Learning Hedebo: a heirloom lace-making technique

Today I felt my ancestors smile.

It has been established that my family tree was grafted from many places, so it is likely that there is someone Danish in my genealogical history. I am pretty certain I had a few ancestors looking over my shoulder today as I learned this heirloom needlework stitch. There was some sort of deep satisfaction that bloomed within my soul as I completed the first scallop row of the Hedebo lace edging on the pocket of my knit vest.

While we can’t all knit or sew our clothing ourselves, we can work on altering our clothing with the art of our own hands. It is satisfying to create something unique even from a mass produced garment. The point is to work with what you have.

This impromptu project today started with this book from the library and this recycled cotton yarn that came from a sweater:

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“Vanishing American Needle Arts” by Denise Longhurst

There is a treasure trove of heirloom needlework techniques in this book that I have been itching to try out since a brought it home a few weeks ago. And this book for sure is going to be in my “wishlist” on Amazon.

Today, I decided to open it up and give one of the stitches a try and then share it with you. At first I had no clue what I would stitch on. The thought that first came was to add a pretty border to a kitchen towel that my daughter had embroidered. But, with it being a first attempt, I was hesitant to try it, and then ruin her hard work with my messy beginner stitches. At some point, I looked down and put my hands in the pocket of my knit vest, and the light bulb went off. I have been wanting to add something to this plain garment for awhile. It is has been a favorite thing to throw on this winter over a long sleeve shirt when I just need to get rid of a bit of chill.

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My first idea was to make a Hedebo lace edging all the way around the bottom. And then reality once again entered my brain that for a first time project I should really choose something smaller. So, I decided just making a pretty trim edge along the pocket would be a better idea.

Interestingly, there is not a lot of information on the web about the Hedebo stitch. It popped up here and there in some articles, but there were no tutorials on Youtube at all. The author learned this stitch from her grandfather passing on their Danish traditions in lacemaking. She give a basic explanation of how it is created:

“Hedebo is Danish needle point lace that is worked right on the edge of the fabric it is being used to decorate much like a crocheted edging, but a darning needle is used in the construction. it is one of the sturdies of lace trims. “

Following the instructions and the diagrams in the book I started the set up row which included stitching from the left to the right with a button hole stitch. It is similar to a blanket stitch. Because I am working with a bulky knit garment I used a plastic darning needle, for other types of fabric a regular sharp point one would be needed.

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The needle goes in at the back and out the front.

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Keep a bit of a loop, don’t pull it tight.

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Slip the needle through the loop from back to front.

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After pulling tight it will create a little knot at the top.

The diagrams in this book in conjunction with the written instruction does a pretty good job at explaining how to complete each step of this heirloom stitch. I started to try and explain it all here, along with photos, but I think it will really be best explained with a video. After some more practice I will attempt to make one and share it.

Here are a few more photos of my handwork using the Hedebo stitch.

 

 

 

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You can see that my first scallop is a lot bigger than the others. Hopefully with practice I will improve at the sizing them.

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Working the second set of scallops and almost meeting the first on the second row.

There was a rhythm that my fingers picked up as I stitched and it became easier. It was hard to stop, but I knew if I didn’t this post would not get typed up. Keep a look out on my Facebook page for the finished photo and hopefully a future video tutorial.

The Hedebo lace stitch is something worth learning. How wonderful it is that our Danish ancestors kept their hands busy as they came to the Americas, and then continued to teach it to their posterity. I am excited to have an alternative method from crochet edging to dress up the edges of a project.

We make our hardworking ancestors smile in the heavens when we discover these heirloom arts and put to them to use in our modern environments. There is so much more worth and satisfaction in practicing an art like this than playing “Candy Crush” or taking silly quizzes on Facebook.

Make your ancestors smile.

Be a Butterfly.

Heidi

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An American Knitter goes Continental:and times her results!

There is no wrong way to knit.

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Some hold their yarn in the right hand, dropping after every stitch and then wrapping, or “flicking” the yarn over the needle. While others hold the yarn in the left and manipulate the right hand needle to wrap the yarn with very little movement of the yarn carrying hand.

