Marion Scoular Hardanger Class


On Friday and Saturday, Arctic Needleworkers, the Alaska chapter of the Embroiderers’ Guild of America, sponsored a Hardanger (with bonus Blackwork) class taught by Marion Scoular. I spent eight hours driving to attend those classes, and I’d do it again tomorrow if the opportunity arose.


Marion (on the left–notice her Hardanger collar) is a graduate of the Royal School of Needlework in London, an internationally recognized teacher, and winner of the 1999 Lifetime Achievement Award from the National Academy of Needlearts.

Aside: For years, I have dreamed of attending the RSN. Mike and his sister are both ready to accompany me to London should the opportunity ever arise. They will cook for me and keep house so I can stitch non-stop. Seriously, we’ve talked about it more than once! There are scholarships for young people, but not the likes of me. There are, however, shorter-term programs, so I’ll keep dreaming. I think I could appreciate a summer at the school, if not several years.

Not only does Marion know her needlework stuff inside and out, backward and forward, up and down, but she’s an energetic, enthusiastic, and engaging teacher. The project was a Busy Bee Hardanger bell pull, with a bit of reversible blackwork thrown into the bargain.

scoular-class-1.jpgThis is what I accomplished during class. We used Caron Watercolors, size 8 pearl cotton (DMC, I’m guessing), and Kreinik #8 braid. The bee and honeycomb are complete (there are 5 bees in the bell pull), but the piece isn’t finished or pressed.

I haven’t taken many needlework classes; I am primarily self- and book-taught. However, I’ve found EGA classes–ICCs, GCCs, and in-person classes–to be tremendously rewarding. The correspondence courses are educational and convenient, but the in-person classes are the best. In part, it’s the supportive and fun group atmosphere–our guild members are a gas, and they are all willing to share experience and advice–and tools, “Anne, may I borrow your skinny scissors again?” and jokes, and snacks, and instructions, “Oops. Yes, Marian, I have two page 2s and two page 9s. Sorry.” It’s handy to be able to compare work, “Oh, I like the more tightly woven bars and the loose, more open picots. I’ll try it that way next time.”


The learning that takes place in an in-person class extends beyond the project material. I learned what a burling iron is, for instance. And I learned how to use a clip-on light when the table is too thick for the clip. (Clip the light onto a book or cutting board or something that can sit on the table.) I learned about a yarn shop in Anchorage I didn’t know existed. I learned that congress cloth water spots and that Ivory Snow is now a detergent, not a soap. I learned that not only do fabrics have “counts,” but threads do, too. I learned that “kloster” means “block,” so saying “kloster block” is like saying “ATM machine”–it’s redundant. I also learned that there is a difference between blanket stitches and buttonhole stitches, and Marion is on a crusade to spread that word. How many books do you have that say they are the same thing? Several, I’m sure.


I also learned that I prefer my own way of cutting threads in Hardanger, even though it’s tedious and slow. I did, however, do it Marion’s way all through the class to make sure I’d given the technique a fair chance to win me over. And I learned that I disagree with Marion’s opinion of loose dove’s eyes. Technically, they’re supposed to be open diamonds, not loose loops, but I like the loose loop look; I think loose loops look like flowers. If I want diamonds, I pull the loops tighter; if I want flowers, I allow them to be loose. I’ve done both and will continue to do both. Marion, I’m fairly certain, would approve, so long as loose loops are a conscious decision. She appreciates creative choice.

I could talk about this class for several posts, and I probably will. I also took a ton of pictures which I’ll share at random times in coming posts, as per normal photo sharing here.

I could have been at the TNNA NeedleArts Market this weekend. I could have participated in the 48-Hour Book Challenge. I chose to attend Marion Scoular’s class. If I am ever presented with the same options again, it’ll be an easy decision: I’ll take the class.

Categories: Needlework

3 replies »

  1. Hi Jen, I’ve been researching old-style Hardanger and Norwegian names for Hardanger stitches, and I find that I respectfully disagree with Marion’s pronouncement that kloster means block. I know that Marion is very learned, but I disagree with her on this point. Kloster means cloister or monastery. I cannot find anywhere that tells me that it means block. I’m happy to discuss this further. 🙂 I hope that I do not put any noses out of joint with my disagreement!

  2. All noses are safe, I assure you, Yvette! It’s an interesting point and question, and I’ll be delighted to investigate further. It’s entirely possible (likely?) the error is mine, and I’m misrepresenting Marion. My words here are what I took away from the class, not a transcription of what Marion said. I’ll send her a note and invite her to comment.

    I looked up the etymology of “cloister” on and found this:

    cloister (n.)
    early 13c., from Old French cloistre “monastery, convent; enclosure” (12c., Modern French cloître), from Medieval Latin claustrum “portion of monastery closed off to laity,” from Latin claustrum (usually in plural, claustra) “place shut in, enclosure; bar, bolt, means of shutting in,” from past participle stem of claudere (see close (v.)).

    “The original purpose of cloisters was to afford a place in which the monks could take exercise and recreation” [Century Dictionary]. Spelling in French influenced by cloison “partition.” Old English had clustor, clauster in the sense “prison, lock, barrier,” directly from Latin, and compare, from the same source, Dutch klooster, German Kloster, Polish klasztor.

    The satin-stitch block in Hardanger is a means of shutting in or a barrier, so calling it a “cluster,” “clauster,” “klooster,” “kloster,” or “klasztor” makes sense, don’t you think? Maybe what Marion meant was that “kloster” is a reference to the block and can stand alone, not so much that “block” is a direct translation of “kloster.”

    What do you think?

  3. I completely agree that you can see where the similarity of cloister and a square of four kloster blocks (hehe!) comes from. Usually a cloister is a four-sided courtyard, attached to a monastery or convent. If you think of each of the sides of the cloister as being a satin stitch block, you can see how klosters might have gotten their names.

    I guess that if you take block to mean blockage, rather like barrier, then I suppose you can stretch block to mean kloster, but to me, that seems like a weak link to make…