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

Early 19th century woollen embroidery from southernmost Sweden was my second attempt in reproducing historical stitching. These well-crafted embroideries with their rich variation of patterns originate from long lived traditions – often also mirrored in the tapestry weaving in corresponding geographical areas – developed into designs and individual motifs inherited from mother to daughter. My aim with this “Textile Thought” is to give a brief historical introduction of the cushions and bedcovers together with an explanation of used materials and stitching. 

This skilfully made travel cushion in woollen embroidery is preserved in several similar examples from early 19th century and is sewn with chain, stem, satin stitching and knots, added with an embellishing “kavelfrans” (napped edgings). Marking in cross stitch ‘KPS KAD BKD 1813’. From: Hötofta, Oxie district, Skåne, Sweden. (Courtesy of: Nordic Museum, Stockholm, NM.0020227, & historical facts from catalogue card. Creative Commons).

This skilfully made travel cushion in woollen embroidery is preserved in several similar examples from early 19th century and is sewn with chain, stem, satin stitching and knots, added with an embellishing “kavelfrans” (napped edgings). Marking in cross stitch ‘KPS KAD BKD 1813’. From: Hötofta, Oxie district, Skåne, Sweden. (Courtesy of: Nordic Museum, Stockholm, NM.0020227, & historical facts from catalogue card. Creative Commons).

Cushions and bedcovers of this design/technique were primarily embroidered in wealthy farmers’ homes from c. 1750s-1830s, where the embroideries were an important part of the young woman’s dowry, either made by herself, her mother or other female relatives. The style of the patterns were of a domestic character stitched with woollen yarn on woollen cloth, but the tradition of the designs were on the other hand rooted in earlier centuries’, often inspired from upper class or bourgeois silk satin stitched embroideries on home textile furnishing and clothing.

The same woollen embroidery is also used for one of the Nordic Museum’s postcards. This particular depiction is taken from an early 20th century catalogue card showing the object’s historical provenience and a beautifully made watercolour by Emelie von Walterstorff. [Photo Nordiska Museet]: postcard purchased at my visit to the Nordic Museum 2013.

The same woollen embroidery is also used for one of the Nordic Museum’s postcards. This particular depiction is taken from an early 20th century catalogue card showing the object’s historical provenience and a beautifully made watercolour by Emelie von Walterstorff. [Photo Nordiska Museet]: postcard purchased at my visit to the Nordic Museum 2013.

Several hundred of these beautiful woollen embroideries are preserved today in museum collections and private homes, once used as cushions to sit on, travel cushions or decorative bedcovers. The embroideries have been described in many Swedish books/articles through the years, but Ernst Fischer was the textile researcher who made the most comprehensive historical observations and writings on the subject (published 1971, in Swedish). He foremost described: the embroiderers, the history of the patterns, materials and stitching, how the motifs were drawn/copied and transferred to the fabric, signing and dating, most used colours, the significance of archive studies, preserved objects, embroidery in various classes of society together with detailed descriptions of more than 50 pattern combinations – as biblical figures, unicorns, elephants, horses, bridal couples, parrots, flowers, stars, garlands and geometrical designs in a myriad of combinations.

 Historical reproduction of woollen embroidery, detail from bedcover (1820) Ilstorp parish, Färs district, Skåne, Sweden. Photo and embroidery: Viveka Hansen.

Historical reproduction of woollen embroidery, detail from bedcover (1820) Ilstorp parish, Färs district, Skåne, Sweden. Photo and embroidery (1983): Viveka Hansen.

For my attempt to copy the embroidery type a detail from the so-called “Ilstorpstäcket” (the bedcover from Ilstorp) signed ‘SPD 1820’ was chosen – by Fisher named as ‘the Masterpiece of Embroidery in Art from Skåne’ – a bridal bedcover whose various designs can be found both before and after this date. The pictured horse (14×13 cm) is mainly done with long and short satin stitching, that is to say the motif on the front of the embroidery is covered with various lengths of satin stitches, while the stitching on the back is made as invisible as possible. This was an embroidery technique often preferred in the 18th- and early 19th centuries, when most of the hand spun and natural dyed woollen yarn in red, blue, green, yellow and brown decorated the front. While as little yarn as necessary would be wasted on the back, which were not for display and above all covered with a lining or backing fabric of simpler/plainer design. Even if this type of embroidery was dominated by the long and short satin stitching; ordinary satin stitch, knots, various stem stitching, chain-, feather-, fishbone- and interlacing stitches were often added. These stitches were often further personalised by the embroiderer’s skilled needle.

The reproduction was made with five colours of 2-ply woollen yarn in long and short satin stitching added with stem stitches on brownish black broad cloth. Photo: Viveka Hansen.

The reproduction was made with five colours of 2-ply woollen yarn in long and short satin stitching added with stem stitches on brownish black broad cloth. Photo: Viveka Hansen.

Sources.

  • Fisher, Ernst, Skånska Yllebroderier i fria sömsätt, Malmö Museum Year Book 1971 (in Swedish only).
  • Hansen, Viveka (Historical Reproduction/embroidery).
  • Digitalt Museum (many examples of “yllebroderi” woollen embroideries from Swedish museums).

PLEASE REFERENCE AS FOLLOWS:

  • Hansen, Viveka, ‘Historical Reproductions – Woollen Embroidery”’, TEXTILIS (September 25, 2014); http://textilis.net/ (Accessed: Day/Month/Year)