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Personally, I believe that whatever keeps you knitting is the way to go.
Monday is the day I get caught up on household duties and prepare for the week ahead by making bread, taking meat out of the freezer for this weeks meals, and taking care of setting up appointments or making other phone calls. This week, I was not so accomplished.
The dishes were done and the bread made, but every other task I tried had me in circles. I could not complete one before I was forgetting what I was doing and moving on to another. Finally, I decided my energy would be better spent knitting.
I was also in the mood to try something new. Why not? The other two million projects I already have on needles can wait right?
Since I have started teaching others how to knit, the wise thing to do is to be prepared to teach all manner of methods. The goal is to have all that try, succeed. I wouldn’t want a friend to give up because western knitting wasn’t working for her or continental made her fingers cramp up.
I have tried continental before, but I didn’t have a real purpose to learn, so why fix what ain’t broke?
Now however, I have motivation. Not only to have the ability to teach others, but I would enjoy being more efficient when knitting certain items, and I hear that it makes color work easier.
I am happy to report that I CAN knit continental! Wooho!

Just for fun I decided to time myself knitting a row the American (or english) way, holding the yarn in the right hand, against Continental, holding the yarn in the left hand. I got some interesting results! The project was two cotton dishcloths that have 40 stitches, as pictured above.

Knitting American style (which I have been doing for 10+ years: 1:55 (one minute and fifty five seconds).

Knitting Continental style (which I learned 3 days ago): 1:46 (one minute and forty eight seconds).

I was shocked! Imagine how efficient my knitting can become if I practice Continental more. It is important that I insert here: speed is not always my goal. I am all for relaxing. Knitting is a kind of therapy for me and I want to enjoy myself. But there are times when doing row after row of garter or stockinette, having the ability to speed that up would be great!

Watch me in action: On YouTube!
*note: I found using a combined method (which means I purl different than routine continental instructions show) to work best for me.

 

Knitting Toolbox: The Needles

Every skill comes with it’s own set of tools and know-how. This post is especially for the newbee who is overwhelmed with the options of needles in the craft store or online. Other knitters might read on just to see if they learn something new, or you might have some valuable knowledge to lend us in the comments!

I am not endorsing any particular brand or place to shop for them. See the Disclosures page.

What I have experienced, is that learning to knit on long bulky needles is not a good idea. And really, they have no place in most knitters toolbags.

Large needles are awkward and makes a person feel very clumsy in the new motor skills they are trying to acquire. Learning to knit can have that same awkward feeling you had when you were first learning to write the letter “a”. Long knitting needles are good for the experienced knitter who is planning on making a large blanket, and doesn’t have kids who will pick up the knitting-causing the stitches to fall off. This very experience had me give up all yarn crafts several times in my young mommy-hood.

I am recommending that you start with either double-pointed needles, or Circular needles.

Double-pointed needles (DPNs) are shorter in length, and come in packs of 5 or 6. These are a very valuable set to have. You can use just two to knit a small flat piece of work, such as a dishcloth or they are used to knit in the round to make the simplest hat or the most complex socks. My first experience with DPNs was when I learned to knit newborn hats-I still prefer this type of needle for those projects.

Circular needles (circs) are two needles connected by a flexible cable. Some have been designed with a long cable to knit in the round on larger projects such as a sweater, others have shorter sized cables for hats and socks . Recently I have discovered that these are the best all-in-one type of needle to have in your toolbox. You can use these to knit straight flat projects with these but larger projects than the DPNs, such as a blanket. The longer cabled circs  work great for knitting in the round on smaller projects when you use the magic loop method. Learning Magic loop, literally changed my knitting life. More on that in future post. You will want to have a good set with a nice flexible cable and smooth join at the  needle. The stiff ones just won’t work. The other plus side to Circular needles is that you can safely slide your work to the center- far, far away from the tips. This way when you throw down your knitting to get a goat out of the house and the toddler decides to help with the project, you are less likely to loose your stitches.

Here are a few tips on searching out the right kind of circular needle at your local craft store:

Most packages have a pocket type closure, so don’t be afraid to open it up and check it out. I really recommend doing this with a circular needle that has a cable you are unsure of. Bend it around and back and forth, it should flex easily. (just be sure to put it back neatly, we want knitters to be known as respectful shoppers.)

This is the most flexible from a local craft store that I have found:

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The other brand from Susan Bates works well too. These ones have a really nice join from cable to needle.

 

If you have really committed to using circular needles, I recommend investing in a set of inter-changeables. You will never need to buy any other needles. One of these sets can do everything, as long as you choose a set that has the sizes you think you will need.

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These are what I have. They are the ChiaoGoo brand. The reason I went with these is because they go all the way down to a size 2 needle which I need for knitting socks and baby booties.

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This was my second choice, due to the reviews. They are the HiyaHiya brand. The smallest size in this set is a 5, otherwise they seemed like a good option.

