Examples of a variety of Naverson embroidered designs.
Swedish Shepherdess Needle Art of Birch Bark Embroidery
("Näver" means Birch Bark and "söm" means seam/stitch)
by Kathlyn Swantko
Originating in Sweden as early as the 17th century, Näversöm embroidery gets its name from a piece of birch bark that was used as a frame. Since the birch bark frame could be easily rolled up and carried to protect her work, the Shepherdess did her Näversöm embroidery while tending her animals.
The Näversöm embroidery technique is unusual because it is entirely stitched from the back. The birch bark protected the front of the piece, and the final design was not revealed until the folk art was completely finished.
Naversom instructor, Debi Faye, guiding a student as she begins the
Naversom embroidery in class.
This embroidery would have become extinct had it not been for a Swedish woman, who owned a needlework shop in Hudiksvall, Sweden, who studied the Näversöm stitchery and began teaching this specialized embroidery in the late 1800s. Näversöm had a revival in the 1960s and '70s in Sweden when several instructional articles were published.
Näversöm was used as household linens, and in earlier times as lampshades that would display the beautiful artistry as the light shined through the needlework. Examples of new and old patterns are still available from Sweden. Debi Feyh, the instructor of the Näversöm class at HÃ¸stfest also maintains a collection of over 75 examples, and her library contains every resource that she has been able to locate.
Choosing the Fabric/Materials
Lambswool fabrics, which can be used as a base cloth for Naversom embroidery.
- The optimal fabric is an evenly woven 100% linen, meaning that an equal number of yarns per inch run in both the crosswise and lengthwise directions of the fabric. A recommended fabric is a 35-count Lambswool linen fabric (a high quality 100% linen used for cross stitch and needlework projects.) The edge of the fabric is cut not serged.
- Linen thread was the traditional choice. However today, a size 5 Pearl Cotton thread or a linen thread with an 18/3 weight are both acceptable. At least two weights of thread are required. Three weights add additional dimension to the design.
- Varying the threads and their weight can add an extra 3D appeal to the piece.
- Traditionally, the stitching threads were done in natural colors (i.e. flax or ecru). More recently, examples from the '70s were created in muted colors creating a white-on-white look. However in the northern parts of Sweden, bits of color in the shades of pink, red, or blue have been used.
- Use a size 20 or 22 Tapestry Needle (blunt point).
Naversom Embroidery Materials used in the class.
Preparing the Fabric
The Basic Stitches
Finishing the Piece
- Since the stitching distorts the fabric, hand wash the piece in a gentle detergent, and block the piece so it dries straight.
- Most doilies can be finished with a simple folded hem. It is recommended that the finishing be done with a thinnest-weight thread that matches the fabric.
- Trim all four sides of the piece, and begin hemming. At the corners, trim off the excess fabric so the fabric lies flat.