The National Day of Sweden (sveriges nationaldag) had been called the Swedish Flag Day (svenska flaggans dag). Sweden does not celebrate an "independence day" because it has never been conquered or ruled by another country. June 6th was chosen as the appropriate date because Gustav Vasa was elected the King of Sweden on this date in 1523 and was considered the beginning of modern Sweden. Tvistsöm is a very Scandinavian needlework technique. In the Norweave article, the stitch for Tvistsöm was introduced.

The cross-stitch stitch morphed into a unique stitch in Scandinavian needlework. This stitch actually became more popular than a cross-stitch in some areas and is called the long-armed cross stitch. The stitcher used a loose weave fabric called tvistur which does not have a good translation into English. This fabric along with the long-armed cross-stitch evolved into a technique known as: Tvistsöm (Swedish) and Twistsøm (Norwegian) embroidery. Loosely translated this means twisted seam (stitch).

This technique created very sturdy pieces when done on canvas, so it was used for cushions and wall hangings. Many of the remaining examples were found in the Skåne region of Sweden where it was also used for ecumenical items. Here is a modern day example of Tvistsöm from Angelhom which is in the Skåne province.

This translates literally to "Welcome to us" but means "Welcome to our home". This piece is completely covered in long-arm cross stitches on Penelope canvas and measures 11" x 15".

As with many other ethnic needleart forms, the original designs were more geometric and reflected nature and the Tree of Life. Mythology played a big part in Swedish life so there are also creatures and gods. The fiber colors varied by region depending on what materials were available for the dyes. Some common color combinations are seen still today such as red and blue on white; light blue and yellow on natural; blue, gold, yellow and white. Earth tones were also very popular like the example, Välkommen.

What is interesting about the example is it appeared at first glance the stitcher used variegated threads, but that is not the case. This is actually accomplished with two different colored threads being stitched together. This was a very common practice which added more color and depth to the project when the thread choices were limited.

Another way the stitcher added interest is by turning the work 90 degrees to stitch a section. Look closely at this section of leaves to see how the different colors and direction of stitching make the leaves stand out.

Your workbasket is going to contain the items you would have for a cross-stitch project. To learn more about the basic supplies required, you can refer to the this cross-stitch article.

Let’s get to the technical part of this technique. The design is done almost entirely with the long-armed cross-stitch. This stitch has also been known by other names such as the plait stitch, plaited Algerian stitch, Portuguese cross, Greek stitch (which appears to have a line stitched between the two worked rows of long stitch. old Icelandic cross stitch.

Resources show the stitch starting and stopping differently. The American Needlepoint Guild (ANG) shows starting with a normal cross stitch. The A-Z of Embroidery Stitches and The Embroidery Stitch Book shows it starting with the long armed stitch and no compensating beginning stitch. The Stitch Sampler seems to indicate the compensating stitch in their pictures as does several websites.

Long-Arm Cross Stitch »

Option 3 with a compensating stitch at the beginning and at the end of the row or column gives a fuller stitch and doesn’t allow the fabric to show through the stitch.

Tips and Tricks

  • Tvistsöm should be worked in hand and not in a frame because you are consistently turning your work so you stitch from left to right. As you get used to this stitch, you can learn how to stitch the next row from right to left without turning your work!
  • If you are turning your work, be sure to mark the top of your piece somehow. You can make a stitch and tie it off in the far upper right hand corner.
  • When the stitch is worked correctly, the back of your piece will have all vertical stitches and be very neat! Note that if you purposely change the direction of your stitch, your back will change also! Here is a diagram of how two rows are worked showing the stitch on the back side.

You can do the Tvistsöm stitch using any cross stitch or counted canvas type pattern.

Here is how counting the stitches would look on a graph and how that translates into the actual stitch.

When figuring how much fabric you need, it is important that each stitch is actually 2 fabric threads wide and 2 fabric threads tall. To figure the fabric, the formula is:

The number of stitches multiplied by 2 (each stitch is two fabric threads) divided by your fabric count

So, if you had a design that was 100 stitches wide by 250 stitches tall and you wanted to use 18-count fabric, here is how you figure that out.

WIDTH: 100 x 2 / 18 = 11.11"
HEIGTH: 250 x 2 / 18 = 27.77"

Remember, this is just the design area so you need to add at least 2 inches to each side for stitching and finishing.

Swedish Hearts – Svenska Hjärtan

In honor of the National Day of Sweden, here is a free pattern, Swedish Hearts, which can be done in Tvistsöm, counted cross stitch or counted canvas. The entire design should actually be worked so that all the fabric is covered, but only the blue and yellow sections have been stitched in the example.

This is stitched on 18-count fabric with DMC Floss in colors 798 and 725 using 3 strands of floss.

In addition to the large chart, each section has been graphed showing the Tvistsöm stitch.

Download the FREE PATTERN »

Hopefully you have enjoyed this look at Tvistsöm.

We hope this guide makes your stitching easier and more enjoyable!

For those interested in using this article or others published by Nordic Needle, Inc., please use this copy when referencing the information:

“The following article was published by Nordic Needle in their weekly e-mail newsletter. Permission was granted to share this article in (name of your publication). For information on subscribing to their newsletter, visit”

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