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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The Treasure of Handmade

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For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also..” Matthew 6:21

Before I truly begin this posting I need to insert the link to this fabulous article written by Camille Curtis Anderson in a 1996 issue of a magazine that is published by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints that I am a member of, called the Ensign. I cam across this article just now as I was researching some quotes and scripture to add words to my feelings on the topic I wanted to discuss today. This article said exactly what has been on my heart, I could literally post this link and be finished with writing for today. No doubt, I will be quoting Camille a few time throughout this posting.

The idea of this website is not just to share historical tidbits of days past, but also to teach how to implement them for ourselves in our modern society and truly  create a home that we love, and to treasure the work of our own hands. You can read the article by Camille here.

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Reading the other articles on this site you will notice that most of my learning has come from books. The internet adds to the variety and modernism of this knowledge, while the books tend to be more of historical content.

Some of the skills such as basic sewing, crochet, and even a bit of weaving were witnessed during my childhood while spending time with crafty grandmothers and aunts. My mother was also a very creative individual. She has always been very skilled at “making do”, and using the materials available to create the things needed. I know for certain that these women in my life played an important role in the development of my talents. It is clear in many of my projects how the talents of these women has influenced the way that I create.

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The above picture shows a hand/dish towel I made this past week. It has a bit of a story to it. The blue cotton yarn that makes up the edging came from a sweater I deconstructed (unraveled) to recycle yarn. It was my first fully successful frogged sweater! The body of the towel did not begin with the intent that it would be such. Actually, I had started it thinking that this weeks topic was going to be a tutorial on how to combine needle arts with sewing to make cute curtains. This cotton yarn did not balance well with the fabric I intended to use, so like-mother-like-daughter, I did  not let my efforts go to waste but transformed it into a useful item after all. Just this afternoon it was put to work sopping up spilled peach juice from my son’s lap.

In speaking about pioneer ancestors and the hard labors they endured, Camille wrote:

These domestic labors were their way of weaving discernible threads of accomplishment throughout the unrelenting elements of their world. The austere surroundings of many women moved them to create beauty with simple objects.

Creating “beauty with simple objects”, does provide a respite from the mundane. It was much more enjoyable to clean up a spill with a handmade towel. I was able to think “something I made is useful” instead of : ” <sigh> more laundry to do…”.

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My oldest daughter (15) is currently helping to bless our home with handmade items by embroidering flour sack towels. We made a goal, after our fire and the kitchen remodel, that our kitchen would be strongly influenced by the handmade arts. She has completed 3 of 13 by working on it a little here, a little there. They are beautiful and know we will treasure the completed set.

When women have something tangible to show for their labor, it reinforces feelings of worth. -Camille

I would argue that the same should be considered for men as well. All people feel accomplished when their labors count for something.

My husband helped me with this peg loom.

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I wrote about it a little last week and the rug that I made and then gave to him for his side of the bed. He is reminded daily of both of our efforts to create more and buy less. And I think it would be safe to assume that he “treasures” that rug.

This week I experimented again with the peg loom. The goal was to create something small and useful. Potholders have a high importance in the kitchen and I have wanted to begin replacing the store-bought ones we have with handmade. I remember using the little plastic looms and stretchy loops as a kid to weave potholders-in fact my girls now have one of those kits, it was time for me advance my potholder weaving skills.

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Honestly, my first attempt at a potholder was not as satisfactory as the rug. But as I set it up for photographs to share, I realized that satisfactory to my standards or not, it is still a useful tool in our kitchen.

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Just how the crocheted towel came to be and all of the other projects that have been completed to beautify our life:

There is joy that comes….to make one’s home shine. As my hands shape the environment of my family, I love even more that place in which I labor. -Camille

Creating a home we love to live in doesn’t have to be difficult. It is most often the simplest of items that tend to the feelings of satisfaction and happiness.

Add some handmade to your home. A little here, a little there. Made by you, someone you care about, a purchase from an artisan on Etsy or even a thrifted handmade item . It will make a difference in the atmosphere that influences your family daily, and make the day to day chores like dishes, cooking and laundry a little more enjoyable.

Be a Butterfly.

Heidi

p.s.

There are some free patterns on this site for knitted dishcloths. More patterns will be added so make sure to subscribe so the pattern announcements will make it to your inbox or Facebook feed.

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Who Made That?

How do we get from Fiber to Fabric?

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I can tell you, that what I have learned about the fiber arts these last couple of years has blown. my. mind. When I was just a consumer-crafter that bought yarn at the store and then put it on some needles, the only thought about the handmade process was that something was created from yarn or fabric using various tools and the skill of the crafter.

