101: Hardanger

Nordic Needle had a booth at the Scandinavian Festival in Moorhead, Minnesota, in June. When we talked with people, many had stories about their mothers and other relatives who had done Hardanger embroidery. When asked why they did not try it, they said it looked so intricate it must be a hard technique to learn. Others confessed they would not do Hardanger Embroidery because they were afraid of the cutting. This got us to thinking about a subject we could do once a quarter. Welcome to the first installment of


Today we are going to take an in depth look at how to stitch the kloster block and to survive the cutting. Remember our working order is:

  • Satin Stitch
  • Eyelets
  • Buttonhole
  • Cutwork
  • Filling stitches, which are always LAST!!!

For an overview of the threads, fabrics, and stitching accessories used for Hardanger Embroidery, please refer back to our June 9, 2008, newsletter.


The satin stitch is the basic stitch of Hardanger embroidery and the kloster block is the foundation. It is formed with satin stitches. They are done in blocks of five satin stitches which cover four fabric threads. The designs are geometric and form the border of the area to be cut. Your kloster blocks can be either in a stair-step (diagonal) pattern or in a straight line.

Stair-step Kloster block
Stair-Step Kloster
Straight Kloster block
Straight Kloster

The kloster block is stitched with the heavier of your two threads. It doesn’t matter if you stitch your blocks right to left, clock wise or counter clock wise. Gina Marion in her book "Classic Hardanger" (1901) recommends that you stitch each block from the bottom to the top so they look even. (page 13). Jill Carter’s illustrations in "Beginner’s Guide to Hardanger" (0717) shows the stitching from top to bottom. The key is to become uniform in how YOU stitch YOUR blocks. One reason is your thread has a twist to it which could look different when stitched from different directions.

TIP: Find a way to mark the top of your design. I like to take a small stitch in the upper right hand corner of my work and tie it into a knotted bow. Now I can turn my fabric as I work and still be able to tell which way is up.



Beginning with the first block (1a) you will notice that the needle will be working at an angle, but the stitch must always run straight with the threads of the fabric. On the first stitch of the second block, pivot the needle in the corner hole (1b) and bring the needle up four threads away. Then return to the corner hole (1c) and complete the remaining satin stitches.

When you stitch, you want the back to look as neat as possible both front and back. When you turn your piece over, there should be blocks of stitches. One block will have 4 threads while the other will have 6 threads. On the stair step kloster blocks they should meet at the corners. You do NOT want a corner where the thread goes diagonally to the corner of the next block.


A Kloster block can take on many shapes. One of the most common is when the satin blocks are stitched in a geometric pattern. The blocks must line up vertically and horizontally, so check your work often. Here is an example of a finished kloster block that has been cut to allow needle weaving. Also, there are some additional stair step lines included in the design.

Stair-step Kloster block


Stitch the first block just as you did above with five threads covering four fabric threads. If you work from the bottom up then on the last stitch your needle will be in the upper most corner stitch. Count over four threads and bring your needle through at the bottom most corner. There will be a diagonal thread on the back when stitching the straight line. This is important!! Here is an example of a straight line kloster block and design lines.

Straight Kloster block

Some filling designs call for a series of kloster blocks to be stitched in a solid line. You will need to look at the design and carefully count how many stitches you are to make. Here is an example of this type of kloster block. Notice there are four short stitches then five longer stitches with four short stitches to complete one side!

Kloster block


Many people absolutely are terrified when it coming to cutwork. Jean Mann, our beloved Hardanger embroidery instructor confessed that even she avoided cutwork when she was learning Hardanger. Jean said she would come into the store and search through the books and patterns to find designs with little or no cutting. However, she admitted that now when she designs her pieces, she does lots of cutwork. Without the cutting there is no way to stitch and experiment with all the beautiful filling stitches. She has a great point!

Roz has given us these thoughts about cutting: "Cutting is probably the most important factor in the Hardanger technique. When the threads are not cut close to the satin stitch blocks, the little "nubs" left can be very distracting to the overall beauty of the piece. It is important to insert the tip of your embroidery scissors in at one end of the four fabric threads you are cutting and bring the tip of the scissors out after the fourth thread along the satin stitch blocks. Be sure you can see the tip of the scissors as it comes out of the fabric. Before you snip, gently push the stitches back and turn the blade of your scissors toward the stitches so you can get to the base of the fabric weave. Use your thumbnail to pull the fabric away from the blade. When you can clearly see the four threads you are cutting and that it is close to the stitches but not cutting them, then you can snip. If you still have little nubs, use the very point of your sharp and fine embroidery scissors to snip off each little nub. Some fabrics are more difficult to get a clean cut with, such as congress cloth. Linens are easier because the weave is looser and it is easier to move the stitches back to get a closer cut."

An absolute must is a good pair of thin, sharp embroidery scissors. I had a pretty good pair in my Victorian scissors (7224). Then I bought a pair of the Dovo 3.5" Satin finish Embroidery Scissors (305-235-0002). Oh my, I feel so much more confident when I cut. The blades are thin and sharp. I can easily pick up four threads and clip them all at one time. Best tip I can give you is to invest in a great pair of sharp, thin scissors.

If you have a large area to cut, you don’t want to do it all at one time. Cut enough area to start your grid and needle weaving. When you are done with that section, cut some more grid and continue needle weaving. This will help your fabric retain its shape.


All is not lost if you accidently cut the wrong fabric thread or your satin stitching.

Clip an extra thread….

If you clip just one end of the thread by mistake, sometimes you can do your needle weaving and catch that loose end weaving it in as you stitch. If you have some delicate or intricate needle weaving to do you may wish to weave a new fabric thread into your piece using the technique below.

If you have cut the fabric thread at both ends then remove the thread. If you have enough fabric on the edge of your piece, carefully unravel one fabric thread. Secure the end of the fabric thread under nearby kloster blocks and then "reweave" the missing fabric thread, going over and under the cross threads to the other side. Secure the end. If you can’t unravel your fabric edges or the stitching is too tight to weave through the fabric thread, then choose a pearl cotton in a smaller size and reweave the missing fabric thread.

Satin stitching is cut…..

I personally have a bottle of fray check (6622) nearby when I cut. A drop can repair a slightly snipped satin thread especially if the piece will be framed.

However, if you have a piece that will be used or you cut a lot of the satin stitching, then you will need to undo several kloster blocks on each side. Get enough of a tail to be able to secure the end of the threads in the remaining stitched blocks. Stitch the kloster blocks again with a new thread, being extra careful in the areas you have already cut.

If you cut a large area or the wrong edge of a kloster block, you will need to spend more time reweaving and cutting threads. A good resource is Elegant Hardanger Embroidery by Yvette Stanton (0590).

My best suggestion is to get a piece of fabric and start a doodle cloth. Stitch a lot of kloster blocks and then cut. I think if you step out and try some needle weaving designs you will get hooked. And like Jean says, you can’t needle weave until you cut. We have some excellent resources for additional tips, tricks, and patterns.

We hope these "helpful hints" make 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 written by Debi Feyh and Ryan Evelyth of Nordic Needle and published in their weekly e-mail newsletter. Permission was granted by Nordic Needle to share this article in (name of your publication). For information on subscribing to their weekly e-mail newsletter, visit www.nordicneedle.com. A free mail-order catalog is available to you upon request if you live in the USA or Canada.”

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