There are many other brands including ones from Addi, and Knitpicks. It was hard for me to choose, but like mentioned above, the reason for my choices was based on the sizes I needed and I found the ChiaoGoo to have the largest range. My hubs went all-out and bought me the full set for Christmas, even though I only requested the smaller half set!

Picking out your DPNs:

In this category I have found that I prefer anything BUT the aluminum type. This means I usually go for wood.These sets from Clover are usually what I use. I do find that the tiny ones have fragile tips and they have broken in use before. The reason my first choice isn’t aluminum is because they are too slippery. With DPNS you run the risk of you work falling off the ends more than other needle types. So the wood has a surface that grips the yarn a little better for staying in place.IMG_0808.jpg

My last trip to the store these caught my eye:

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I couldn’t resist the beautiful wood grains and a size 4 (or was it 5?) ended up in my cart.

Don’t forget to check the craft area of your favorite Thrift shop! I have often found a bargain there.

Happy needle shopping!

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Knitting for Tiny Humans: interview with an expectant mother

I love that the Internet connects me to information and to people. With this tool I have been able to make friends and learn from others in limitless locations.

Several months ago, I was invited by a friend to join a knitting group on Facebook. It has been fun to celebrate others and the projects they are working on. It is also enjoyable to witness the support given to a member when they have a yarn dilemma.

The talent and skill that is posted amazes me.

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Star doll knitted by Amanda, see links later on in the post for patterns. (p.s. I want one! Guess I better cast it on…)

One example is my new friend Amanda. This week she just welcomed her fourth baby into the world.

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Adorbs!

While awaiting his arrival, Amanda kept her knitting needles busy. She could not resist the numberless patterns available and squishy soft natural fiber yarns that would compliment a sweet newborn and then chubby cheeked babe that would be filling her life with even greater joy and purpose than she already had.

Creating an all “Mama-made” wardrobe for her little bundle of joy became a thrill-filled obsessive goal that often kept her up at night. I can hear her thoughts now “…must finish this last (yawn) leg…”. (not because I have ever knit well into the night….not me..)

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I (heart) over-alls! Even more adorable on the baby, keep reading to see!

An interview about Amanda’s  journey and other thoughts on knitting follows:

How long have you been knitter and how did you learn?

I have only been knitting for a little over a year (since October of 2014). There was a ministry offered at the church where I was attending where a few of the older ladies got together twice a month to knit hats and scarves for the homeless in our city. I went to check it out, as I had always wanted to learn to knit. They taught me how to cast on, knit and purl stitches…the rest is all youtube! I have made a whole file on youtube videos for each of the stitches and methods I’ve used in projects along the way.

Did you find the skill of knitting to come easily, or was it something you had to work at?

I had tried to learn how to knit and crochet before and it was always so frustrating and I never seemed to get good at it. This time though, it to ally clicked, and I haven’t been able to stop!

What was it about this time around that made it “click”, was it that you were being mentored by the ladies at church or something else?

Honestly I’m not really sure…maybe my patience level has gone up since I had tried before? This time I didn’t seem to get as lost with patterns, and I think having access to youtube with video tutorials really has helped me to figure out more complicated stitches/instructions.

How did you decide that you wanted to make a wardrobe for baby #4? What was your first project?

My very first project was a pair of longies, after that, I fell in love with the idea of minimizing “normal” purchased clothes, (we only have a few shirts and sleepers for this baby). I really loved the idea of an almost entirely mama-made wardrobe, that was custom designed just for him. I want to take each outfit and make sure it was made lovingly, and really want him to enjoy seeing pictures later of all the things that were made just to make him special (even though 4th babies get many hand-me-downs). It has really been a labor of love and a skill which is a passion…borderline addiction!

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Dontcha just wanna touch that little foot?! I can see the love in those stitches.

What does your family and friends think of your knitting “addiction”? Have they been supportive in your quest to provide a “mama-made wardrobe”?

My family probably thinks I’m a little insane, but they love seeing all the new things I make. My friends are very supportive, and after I make things, many of them request stuff for their little ones too.

Where have you gotten most of your inspirations for projects, and how do you choose the pattern to use?

All of my patterns come from Ravelry...I’m a bit addicted to looking through their patterns..you click on one thing, then three more things I NEED to make pop up….then I click on some more…then its 2am and I have a list of 25 projects. I also love to ask the moms in our knitting group which patterns have worked for them and what they love, it makes it a lot easier to do a pattern when someone else has already tried it an had it work for them.

