August 27, 2012 Print this article (information only)Click here to print this article

While I was researching the newsletter on Pulled Thread, I came across several references to hemstitching. For some unknown reason, hemstitching has been a technique that I have tried to stay very far away from. Perhaps it is some deep-seated psychological issue about finishing a project? Then things happened to push me towards using hemstitching as the next newsletter. Fiber Arts Festival was this month and they do the coolest thing to get people involved. You can earn a sticker by going to the various demonstration booths. Once you earn 5 stickers you can pick a "prize" out of the goody box. I picked out this packet of books and patterns. To my horror, well not quite that bad, I found an entire pattern book on hemstitching and a Creative Needle issue from 1986 detailing several hemstitches. It was like I was being stalked! Since I needed a newsletter subject, I decided to face my deepest fears and find out just what hemstitching is all about.

One of the first things I do is to research the history. You have to figure that hemstitching has been around for a very long time, but there isn't much written about it. As the name implies, its original purpose was to finish the hem. Then probably as people had more time to stitch and ornamentation became more important, hemstitching became more elaborate. All the sources called it drawn thread because you withdraw fabric threads to create the open area to do the fancy work. Drawn thread examples have been found dating clear back to the 1st century, so by definition alone, one could assume hemstitching has had a long life.

Despite the name, hemstitching is not limited to just the hem. It can be used for further ornamentation on the fabric. In fact, the hemstitched design can get quite ornate. Perhaps it was my naive thought that hemstitching was plain and only used to finish an edge that caused me to shy away from it. Since I paid so little attention to it in the past, I was amazed to find several of the linens I purchased during my trip to Kansas had hemstitched edges.

Now that I realized the purpose of and possibilities for doing the hemstitch, I decided to try it. The fabric should be one with a weave that allows you to easily remove the fabric thread. One of the reasons for this step was to create a guide line where the edge was folded to and then stitched down. Originally the same color thread, or even the withdrawn thread, was used so the stitch was virtually invisible. Today, you can use contrasting threads to create even more interest and design.

You want to use tapestry needles for hemstitching. It is important not to split a fabric thread and sometimes that is easy to do especially when you are doing some of the fancier twists. Whether or not you use a hoop or frame, is up to you. Some references said to use a frame while others said this was a great project to take with you because you did not need a frame. I tried it both ways and found that when I started doing the twisted and more intricate designs, I needed a frame to keep my tension even. I used Q-snaps because I could twist the plastic pieces on the side to lessen or increase the fabric tension. Scissors with fine points were a big help in making sure I clipped the correct fabric threads.

I wanted to make my examples large enough to see, so I used 20-count Natural Jasmin-Floba (1-520) with DMC Pearl Cotton Size #8 thread in just a slightly darker color #842.


I soon learned that the most time consuming part of the process is withdrawing the threads. For many samplers, you are told do a satin stitched edge and cut your threads like a Kloster block in Hardanger embroidery. However, for an actual hemstitch, you often cut your fabric thread several inches ahead of where you want to actually end. You unweave that fabric thread to the point you want your hem to stop. Then you thread your needle and carefully weave the fabric thread out several stitches towards the edge.

TIP: When you are pulling your fabric threads, be sure to pull the horizontal threads far enough to expose the correct number of vertical threads. What I am trying to say, is if your design element uses threads in multiples of four, you need to be sure your exposed vertical threads are divisible by 4.


The basic hemstitch is the straight hemstitch.

Straight Hemstitch »

Here are a couple more things you can do with these pairs of bars.

Tie two pairs together with a coral knot. You will secure your thread in the right edge and come out in the center of the open space shown as A. Lay your thread over the top of the next two pairs and bring your needle above the thread and down in the open space to the right of the first pair. Bring the point of your needle up between the second and third pair and within the loop created by the needle. Gently pull your needle through adjusting the location of the coral knot as you tighten the knot. Here is the chart. Keep in mind that each fabric line in the open space is actually a pair of threads that we have already straight hemstitched.

Through the use of the coral knot you can create a lot of patterns. For example, here is what happens if you group your coral knots over 4 pair and then individually over a single pair four times.

Want to be even more creative?

Anchor a new thread at the top of the right edge. Do another coral knot over the top of the one tying the four pair together. Now go to the individual pair and do a coral knot half way up the top of that pair. Do that for the remaining three individual pairs. Do a coral knot on top of the group of four pair. Now, drop down and do coral knots along the middle of the lower half of the individual pairs. To make a coral knot on the bottom you have to reverse your loop and bring your needle up from the bottom. If you don't do this, it isn't really a knot.

You begin to create a wave. You can choose to leave it like this or do coral knots on one more pass.

Anchor another new thread at the bottom of the right edge. Do a coral knot over all the other knots on the four pair. You should have 14 "spokes" coming out of this motif now. Work your way across creating the opposite "wave".

Here are two examples from the Kansas trip that used this technique to create a pattern. I especially like how the stitcher did some needleweaving with the resulting spokes.

