Huck embroidery is a traditional Swedish style of embroidery used to decorate household items. Also known as Swedish embroidery, Swedish weaving, huck weaving and needle weaving, it creates patterns on even weave fabric without piercing through the fabric or carrying the thread through to the other side of the material. Because of this, huck embroidery actually strengthens the fabric rather than weakening it as many other types of needlework do.
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Huck embroidery has been used as a decorative art for centuries in a number of different countries. It was most popular in Slavic and Northern European countries. In the 1940s, it became very popular in the United States as "huck weaving" or "huck embroidery." Though most needlework companies referred to the craft as "Swedish weaving", it acquired the more popular name of "huck embroidery" because it was commonly worked on an even weave fabric known as "huck toweling", which was often used to make dish towelling and kitchen cloths. The needle craft faded from popularity along with many other popular crafts, but enjoyed a resurgence after 2000 as crafters turned to traditional needlework and other crafts.
Like most needle crafts, huck embroidery is a decorative art, but it also strengthens the fabric on which it is worked by adding another layer to the weave. The fabrics most often used for huck embroidery are even weave fabrics like linen and monk's cloth. Huck towelling is especially popular because the threads of the weave are raised above the fabric. This creates an easy to use grid for making decorative stitches. Instead of working the needle in and out through the fabric to make stitches, the crafter simply slides the needle under and over the raised stitches to create a pattern. Huck embroidery may also be worked on other types of fabric that don't have the raised threads, which are called "floats" in huck patterns. The only requirement is that the fabric has an even weave. When a flat fabric like linen is used, the first step in working a piece of huck embroidery is to pull out either horizontal or vertical threads according to a predetermined pattern. This creates a grid of threads through which the embroidery yarn or thread can be woven.
Huck embroidery typically uses multiple colours of embroidery thread or yarn to create a border or decoration on the fabric, but there is a related type of huck weaving called "red work." As implied by the name, red work is traditionally worked completely in red thread on white fabric. It is sometimes used to create complicated silhouettes. Contemporary crafters sometimes choose to work red work patterns in another colour, but the identifying feature is that the design is worked completely in one colour without piercing the fabric.
Huck embroidery features several different traditional stitches, all of which are easy to do. The pattern is made up by working the pattern one full row at a time. Most often, a crafter will work from a pattern drawn out on grid paper. The most common stitches used in huck embroidery are listed below. Straight stitches are worked over one row of floats. The "darning stitch" runs under a specified number of floats without skipping any floats. The "skip stitch" runs under a float, then skips a specified number of floats. A "zigzag straight stitch" is carried diagonally on the front of the fabric up or down rows between floats. Loop stitches are worked over several rows and are used to create loops and curves. The variations include open loop stitch, closed loop stitch and stepped loop stitches. See the accompanying illustration for examples.
When working a piece of huck embroidery, it's easiest to start from the centre of the pattern and work outward. This will help keep the fabric and stitches even and prevent puckering of the fabric.
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