Saturday, June 4, 2011

Norwegian Finery

Sasha and her doll in Norwegian traditional costumes.

The underdress with Hardanger hem.
Around 100 years ago my great-grandfather, just 17 years old and speaking no English, boarded a ship for America. Now we, his many descendants, have mostly lost our Norwegian. This is really sad to me; my grandfather spoke Norwegian in the home as a child and retained it until his death at the age of 91. But he felt his children should be "real" Americans and speak only English. We do evidently retain our accent to some extent. One of my sorority sisters, upon meeting my mother said, "NOW I know why you talk so funny!"

I do regret the loss of so much of that heritage. Of course it gets diluted here in America. I am less than half Norwegian, around half Swiss, and the rest consists of no less than five known nationalities! Which one would you choose? I am descended from the Vikings, but also from the family of Joan of Arc! We are certainly closest to the Norwegian side, as we still have cousins living there. In the 1980s my grandparents went for a visit and brought back the little doll Sasha holds. They also brought back several stunning examples of Hardanger cloth made by my aunt? cousin?, Gerd.

Hardanger is white cutwork embroidery named for the region in Norway where it originated. It is similar to some English whitework, except that it features more geometric patterns. So ingrained into the Norwegian homelife, Hardanger is featured on everything from tablecloths to curtains to clothing. As an adult I was fascinated to find even the tiny tourist doll shown has an apron featuring a Hardanger hem. I decided, despite the difficulty, to try to teach myself Hardanger. Incredibly, I actually came across several instruction books in Norwegian here in a Garner fabric store around 20 years ago. Picking my way through the Norwegian, which I cannot speak, I taught myself by producing the doll dress shown with a Hardanger hem. I was unable to find Hardanger cloth, so it was doubly hard, as Hardanger is a counted cutwork embroidery. Recently, again in Garner, I ran across some Hardanger cloth, so look for more projects to come!

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