A stitching revival

The old Scandinavian art of huck weaving is enjoying a resurgence in popularity

Photo: Nancy Holter An example of the almost circuit-like patterns created by this embroidery.

Photo: Nancy Holter
An example of the almost circuit-like patterns created by this embroidery.

Barbara K. Rostad
Coeur d’ Alene, Idaho

Huck weaving, a practice dating at least back to the 1600s, is a type of surface embroidery practiced today by two women from Kennewick, Washington, Nancy Holter and Karen Aanes.

They are among those who have rediscovered this ancient stitchery now undergoing a revival. Huck weaving was at its height in the U.S. in the 1930s and 40s but is now experiencing a resurgence. New exciting patterns are possible with today’s wide range of fabrics and fibers.

Aanes learned the stitchery from Holter about three years ago during an Adult Heritage Camp at Trollhaugen, a Sons of Norway facility near Stampede Pass in the Cascades.

“I practically got addicted to it,” confesses Aanes, who has stacks of huckwoven hand towels with stitching in assorted designs and colors. “You can do it from a chart or a picture of a design,” she noted.

Holter, currently the Social/Publicity Director for District Two, Sons of Norway, picked it up after helping sort through the contents of a home where her husband’s aunt had lived. Here she found a stash of towels as well as some old pattern books and decided to give it a try. She has since taught huck weaving for community courses as well as at Trollhaugen.

Photo: Nancy Holter Students learn huck weaving at the District 2 Sons of Norway Heritage Retreat.

Photo: Nancy Holter
Students learn huck weaving at the District 2 Sons of Norway Heritage Retreat.

This type of needlework is also known as huckaback darning or Swedish weaving. Phyllis Mauery, of Ethnic Fiber Arts, can’t find historical information to explain why the name Swedish weaving became attached to this art form, except to state that many of the surviving linens came from Sweden. There’s even a will dating to the 1680s that bequeathed huckaback linens.

What differentiates huck weaving from other similar styles is that the stitching takes place completely on the top of the fabric. No one can turn it over and inspect for neatness with huck weaving. Most find this a fairly easy technique with basically two stitches.

Blunt needles are used for this stitchery so the floats aren’t split. For huck toweling and Aida, a tapestry needle works well.

There are several specialty fabrics that can be used for this needlework. Huck fabric is a descendant of a linen weave called huckaback, featuring a smooth side and a rough side, not always easy to tell apart. This can be checked by examining the floats, i.e. the little puffy part. One side will have one thread per float; the other will have two, and that is the side upon which to stitch. Huck fabric can be used for tablecloths, runners, placemats, wall hangings, box lids, or card inserts.

Huck toweling is about 14 inches wide with varying stitch and float counts so one needs to check if the pattern requires a specific size. A majority of the fabric is 16 count (having seven to eight floats per inch).

Some of the other variations include Monk’s cloth, which has floats in both directions; popcorn fabric, alternately known as popkorn or Stockholm, also with vertical and horizontal floats; waffle cloth, woven so it has little “boxes” on the top of the fabric; and Aida cloth, which can be used in place of a huck fabric by running the needle under the loose top threads but not through the back of the fabric.

More information on huck weaving and the material used for doing it can be found online or through needlework shops.

This article originally appeared in the Dec. 11, 2015, issue of the Norwegian American Weekly. To subscribe, visit SUBSCRIBE or call us at (206) 784-4617.

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