What is your favorite part of the craft: the challenge of a new pattern, the knitting process, or the completion of a project?

Hmmmm that’s a really tough one…I think I have two favorite parts…I really really love picking out the yarn for a project. I love looking though all my color-ways and sold trim colors and trying to picture how it will look with any of the colors. My yarn stash is almost 100% hand dyed worsted wight wool at this point, and the epic collection makes me happy. Then I’d say my second favorite part is seeing the project finished. Seeing how all of the patterned stitches go together and create something out of a ball of string. Its kinda cool I think. The process of knitting does has its own place in my heart too though: it’s been a huge stress-reliever for me, and I used to have major anxiety attacks.

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A question I get often is “how do you find the time?!” So, as a mom of soon to be four little humans, how do you find the time?

How do I find the time…whats time again??? Oh, I don’t sleep. Thats pretty  much the whole answer for that one Hahaha.

How has learning to knit enriched your life?

Oh wow….that’s a tough one, knitting has totally changed my life. The biggest part being the de-stressing. Living without anxiety attacks is fabulous. It has also given me something to share with my 9yo daughter. She is my oldest and only girl, so it’s fun to have something special to do with her. She loves to knit and go to yarn stores with me. I also love been able to make handmade gifts. It truly is a dying art, so its something that I feel needs to be preserved and sure with my family and friends.

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On Amanda’s Ravelry page and her finished products you can see which are her friends favorites to request. Booties and the Star doll at the top of the post are among the favorites.

I am so happy to hear that you are knitting with your daughter! It is sad when we take time to really ponder on how knitting used to be a  skill-set in every home and how far we have veered from that. In only a short amount of time following the industrial revolution, this skill dwindled. It became a hobby of grandmothers. In recent years there has been  surge of interest in knit and crochet hobbies. As wonderful as it is that the craft is returning, I still fear that it is viewed as an entertaining past-time instead of the lifeskill that it should be. I myself, have only recently broke out of my  “hobby-bubble” and am trying to learn important techniques such as–knitting socks and mittens. What are your thoughts on knitting as a hobby versus putting it to good us?

I’m a minimalist when it comes to “most” things. We have a very small house, and soon to be six people to accommodate. I do have a pretty large collection of yarn, but limit myself to that one storage rack that I sent you a picture of.12900124_545099945660130_1296570750_n.jpg

That being said, I think its super important to be practical with what I knit and make sure its useful, while knitting is most definitely my favorite hobby., I try and do my best to make it some that is very practical for my whole family,and always useful. I make hats, mittens, sweaters, cowls..those kinds of things, to keep the kids warm during our awesome Chicago winters.

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This little romper set looks oh so cozy!

So, you have worked hard at providing a mama-made wardrobe for this new little bundle…what will you be casting on next?

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These last questions were answered while in the labor room. And these shorties were completed there as well. Truly a “labor of love”.

I’m never really sure what I’m going to make next. I have a list of 10-15 different patterns I hope to make at some point, and I usually look through my yarn stash and see what strikes my fancy and which pattern it would work best with. While in labor, I’ve been knitting a pair of shorties for this little dude  for the summer. We are pretty set on cold weather gear until next year for all the kiddos.

Staying true to her addiction…Amanda has already casted-on her next project: a sleeper bag:

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Thanks for sharing with us Amanda, enjoy that sweet little human!

I love the fact that Amanda found knitting to be a portal to connect with her unborn child. That while her body worked hard creating a tiny human on the inside, her hands diligently stitched the clothes that would protect him from outside elements after entering the world.

There is something about getting ready for a baby. It’s a natural instinct that connects us with the women of our heritage. Even more so when we adopt the age-old slower way of life and handmake a layette for a new young life.

My last baby is almost two! The knit projects are growing in size,

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Like Amanda, my list of saved projects is always growing. (here is my Ravelry link, although, you won’t find any pictures of my completed projects…somehow I have only recently discoverd the vast pattern wonderland of Ravelry).
I am working hard at creating some youtube videos to join the ranks of other knitters with a passion to teach like those that Amanda mentioned are in her playlist. My channel has a few videos up and I would love for you to like, share and subscribe so that we can save this important traditional skill.

Happy Day!

*This interview was simply for fun. We have never met in person and neither of us is getting compensation for the information shared. My thoughts were to  share the talent that I witnessed and hope to inspire others to learn to knit and bring back a lost art.  I am also in agreement wiith Amanda that  knitting can help comfort us through a depression and other illness, to read more about what it has done for me and my health challenges, click here.

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