Hooked on Hedebo (Roger Buhr)

Next, as an added little gift, I would like to introduce you to Roger Buhr. Roz had been in contact with Roger as a possible Featured Stitcher. When she learned that Roger concentrated on Hedebo she thought perhaps his information would better fit in a technique’s newsletter. Roger has written a wonderful article on Hedebo. Before I share his article, let me tell you a little bit about him. Roger is a retired pastor in the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA). He will celebrate his 50th anniversary of ordination in June, 2013. He and his wife, Gale, live in Iowa. His love of Hedebo began around 1985 when he stitched his first square doily. Roger sometimes spends 2 hours a day working on his projects. However, he keeps very busy with some of his other hobbies, including gardening, flower arranging, photography, and calligraphy. He also sings with Luren Singers, the oldest Norwegian American Male Chorus in the United States.

Roger shared that when people see his pieces they think they are tatted or crocheted. Most people have never heard of Hedebo, so he enjoys sharing this old form of needlework with them. He explains that despite looking very difficult to do, it’s relatively easy and consists of basic thread rings and pyramids. His words of wisdom to them are “As with any form of needlework, practice is essential in mastering a technique.”

Roger says

“I enjoy creating new patterns and pieces, so it is a way of expressing my God-given gift of creativity. Watching TV can just occupy time, but doing Hedebo at the same time makes me feel productive. I often tuck a small piece in with a get well card or a Christmas card, so it gives me pleasure to share my work.”

On his wish list is to design a creche using Hedebo for his wife who has a collection of over 200 sets.

Roger would love to hear from you if you have a Hedebo question or experience.

Thank you Roger for letting me share your photos and article on Hedebo!

Hooked on Hedebo

by Roger Buhr

I need to begin by stating that I have no Danish ancestry or heritage. Twenty-four years ago I was visiting Ida Rasmussen in Alden, MN, which is a Danish community. I noticed a piece of framed needlework on the wall of her home. I knew it wasn’t tatting, crocheting or knitting. When I ask Ida what it was, she identified it as Modersom. “mother’s sewing”.

Ida had just returned from a trip to Bergtun, Norway, where she had visited her 90 year old aunt, Anna Gjerstad Anna was proficient in this type of needlelace. She told Ida, “I must teach you how to do this needlework so that the technique is not lost.” In one hour Anna taught Ida as much as she could.

I was intrigued by how this form of needlework was done. I asked Ida if she would teach me what she had learned from her aunt. That was the beginning of my love affair with Hedebo. (pronounced HAY-the-bow or HAY-ta-bow). Ida taught me as much as she remembered. Then I asked Ida if I could take a piece home with me in order to study it further and learn more about the technique.

I used a strong light and a magnifying glass and discovered more of the intricacies of Hedebo, so basically I am self taught. At that time there were no books with instructions or information about it. I practiced making rings and pyramids. In time I became creative and discovered that I could put them together in interesting patterns.

Eventually I took Anna Gjerstad’s piece to Dr. Marion Nelson at the Norwegian American Museum in Decorah, Iowa, and ask him for more information about it. He recognized the work because the museum had an identical piece in its collection. The museum also had a large dress collar and cuffs on display which were worked on very fine white linen fabric with white linen thread. He correctly identified it as Hedebo.

Today one can find several books on hedebo or go online and get all kinds of information. In Danish it is called “Hedebosyning”, which literally translated means “Hedebo sewing”. In Norwegian it is called “Hedebosom”.

Reading various sources, I have discovered that Hedebo has gone through a number of distinct forms, each being popular during a specific time frame and then declining in significance while another form took precedence. The oldest form dates back to the early 1800’s and was done by peasant women who lived (bo) in a triangular area on a treeless plain, known as the heath (heden) between Copenhagen, Roskilde and Koge. In 2008, I attended a lecture on white work (hvitsom) by Jetta Roy Finlay Heath. (She is from Denmark but now lives in England.) She displayed pieces that she had done from each of Hedebo’s forms. I am quite limited in that I only do the type that comes from its final period (Udklipshedebo). This is what most people associate with Hedebo today. It uses various buttonhole stitches to form pyramids, bars and other motifs. The patterned shapes can be worked directly on a piece of fabric as an insert, constructed first and then attached to fabric, or worked without fabric as plain needle lace. I prefer to do the needle lace without fabric because small projects can be done in a short amount of time. These pieces are also helpful in teaching students some of the basic stitches.

I like to refer to Hedebo as “thread art” because it allows for great individual expression. Someone has called Hedebo “a world of variations”. I have created patterns for lamp shades, throw pillow coverings, Christmas tree ornaments, and sun catchers. Incorporating colored thread has also increased possibilities for new effects. I basically do it for my own satisfaction or to use as gifts and generally do not sell my work. I find it to be a relaxing hobby and enjoy doing it while watching TV in the evening. It also keeps my fingers nimble and the arthritis away!

I understand that in 1988, a Hedebo museum was established on a farm at Grevegaard, Denmark. Danish women were asked to go through old trunks and send them historic pieces. The response was overwhelming and many beautiful pieces are on display there today.

One surprise I encountered in my journey with Hedebo is that many people of Danish heritage have never heard of it. Another surprise was that I found no examples of it for sale in the shops in the airport at Copenhagen when I passed through in 2007. I think it is a Danish national treasure so I do what I can to acquaint people with its artistic beauty.

December, 2011


  • Marianne Lotzbeck and Jvtte Harboesgaard, Kniplingssyning fra Hedebo-egnen, Trykthos Reproset, Kobernhavn, 1995
  • Gjertrd Saglie, Hedebosom, Landbruksforlaget, 1982
  • Articles from the Internet
  • “Hedebo Embroidery and Women”
  • “Hedebo Embroidery in Copenhagen”
  • “Hedebo Embroidery over the Generations”
  • “Hedebo Embroidery on the Heath”
  • “Hedebo Embroidery in Denmark”
  • “Hedebo Embroidery in the World”

Here is some of Roger’s work

This is a sampler in which I show 36 fillings for a thread ring. There are more!

This is a sofa pillow.

This is a snowflake ornament for the Christmas tree.

The patterns don’t always have to be white. Check out this pansy sun catcher.

This Valentine tree contains 24 hearts that are all the same basic pattern but with 24 variations.

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 written by Debi Feyh 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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