[My Chamber of Textile Thoughts. No: XXVI| By Viveka Hansen]

Some years ago out of pure historical interest I made a number of embroidery reproductions from various provinces in Sweden, originating in the 18th- and 19th-centuries. My aim now is to share these samples and compare with the original embroideries and other primary sources in a new series of “Textile Thoughts”. This first observation is looking closer into the very fine embroidery of the old technique blackwork – called “svartstick” in the province of Dalarna. One of many fascinating styles of embroideries, once done by very skilled hands to great craftsmanship and artistry.

Embroidered neckerchief in blackwork “svartstick” with black silk on cotton, marked ‘ADD 1873’ by Anna Danielsdotter, 24 years old from the village of Tible, Leksand parish, Dalarna, Sweden. (Courtesy of: Nordic Museum, Stockholm, NM.0004304, Creative Commons).

Embroidered neckerchief in blackwork “svartstick” with black silk on cotton, marked ‘ADD 1873’ by Anna Danielsdotter, 24 years old from the village of Tible, Leksand parish, Dalarna, Sweden. (Courtesy of: Nordic Museum, Stockholm, NM.0004304, Creative Commons).

The blackwork technique has a widespread history with its roots in Medieval times, but the technique can particularly be studied from exclusive embroidered details in clothing/fashion depicted in works of art from the 16th century. For example via Hans Holbein the Younger’s (1497-1543) many portraits or at numerous occasions in depictions of Elizabeth I (1533-1603). But in Sweden this type of blackwork also became immensely popular by the well-to-do during this period, and later on it also spread to and influenced more groups in the society.

During the 19th century the blackwork in Sweden had developed into a so-called provincial embroidery – foremost in Dalarna – where it became known as “svartstick” (black stitching) where the technique was embroidered with black silk on a white cotton fabric. As shown in the photograph above, the style of stitching was used to decorate neckerchiefs belonging to the female festive dress of the parish Leksand. The said garment hold several local names, among others “Svartsticksklädet” and “Tuppaklädet”. The embellishing corner tassels were also important details, coming to their best advantages when used as a triangular folded neckerchief to beautify the women’s best clothing.

Historical reproduction of “svartstick” on unbleached linen (15 threads/cm) with black silk. Photo and embroidery: Viveka Hansen.

Historical reproduction of “svartstick” on unbleached linen (15 threads/cm) with black silk.
Photo and embroidery: Viveka Hansen.

My attempt to reproduce the embroidery type was made with black silk in cross-, back-, square- and satin stitches. The original 19th century embroideries were usually sewn on cotton, which was regarded as superior and more fashionable than linen. However, it was not possible to find a similar type of cotton material so I decided to use a fine linen as replacement. The combination of stitches are not complex in itself, but the tiny stitching overall need to be carried out with precision to reach a satisfactory result. It must also be noted, that the preferred 19th century cotton qualities were even finer and more dense, which resulted in a higher degree of difficulty.

Sources.

  • Hansen, Viveka (Historical Reproduction/Embroidery).
  • Lundbäck, M., Ingers, G. & Ljungkvist, E., Hemslöjdens Handarbeten – Andra delen, Stockholm 1954. (in Swedish only)
  • Melén, L., Landskapssömmar, Västerås 1970. (in Swedish only)
  • Digitalt Museum (including examples of ‘Svartstick’ from Swedish museums).

PLEASE REFERENCE AS FOLLOWS:

  • Hansen, Viveka, ‘Historical Reproductions of Embroidery – Blackwork or “Svartstick”’, TEXTILIS (August 3, 2014); http://textilis.net/ (Accessed: Day/Month/Year)