We're going to make a vintage-style kitchen or hand towel using the Swedish weaving (a.k.a. "huck embroidery," "huck weaving," or more rarely, "huck darning") technique. This style of embroidery was very popular in the 1930s and 1940s and was often used to make kitchen towels using a type of material known as "huck toweling" or "huckaback."
You can also make lovely guest towels for the bathroom, especially if you decide to use a more intricate design and you'd rather not risk ruining it in the kitchen. Swedish weaving is incredibly easy to do and the results are impressive. A couple of towels make great gifts for the holidays!
Some Background Information
You'll have to do a little studying before we get started! This will help you better understand the type of fabric we're using and the technique. If you have a copy of Reader's Digest Complete Guide to Needlework there is a great four page section on huck embroidery that I highly recommend. (In the 1979 edition it starts on page 70).
Otherwise, take a look at this short FAQ about the different types of even-weave fabric that can be embroidered and shows some stitching techniques.
You may also want to look at the diagrams for a couple of free patterns:
- Huck toweling cut to 22" long, or a ready-made towel*
- Two skeins DMC pearl cotton #5 embroidery thread in two complementary colors
- A blunt-tipped tapestry needle
- Fray Check (not pictured)
- A pattern, diagram, or a vintage towel to copy
*About Huck Toweling*
You'll want to purchase huck toweling, known as huckaback outside of the US, for this project. It is a cotton fabric woven in 15" to 17" widths. It has 9 rows per inch (9 count) and is woven with vertical loops on one side, and horizontal loops on the other side:
|The floats as picked up by a needle|
You can work both sides of the fabric, but we are only going to work the side with the vertical loops, also known as "floats."
Huck toweling is most often available in white, and it is not that easy to find, at least in my neck of the woods. Usually an entire bolt must be ordered from a fabric supplier or craft store. Unless you have friends that want to join you in this project and split the cost of a bolt, I would scour the web for a supplier who will provide it in smaller quantities, or simply buy a ready-made towel. Easy.
My huck toweling came in a 16" width from selvage to selvage. I cut it to 22" long. One-and-one-half yards of toweling cut apart into two 22" lengths will make two kitchen towels.
To prepare huck toweling it is best to wash and dry it before use. This helps puff up the floats so you can see them more easily. Serge or zig-zag along the cut edge to keep them from fraying while you work.
Ok, we have our equipment and some general knowledge about the Swedish weaving technique. In our next installment we'll get started!