It goes way, way, waaaay further back than that, before the crafter designs, before the materials are bought, before it resembles anything that is useful. The process that brings the fiber to the point of a yarn or fabric is filled with many steps. The vocabulary alone while learning about the fiber arts is astounding:

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This is not a complete list! Many of the tools, techniques, and materials have their own set of vocabulary and processes.

Just so that you can get a glimpse at each general step in bringing raw fiber from its natural state on the animal (or in the field) to a fabric that you wear or use in other ways, I have chosen a few videos that showcase part of the process.Words can only explain so much and too much technical stuff can be boring, so I have tried to keep them short. Keep in mind there are zillions (maybe not that many-but a lot!) of ways to harvest fibers, process them, and produce textiles. What is outlined here is just a few possibilities out of many:

Natalie from Namaste Farms can shear an Alpaca all by herself!

 

 

Even when shearing our goats, we like to have a helping hand.

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(I should mention, that first you have to catch the animal and that can be a challenge in itself! Natalie has a good video showing her technique for that as well. We have yet to master it….)

Once animal fiber has been harvested it needs to go through a process called skirting where you remove the edges of the fleece that gets the most icky and bleached by the sun. The skirt is not desirable for garments or other things that should be soft, but it is great for rug making and other crafts! During this process vegetable matter (vm-hay, grass, sticks etc.) is also picked out as much as possible.

A lot of raw fibers are sold at this stage to the spinner or crafter. When they receive it, the next step is to wash it:

This video from Blue Mountain Handcrafts is one of my favorites because she washes several different types and I enjoy learning from Beth, she is great.

After the washing step is when some decisions are made on how to prep it for spinning or other crafting. Some, may blend it with other fibers, use a drum carder, use hand cards, or just hand pick it until it is fluffy and ready for use.

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close up of hand carders and alpaca fiber

Last year I wrote an article on our sister-site: Twisted & Plied, that overviewed how I process Alpaca fiber from washing to hand cards to spinning. Read it, or just continue on with the video presentation-the next videos share some of the same info as in this article:

From Wool to Wear: a look at processing Alpaca

If you only take time to watch one of these videos in this post I suggest it is this next one. Lois is a hoot! She teaches us all about traditional spinning from different countries and dresses in period costume for the videos. After this one if you have the time, watch some of her other videos, she has very interesting history to share!

Once the fiber is processed and prepped it can be handspun or machine spun. I stumbled upon this short video of a Tibetan woman spinning with a support spindle. She tells her interviewer that it is so simple there is nothing to explain. But then he explained to her that:

we have forgotton this ancient art of hand spinning wool as we do other chores.

After that she was willing to share. There are lots of other spinning techniques and tools that will have to be looked at in another post sometime, so for now enjoy this “ancient art of handspinning wool” as one example:

Here is a picture of my spinning wheel:

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To bring things to a close, we will end with this talented Fastest Knitter in North America. Speed knitting is a real competition! Not one that I will probably ever strive for, but wow-those who do have got some real talent!

(Yes! She is knitting her husband a sweater out of their dogs fur! Some really interesting things get spun up in the fiber art realm!)

To get yarn transformed into a fabric it can be knitted,crocheted, or woven on a loom. These processes and others can happen with hand or machine or a combination. Most of what we wear now is done by machine, but handicraft artist are making a come back. Many handmade items are now easily found and purchased online.

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every time I see these booties I knit for my last baby (who is two now), I want to cast-on and make some more! They are so cute!

There was a lot to take in as far as information and videos to watch in this article. The goal was to bring an awareness at just how much work goes into that handmade item you bought or was given as a gift as it transformed from fiber to fabric. Or, even if you were the crafter, hopefully it gave you insight into the effort that comes from others to prep your fiber of choice before you work your own magic.

 

If this were a book I could have easily delved into the raising of the animals, the growing of the plants and how they are processed. But it’s not-yet. We did not even discuss the behind the scenes designers who dye fibers, make blends, and write patterns.

Thanks for being a friend!

And thank you to all the shepherds, farmers, ranchers, shearers, pickers, blenders, spinners, designers, knitters, crocheters, weavers-fiber artists every where for sharing your talents with us!

Heidi

I built a support spindle from stuff around the house! Click here for the tutorial!

little things are sometimes Big.

 

Yesterday I did a small thing-and then realized it was a big thing—

I cleaned the laundry room.

