Swedish Embroidery

Wool Intarsia Animal, 15th Century

Intarsia Animal, c.15th Century

Background

Few examples of Swedish embroidery have survived from this period. Most of those come from grave finds such as those at Birka. Those that do survive show cultural and commerical links with eastern Europe and the Byzantine world. Textiles for the church were one of the main markets for embroidery. In Sweden both imported and native made works were used.

Materials Used

  • linen ground fabric (most common)
  • wool ground

Stitches and Techniques

  • stem stitch
  • split stitch
  • long-legged (long-armed) cross stitch
  • applique
  • Surface Couching
  • pattern darning
  • double-running stitch
  • Surface Couching

There were three basic techiques used:

  • freestyle designs executed with silk thread
  • patchwork and applique on wool
  • counted thread work using long-armed cross stitch , cross stitch or pattern darning (on wool or linen).

Design

Silk and Linen Hanging, 14th Century

Goldwork Roundal on Silk, 12th Century

The freestyle and silk embroideries were mostly created for ecclesiastical use. They were mostly created using satin stitch and split stitch but there are also examples of laid and couched work. Early works used geometric patterns but during later periods the designs become more free flowing. Outlines were emphasised by thicker threads.

Many surviving examples of ecclesiastical embroidery started life in the secular world and were later donated to the Church. A surviving example of this is a patchworked bed cover. The shaped patches have couched threads or gilt membrane strips between patches. This technique was also used for things such as cushion covers.

Needlework was also used to produce household furnishings such as wall hangings (often in the form of friezes), tablecloths and cushion covers. These types of articles were usually worked in cross stitch or long-armed cross stitch or darning on a wool or linen ground.

Common motifs for this type of work were stylised lilies, trees, stars and birds, arranged diagonally or symmetrically with a central access and often a polygon framework.

Extant Pieces

Links To Further Information

Sources / Further Reading

  • Bridgeman, H and Drury, E. Needlework: An Illustrated History , (London: Paddington Press, 1977)