Hedebo Embroidery over the Generations


Daughters changed their mothers´ embroidery, even in the 19th century. The photo shows how a border of cut thread work and "hvidsøm" from a decorative towel has been edged with a newer crocheting, and made into a cushion used in the 1920 living room at Grevegaard.

One of Denmark’s textile historians from the 20th century proclaimed that there was no greater embroidery activity in any other part of the country than on the heath at Sealand. It is not clear if this is true or not. Certainly Hedebo Embroidery is a very unique tradition, which has led to the creation of these white textiles, preserved and changed by following generations.

Pieces of Hedebo Embroidery were passed on from one generation to the other. At the end of the 1870s, when the Danish Folk Museum declared Hedebo Embroidery a national treasure, there were many beautiful examples of their female ancestors’ embroidery in the peasants’ farm houses. The attention given to Hedebo embroidery in the period from 1870 to 1920 is likely to have strengthened the tendency to hold on to these embroideries. In the middle of the 20th century the Danish Popular Embroideries Society succeeded in locating and registering several hundred Hedebo embroideries in their many hiding places. The museums in the Hedebo area and in Copenhagen have many Hedebo embroideries in their collections, and continue to receive more. Today at least 25 local cultural history museums outside the Hedebo area have Hedebo embroideries in their collections.

Age of the embroideries
Hedebo Embroidery has often been dated by the year included in the needle lace, or by stipulating the age from the variation and composition. There is a question, however, as to what these dates really express. A woman, who in her youth had learnt one variation, may have continued to use this even though new variations were introduced. Whole sections of a decorative towel could be replaced, so that only a trained eye could detect the renewal, and a monogram and a date may refer to a woman’s wedding day, rather than to the age of the sewing. Maybe the bride had replaced the old monogram and date with new ones. We do know that certain variations and compositions peaked in large numbers in certain periods, and that there is a chronological development in the variations of Hedebo Embroidery.

Analyses of the individual textiles give rise to the belief that several women have worked on the same piece of Hedebo Embroidery, or that one woman has decorated a textile with an intermission of several years. This thesis is due to the mixture of very advanced and unskilled techniques, stitches and compositions on some textiles. A woman may have ‘modernised’ her mother’s stitches without having her experience and skills. Or, a woman may finish a Hedebo embroidery after a long intermission. An embroidery she herself began when her eyes and hands had the suppleness and calmness of youth. Several of the exhibited embroideries consist of different qualities of linen, where later variations have been patched onto older ones. Other examples clearly show how an old collar can be added to, with new needle lace in buttonhole stitches, or a new border of ”Baldyring” net.

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