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

Many areas in Sweden developed their own specialised embroidery designs in various combinations depending on material, stitching, colours and practical uses in the 18th- and 19th centuries. Three of these local county embroidery styles have been discussed in earlier posts and here my aim is to share the history of three further local specialities. As in earlier posts the knowledge and experience of the subject is based on my own reproductions of details from these embroideries, together with a brief history and material analysis of each type known from previous research and museum collections’ notes. 

Embroidered pillow-case with 1-ply machine-spun cotton thread on cotton fabric, dated 1877 in so-called Delsbosöm; Delsbo district in Hälsingland, Sweden. As interestingly noted by the Nordic Museum: ‘The letter “H” in front of the female initials was common in Häsingland and stand for “Hustru”(Wife). The letter “I” in the same way means “Jungfru”(Maid), accordingly an unmarried woman’. (Courtesy of: Nordic Museum, Stockholm, NM.0144066, & historical facts & translated quote from catalogue card. Creative Commons).

Embroidered pillow-case with 1-ply machine-spun cotton thread on cotton fabric, dated 1877 in so-called Delsbosöm; Delsbo district in Hälsingland, Sweden. As interestingly noted by the Nordic Museum: ‘The letter “H” in front of the female initials was common in Hälsingland and stand for “Hustru”(Wife). The letter “I” in the same way means “Jungfru”(Maid), accordingly an unmarried woman’. (Courtesy of: Nordic Museum, Stockholm, NM.0144066, & historical facts & translated quote from catalogue card. Creative Commons).

Historical reproduction of Delsbosöm on linen with 2-ply cotton thread (satin- & stem stitches). As the original, my detail is primarily embroidered in one-sided satin stitching totally covering the motifs on the front, while only tiny seed stitching is visible on the back. Photo and embroidery: Viveka Hansen.

Historical reproduction of Delsbosöm on linen with 2-ply cotton thread (satin- & stem stitches). As the original, my detail is primarily embroidered in one-sided satin stitching totally covering the motifs on the front, while only tiny seed stitching is visible on the back. Photo and embroidery: Viveka Hansen.

The above embroidered original and reproduction are both showing Långsöm a type of design done with one-sided satin stitching, introduced in Hälsingland – mid Sweden – around 1840. However, at the turn of the century 1900 this sort of embroidery started to be called Delsbosöm (stitching from Delsbo) by the contemporary Handicraft movement “Hemslöjden”, for the reason that the technique was most popular by the women around the town Delsbo in that particular district. These textile decorations were primarily used to embellish pillow-cases, table cloths, wall-hangings and bedlinen. Furthermore, during the 1960s a substantial number of patterns cut in paper and birch-bark depicting stars, flowers, crowns, birds and baskets were rediscovered in Delsbo – ones used for sketching out the desired motifs on the fabric. The used motifs belong to an often replicated combination of patterns in Swedish folk art, but the inspiration/origin of the actual design in the Delsbosöm is uncertain.

Linen wall-hanging embroidered with cotton thread and dated 1848 in so-called Blekingesöm; Blekinge, Sweden. (Courtesy of: Nordic Museum, Stockholm, NM.0232890, & historical facts from catalogue card. Creative Commons).

Linen wall-hanging embroidered with cotton thread and dated 1848 in so-called Blekingesöm; Blekinge, Sweden. (Courtesy of: Nordic Museum, Stockholm, NM.0232890, & historical facts from catalogue card. Creative Commons).

Historical reproduction of Blekingesöm on linen with 2-ply linen thread (satin & stem stitches, variation of interlacing stitching & French knots). Photo and embroidery: Viveka Hansen.

Historical reproduction of Blekingesöm on linen with 2-ply linen thread (satin & stem stitches, variation of interlacing stitching & French knots). Photo and embroidery: Viveka Hansen.

Above-depicted detail of the wall-hanging embroidered 1848 and my reproduction of the same Blekingesöm, belong to a more free embroidery style which make one think of inspiration from East Indian fabrics and porcelain. While this stitching design is considered to have been introduced in the 1780s within vicarage families in the district of Blekinge in southern Sweden, it is highly probable that East Indian influences can be taken into account. The Swedish East India Company (1731-1813) had been trading for more than 50 years at this time and had had good opportunities to sell/spread their goods to influential groups of the society – from the kings and nobles, wealthy bourgeois, priesthood and comfortable farmers.

Furthermore the combination of stitching, advanced design of the motifs and large size embroideries demanded a trained hand, and this often meant professional female embroiderers who stitched these decorative interior textiles, searching their presumptive costumers by walking around to farmer’s homes, town houses etc. The embroidery design was extremely popular, with a peak around the 1790s to 1840s. The structure of the used colours also differ from other Swedish local folk embroideries; while pink, red, yellow, light- and dark blue cotton dominate in the Blekingesöm. In contrast with most other Swedish folk art embroideries including contrasting red, yellow, white, black, green and blue, or one/two colours only.

Linen wall-hanging embroidered with linen thread, dated 1843; Förlanda parish, Fjäre district, Halland, Sweden. (Courtesy of: Nordic Museum, Stockholm, NM.0076448, & historical facts from catalogue card. Creative Commons).

Linen wall-hanging embroidered with linen thread, dated 1843; Förlanda parish, Fjäre district, Halland, Sweden. (Courtesy of: Nordic Museum, Stockholm, NM.0076448, & historical facts from catalogue card. Creative Commons).

Historical reproduction of Hallandssöm on linen with 2-ply cotton thread (cross stem, chain & lattice stitches & variation of herringbone stitching). Photo and embroidery: Viveka Hansen.

Historical reproduction of Hallandssöm on linen with 2-ply cotton thread (cross stem, chain & lattice stitches & variation of herringbone stitching). Photo and embroidery: Viveka Hansen.

The two final images are depicting Hallandssöm or the stitching from Halland (in southern Sweden), both showing variations of tree of life in strict shapes with the stitching following the threads of the linen fabric. The technique was of use for household linen like pillow cases, but also for decorative wall-hangings, first and foremost during festivities to adorn the farmer’s walls and ceiling in the main room. Most preserved textiles of said type originate from mid 19th-century and following decades, dominantly embroidered with red or strong pinkish cotton thread – named as Turkish red.

Sources.

  • Hansen, Viveka, ‘Textilt överflöd från gamla blekingska hem – En textilhistorisk undersökning av bouppteckningar 1770-1870’, Blekingeboken, 1998, pp. 131-49. (in Swedish only)
  • Hansen, Viveka (Historical reproduction/embroideries).
  • Melén, Lisa, Landskapssömmar, Västerås 1970. (in Swedish only)
  • Digitalt Museum (including examples of these embroideries: “Halladssöm”, “Delsbosöm” and “Blekingesöm” from Swedish museums).

PLEASE REFERENCE AS FOLLOWS:

  • Hansen, Viveka, ‘Historical Reproductions – Local Swedish Embroideries’, TEXTILIS (January 6, 2015); http://textilis.net/ (Accessed: Day/Month/Year)