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What Is Swedish Weave?

By Rebecca Cartwright
Updated Feb 03, 2024
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Swedish weave is a type of surface work embroidery in which the decorative thread, rather than going through the fabric, runs under some of the fabric's surface threads. It is very similar to couching, in which small stitched loops hold decorative thread to the fabric's surface. The reason for the name is uncertain, as there is no apparent historical link to Sweden. Swedish weave is sometimes called huck weaving after the fabric, huck toweling, on which it was first widely used. Popular in the US in the 1930s into the 1950s, Swedish weave became popular again in the early part of the 21st century.

This technique requires evenweave fabric, which has sets of warp and weft threads easily visible on the fabric's surface. The sets of threads are called either horizontal floats or vertical floats, depending on how they are oriented in relation to the embroidery work. A tapestry, or other blunt tip needle, is used to pull the decorative thread through one or the other set of floats.

During the 1930s to 1950s, when Swedish weave was first popular, the only readily available evenweave fabric was huck toweling, a relatively thin, smooth cloth used mostly for dish towels. At the end of the 20th century several styles of needlework using evenweave fabrics became popular. The growing availability of evenweave fabrics for those techniques meant new choices for swedish weave, as well.

In addition to huck cloth, swedish weaving is now often worked on waffle cloth, Aida cloth, and monk's cloth. The thread used depends on the fabric and the pattern being worked. Possible thread choices include strands of embroidery floss, pearl cotton, and sport or baby weight yarn.

The way in which Swedish weave is stitched dictates the designs that can be worked in this style. Most are abstract geometrical patterns with repeats and mirror images of the design elements. Patterns can be more or less complex depending on the size of the motifs, the number of repeats of each design segment, and how much of the fabric is covered with the design. Older designs were usually only a border, while newer designs may cover the entire piece of work.

Swedish weave is usually worked from the center of the fabric out. The decorative thread is secured in the center, then the design is worked to one side or the other until it reaches the margin. Once the first side is finished, the stitcher begins again in the center and works out to the other margin.

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