Hardanger embroidery is a form of embroidery traditionally worked with white thread on white even-weave cloth, using counted thread and drawn thread work techniques. It is sometimes called whitework embroidery.
The exact origins are not known but it is believed to have begun in ancient Persia and Asia and spread to Italy and Northern Europe. In the period between 1650-1850, Hardanger flourished in Norway and flax was grown and prepared to make white fabric and thread which was used to make and decorate traditional Norwegian costume items as well as other items of clothing (caps and aprons) and household linens.
Traditional Hardanger embroidery is worked with a thread (Pearl cotton) colour, usually white or cream, that matches the fabric (an evenweave with distinct holes). Many contemporary designs, however, use coloured, variegated and overdyed threads to great effect.
The traditional style of Hardanger work is very geometrical in form and based on shapes such as squares, rectangles, triangles, diamonds, hearts, zig-zags and crosses. The combination and placement of these elements allow an unlimited number of beautiful patterns.
Hardanger is still used to decorate tablecloths, runners, pillows, ornaments and framed samplers.