Another neat trick you can do with the pairs is to twist them. Some books called this inverted threads. The key to success is to just use the tip of your needle. I am used to putting the needle clear through the pairs and pulling through. Don't do that! You have to have wiggle room to "flip" the tip of your needle the other direction. It really was quite fun once I got the hang of it. I think I had to rip it out at least 4 times before it finally sunk in. This didn't chart well, so I tried to take some step-by-step photos.

Go over two pair and insert your needle underneath the second pair and over the first pair. Don't push your needle through. With the tip just past the first pair tip your needle forward into the hole. Keep going and rotate the tip of your needle all the way around so it is now facing to the left. Bring the tip out so you are pulling your thread over the top of the unworked pairs. Gently pull your thread and your pairs will twist and the thread will go through the middle of them.

Now let's get really creative, or is it crazy, with four pair!

Place your needle over the next 3 pair and reverse to go right under the third pair and pull the thread through.

Now, going to the left, place your needle under the first and the third pairs and pull slightly to bunch the pairs together. You are half way there! Tug on your thread to the right to lift the twisted pairs out of the way. Go over and back under the fourth pair and over the pair hidden underneath the twisted pairs (it is actually the second pair). Don't push your needle through very far because you are going to take the needle down in the hole and twist it around so it is now pointing to the left. Gently pull the thread to the left and both twisted pairs should settle into place with the working thread running through the center of the twists! Pretty cool! Here is what the twists look like if you have two pair and four pair, compared to a single bar with a coral knot.

One thing that frustrated me was that the designs or patterns don't appear to have standard names like other stitches. So, I am calling this one the basic zigzag hemstitch. Instead of pulling together two fabric threads, try pulling together four fabric threads. Do this first along the inside (or bottom) edge.

Flip your piece over so you are stitching right to left again. The stitch is the same, but begin by gathering just two threads together in the first stitch. The remainder of the stitches will have four threads. This will cause the threads to create a zigzag in the open space.

Now you have learned three simple stitches - straight hemstitch to create pairs (bars), coral knots, and zigzags. Now take these and let your imagination go to create all sorts of patterns. Gather up groups of three pairs with a coral know, then do a spider web around the spokes. You can use any of the needleweaving designs in the spaces between the spokes. Put your Hardanger stitches to work with some needleweaving between the bars or try wrapping some of the bars together. If you like the knots you can alternate where you put the coral knots. If you add several rows of coral knots in a wave pattern you get the look of bobbin lace.

Here are some resources available on hem stitching.

I hope you have a little bit of fun with hemstitching. There will likely be a follow up newsletter because I have found a ton of really fun stitches that will let your imagination and creativity go wild. In fact, I may have found a new favorite technique!!

People Making a Difference

Last newsletter we talked briefly about Laurel Burch. Laurel suffered from a rare bone disease, osteopetrosis. It is not the same as osteoporosis. The Osteopetrosis website is dedicated to educating the public and connecting people with this disease. From their website "Osteopetrosis is a rare congenital disorder (present at birth) in which the bones become overly dense. This results from an imbalance between the formation of bone and the breakdown of the bone. There are several types of osteopetrosis of varying severity. Symptoms can include fractures, frequent infections, blindness, deafness, and strokes. Osteopetrosis is also known as Albers-Schonberg Disease, Ivory Bones, and Marble Bones. Osteopetrosis is a congenital disease characterized in each of its forms by defective osteoclast function. Osteoclasts are the cells responsible for bone resorption. They are necessary for the formation of bone marrow. In people with osteopetrosis, osteoclasts do not function normally and the cavity for bone marrow does not form. This causes bones that appear dense on x-ray and cannot resist average stressors and therefore break easily. The condition is quite rare; incidences have been reported at 1 in 20,000-500,000 for the dominant form and 1 in 200,000 for the recessive form." There is a lot of very technical information on the website. However, I just wanted to introduce this disease to you as many people confuse osteopetrosis with osteoporosis.


Last week Garnet brought a fabulous pan of bars to work that nearly had us fighting over the last one! I guess that explains the name....

Can't Leave Them Alone Bars

  • 1 cake mix - white or yellow
  • 2 eggs
  • 1/3 cup vegetable oil

Combine these ingredients and press 2/3 of mixture into bottom of a 9" x 13" pan.

In a microwave, melt
  • 1 cup chocolate chips
  • 1 can sweetened condensed milk
  • 1/4 cup margarine

Heat until the chips are melted. Stir the mixture together. Pour the mixture over the crust in the pan. Sprinkle the rest of the crust mixture over the chocolate layer. Bake at 350 degrees for 20-25 minutes.

remembering Marilyn Leavitt-Imblum

On a sad note, Marilyn Leavitt-Imblum, passed away this month. I have not been able to find the official obituary, so I am providing the information listed on Wikipedia, which I believe to be accurate.

