and the item, knowledge comes in different areas, and some are lost if we do not take a closer look, like you do here!!! Thank you 😉

  2. Thank you Jen, for your terrific description of This piece. I knew it was quite different from so many of the others. It just goes to prove if you want information go to a specialist!

    I have put your web connection on with it in Flickr and hope you get some hits from that.