It was in such a state that one could not get in the door let alone to the washer and dryer. This is a bad scenario when you have to do 15o loads of laundry a day-I might be exaggerating just a little, but the concept remains the same. Who wants to go into a room that you can’t see the floor of? My 3 year old son told me he heard a monster in the bathroom sink-it could easily have traveled the water pipes and be lurking in the laundry room. The last thing I need is to encounter a sink-monster when trying to find a clean shirt after being peed on. I am very happy today that the laundry room is clean and can be used in a productive manner again-whithout fear of a sink-monster attack.

This has been the theme of my thoughts of late. We are surrounded by little things that have big impact. Even Jesus taught of small things that have large importance. From the creation of the earth beginning with the basics of things such as light, water and planting the seeds. Then of course when we think “seed” our mind goes  to the parable of the mustard seed that teaches us of faith. We can see a pattern in all of the examples in the Bible that illustrate to us that it is important to have a special reverence towards the seemingly insignificant. 

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The list of things I can make that are small yet largely important in my life is so endless that I can not pick what deserves to be in this article the most. So I will just stick with the most recent discovery of a clean laundry room and leave you to ponder the little big things in your own life.

I will however, bring this topic around a corner and point it towards these little lost skills I am being directed to learn and teach. It has started with knitting, but it doesn’t end there, and each skill is as important as the other.

This description, given in “Our Vanishing Landscape” by Eric Sloane,  makes a great illustration that can be used as a comparison to those things that have been forgotten or un-taught, in that, they can be learned again and the generations after us can indeed benefit.

Imagine a farm abandoned….The summer after cultivation ceases, the plowed fields will have become overgrown with weeds. The next year you will find grass and berry seedlings that have blown in with autumn winds. At the end of five years the fields will be a complete tangle of briars with occasional clumps of birch and juniper from seeds brought in by bird droppings. In ten years these trees will be a head high above the briars and in their shade will be hundreds of tiny oak and maple seedlings. In forty years…..the fields will look like woodlands that had never seen a plow. Fire or insects and disease may decimate this second-growth forest, or winds may blow it down, but it will miraculously build itself back again….

This little thing of teaching how to use traditional skills for our benefit today-could be a big thing.

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It could mean that our children and grandchildren know how to survive.

Without (enter large chain store name here).

 
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A little skill now, could be life-altering later. 

 

Next Month…

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The topic will be “slow food”.  This differs from my original lesson plan for 2016. It was going to be the topic for November but yesterday I started a rescue mission for my sourdough start that has been neglected and so it is perfect timing. In the past, we have successfully made all the bread our family needs from scratch-with little effort. Bread isn’t all we will learn, so make sure to follow by email (click the button on the sidebar) so you can get next weeks articles! I will be sharing recipes too!

Thanks for learning with me about what we can do to give “New Life to Old Traditions” this past month!

Heidi

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You might also want to take a peek at:

Beginning Knitting Lessons

Skill Development Lessons

Free Patterns!

 

Defining Domestic Science

I first came across this term as I was reading No Idle Hands by Anne MacDonald. It is an amazing book taking you through a sort of “behind the scenes” look at history and cataloging the important role that knitting played. This book is definitely in my Amazon wishlist.

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As I was pondering the goal of this site many names came to mind. Of course, a lot of the ones I first came up with were taken. But I picked the brains of my friends and family, and read through my journals. In my journal is where I found the note on Domestic Science. It had captivated me that what some might think to be mundane everyday tasks or requirements, is in fact an important subject of study. It is indeed, a science.

Until 1829 42% of schools offered plain needlework-by 1840 it had been reduced to two half days in primary school and one half day in “higher female schools”. ( Anne L. MacDonald, No Idle Hands, ch.3)

What we classify now as “household skills” is much different from what it used to be. When I was first married we ate boxed meals routinely and I cleaned messes when I noticed them. If we look back to our pioneer heritage, there was a method to keeping the home and providing for ones family. It was well thought out and planned in advance, not picked up on the way home from work.

Keeping a home really is an art and having the skills of cooking, sewing, or knitting are absolutely a necessity and while they can be enjoyable they have been disguised too long as a hobby. If your favorite grocery store and shopping mall were to close its doors today, how long would you be able to get by and keep your family comfortable?

The future of our country in these rapidly changing times awaits our mark of influence. (Thomas S. Monson, Be Your Best Self)

Decide that this is important today.

Follow and share this blog. Help us to preserve these important traditional skills. Check back often to learn about the value of these lost arts, or get updates in your email by clicking the button on the side bar.

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Thanks for being a friend!
Heidi