"Marilyn Leavitt-Imblum (August 1, 1946 - August 14, 2012) was an American cross-stitch embroidery designer known especially for her Victorian angel designs. Her designs were published under the business name Told in a Garden, with product divisions of Told in a Garden, Lavender and Lace, and Butternut Road. Marilyn J. Leavitt was born August 1, 1946 in Youngstown, Ohio. Her professional design career began in the 1960s, working as an advertising and fashion illustrator for Strouss and Hartzell, Rose and Sons. Imblum began publishing embroidery designs around 1986, when she showed her original design "The Quilting", showing an Amish quilting bee, to the owner of a local needlework shop who told her that if she graphed the design the shop would sell it. The first 25 copies sold almost immediately, and her business was born. Within a decade, her Victorian angel designs were considered among the most popular cross-stitch designs available. In 2000, she publicly stated her opposition to digital piracy of needlework patterns. Imblum was married twice and had six children: Jeff Adams, Nora Adams Corbett, also a cross-stitch designer, Elizabeth Adams, Corrie Ferenchak, Matt Imblum, and Sarah Imblum. She had multiple sclerosis but did not widely publicize the fact. Marilyn died August 14, 2012 in Newark, New York."

It is a great honor for us to be able to share her legacy with the world through her patterns and designs, and know that they will continue bringing that beauty to all those who stitch and share their work of her art.

clearance bellpulls

4" Autumn Pumpkin Wooden Bellpull


5" Autumn Pumpkin Wooden Bellpull


6" Autumn Pumpkin Wooden Bellpull


4" Halloween Pumpkin Wooden Bellpull


Embroidery and Cross Stitch Magazine Vol 19 #5


Clearance frames

Star Lucite Frame


Angel Lucite Frame


Dragonfly Lucite Frame



Pako Needle Organizer


Pako Organizer Refill Sheets


Pako Organizer Foam Refill


Let's get Organized

Floss-a-way bags, 36 with 1" ring


Floss-a-way bags, 100/package


Floss-a-way bags, 100/package with ring



4" Perfect Scissors


Gingher 4" Sonia Designer Series


Ice Cream Swirls Scissors


Angel Scissors (assorted)


Art Glass Scissors Fob (assorted colors)


hardanger sales

I am finishing up this newsletter as I sit at our booth at the Sons of Norway International Convention being held in Fargo. I am quite impressed with the number of people who are Hardanger stitchers around the world. Here are some sales to keep you stitching!
Angels Around Doily


Angel Bookmark


Classic White Runner Kit


Collection of Beautiful Stitches


Creative Stitches & Creative Needle Combo


Sign up now for the two new CLUBS!

We are gathering all the supplies to make your kits. Our first shipment will be in mid-to late-August with the first designs for September, 2012. These clubs go through August of 2013. Don't delay - sign up today so we are sure to have all the supplies we need on hand as soon as possible!

I'm so excited about our new Hardanger Greeting Card Club! These new tri-fold cards are imported from England and of top quality! Not shown are 6 additional new cards including a green card with a tree shaped opening - perfect for a Christmas card. I can't wait to send you these cards and designs every month! We will be offering the cards packaged in open stock so you can stitch as many cards as you want from the designs included in the Club. Here is a sneak peek at the November Card. Getting it to you in November will give you time to stitch a few more for special family or friends for Christmas.

These designs are ONLY AVAILABLE to club members!

Read more about the Hardanger Embroidery Card Club »

The greeting cards Roz is using for the new Hardanger Card Club are available open stock so you can make more of the designs you will receive every month when you belong to the Club! Each pack contains two cards and envelopes. These high quality cards are tri-fold, meaning one of the sides will fold in to cover the back of your stitching. Quick and easy to finish with the .5" wide Stitchery Tape.

I'm just as excited about the first ever Huck Embroidery Club! What a great way to learn a new technique or have a first timer learn to stitch. Debi is a wiz at Stitch Wiz so all the charts and instructions will be clear and easy to understand. Using the new DMC Color Variations pearl cotton in many different colors is fun and unique. Not only will you be creating a beautiful runner (or large wall hanging), but these designs work well on the smaller count fabric for card inserts (yes, use the new cards I used in CLUB07), towel borders, box inserts, curtain borders and even clothing! The possibilities are endless. Sign up today!

Sign up today!

As people walk by during the breaks I hear a spattering of Norwegian. I even recognize a word or two. I am getting excited and I don't know I will be able to concentrate the rest of this week (sorry Roz!) My suitcase is almost packed. (I had to make sure it was under the weight limit.) My flight to Norway leaves Friday night at 7:30. I bet this will be the longest week of the year! The hardest part is I won't have my cell phone, Facebook, or computer for 10 days! Then it will be almost time to come back home when my next newsletter comes out which will have information on the 2013 retreat. I hope you have a great week. In the United States, this weekend is Labor Day weekend, the last hoorah of the summer. Ha en bra dag! Have a good day!

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