Hedebo embroidery, one of the most popular forms of Danish needlework, takes its name from the stretch of heath (hede) that lies between Copenhagen (Kjoge) and Roskildein Denmark. From time immemorial the peasantry who lived (live = 60) there have spun and woven their own linen from the flax grown on their farms, and their pride in their homemade articles was very great. This led to a desire to further ornament their garments and household linen, and the idea of drawing out some of the threads and rearranging them with a needle and thread was their first attempt at Hedebo stitchery. This probably began as early as the fifteenth century. From these first simple patterns the peasant women of the Hedebo district invented and improved stitches and designs from year to year, until a very high standard of art industry was attained.
A COLLAR IN HEDEBO EMBROIDERY.
See next page for article on this work.
A PILLOW CASE IN HEDEBO EMBROIDERY.
ANOTHER HEDEBO COLLAR FOR UNDERWEAR.
A STOLPE-KLAEDE. USED IN DENMARK IN PAST YEARS AS WALL HANGINGS-.
Flax played an important part in connection with the love affairs of these people. The peasant lad carved some implement used for the preparing of flax:, and presented it to his lady-love as a prelude to the formal proposal. And her first gift to her betrothed was a flaxen shirt with elaborately-wrought collar, front and wristbands. In due course the happy home was made beautiful with hangings of various descriptions in Hedebo work. Over the bedstead was a frieze; between the two doors leading to the kitchen and the passage was a panel. Other items that were the ornaments of every peasant homestead were sham towels and pillow-cases.
These peasant women worked solely for the love of it, for the embroidery itself was not known or recognised outside their sphere, and was therefore of no market value. So great was the fascination of the stitchery that the workers would often forego a night's rest in order to finish a piece of work.
And even where the husband was averse - as was sometimes the case-to any such "fancy-work," the spell of it was irresistible, and the embroidery was consequently executed clandestinely. History relates of one girl who was told to dig a pit in a field for some stones. When the digging was finished, she sat down to rest.for a few minutes. The Hedebo needlework, hidden in her pocket, came out, and she was about to enjoy a little of this pleasanter occupation, when she saw her father coming. To return it to her pocket would only attract his attention to her delinquency. So she hastily flung it into the pit, and covered it with earth, meaning to unearth it as soon as he had disappeared. But she was discovered, and her stern parent, without a word, rolled some stones into the pit and covered them with earth. The long-cherished treasure therefore remained buried for evermore.
The evolution of the Hedebo style is interesting. Up to 1815 the patterns consist of highly conventionalised drawings of flowers and animals on a background of laboriously-wrought drawn-thread work. Then it passes through another phase. The style is still the same -stiff figures - but with the linen itself as background (about 1830). Then the style undergoes a great change
A STOLPE-KLAEDE. THESE WERE HUNG BETWEEN TWO DOORS IN THE LIVING ROOM.
A "KNAE-DUG" IN PAST YEARS THESE WERE USED IN DENMARK AS WALL HANGINGS, IN THE LIVING-ROOM BY THE HEARTH.
The flower motifs become richer and freer; there is also greater variety of stitches in the open-work, which is profusely embellished with chain-stitch embroidery in rows, circles and scrolls; the designs are graceful and the general effect is very lovely. About 1840 Hedebo embroidery reaches its zenith, of beauty and perfection; the open-work motifs present a still greater variety of stitches, and the work is, moreover, richly ornamented with garlands of flowers in satin-stitch embroidery. The stitchery of this period is exquisite, both as regards design and execution.
Now follows the decline of the work, showing the artifices used for studying the effect to the detriment of the actual work; for instance, the trick of cutting out instead of drawing the threads, the long loose chain stitches instead of the previous careful ones, lovingly, almost reverently, done. All this contributed to the degradation of the beautiful old art.
Hedebo embroidery was sadly on the wane when some needlework experts decided to revive it. The best Hedebo designs were bought or borrowed and thoroughly examined, much time and money being expended, and "The Society for the Revival of Hedebo Work" was formed. Although it did not possess any capital, various difficulties were overcome by those interested in the work. The Art and Industrial School for Women offered the newly-formed society a flat free of rent, clever artists gave designs, and the Directress of the Art and Industrial School undertook the responsibility of leadership. T*he Society, whose aim it is to revive the art and to apply it with a view to modern requirements, is growing rapidly, and has now 270 members. The best forms of Hedebo needlework are taught to its members, and such work as passes the criticism of the consulting needlework specialist is bought by the society. All the work done by the members is designed by the artists of the society, and twice a week members can get advice as to their patterns. The work of this society is becoming very well known both in and out of Denmark, and it possesses many exquisite designs from which to study the styles. But its aim is also to improve the art if possible, and no effort seems too great for them so that they attain this end. And a large collection of "revived" work, exquisitely designed and executed, testifies to a result that must be highly gratifying.
DETAIL OF HEDEBO " STOLPE-KLAEDE" SHOWN ON PAGE 108.
It is an interesting fact that the majority of the initiators of this society are men - University Professors of the Danish Royal Academy of Art, and other eminent artists and architects. It is therefore not surprising that when first-rate needlework experts took up the work under such guidance, its delicate beauty should be restored, for it has been revived with tenderness for itself as well as with reverence for its creators - the women who lived on the Roskilde Heath.
We are not dealing with the actual working of Hedebo Embroidery in this book, as full details of all the stitches appear in the companion volume, The Home Art Book of Fancy Stitchery.
ANOTHER BEAUTIFUL "KNAE-DUG.".