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