Swedish embroidery

Swedish embroidery: amazing patterns from simple stitches

Swedish embroidery is a fairly easy technique that can be used to create a variety of ornaments. In this material – details, master class and examples for inspiration.

What is Swedish embroidery?  

Swedish embroidery (another name – Swedish weaving) is called a counting technique of embroidery, which allows you to create geometric patterns and ornaments. This technique is quite simple: it uses only a stitch “forward needle”. But you need to be careful to count the number of threads for the stitches and between the stitches. Swedish weave patterns can be monochrome or made with threads of different colors.

A little about the name of the technique. In Europe and English this way of embroidery is more often called Swedish, but in fact, there is no evidence that it originated in Sweden. It so happens that most of the old samples of such embroidery have survived in Sweden – hence the name. In general, there is evidence that a similar technique was used in different countries in Europe. For example, in Italian such a technique is called Yugoslavian.

The essence of the technique remains the same: simple stitches, located in exactly the same order, form patterns and ornaments.

Traditionally, such embroidery decorated home textiles – towels, tablecloths, runners, bedspreads, as well as clothes.

Swedish embroidery

Swedish embroidery: materials and tools

Canvas or cloth

In Swedish embroidery you need to carefully count the threads of the fabric, so the fabric is needed with a clear uniform weave of threads. You can use plain weave cloth or canvasses, or pick up a special Swedish weave cloth or canvasses (often called huck fabric). It has a pattern on the front with pairs of threads to help with embroidery. The pattern can be different.


For Swedish embroidery have special needles: rather thick, with a blunt point and a curved end. They can be found on request “needle for Swedish embroidery” or “needle for embroidery with thread. This needle is a handy way to pick up the threads of the fabric when embroidering. You can also use an ordinary straight needle: you need a needle large enough, with a blunt point, which will pull apart, not pierce the fibers of the fabric.


You can use floss, perle cotton or other smooth, not too fine thread for embroidery.


In Swedish embroidery you can do without a hoop, or you can use one if you feel more comfortable. In fact, when you embroider a long ornament, such as the edge of a towel, it may be more comfortable to work without a hoop, since Swedish embroidery patterns are embroidered in rows, and the fabric will often have to be removed and re-fastened. If you need to embroider a small pattern, it may be more convenient to work with an embroidery frame.

How to do swedish embroidery: a master class

To begin with, you can try to embroider some not the most complicated pattern with a single color thread.

  • You will need:
  • fabric or canvas;
  • embroidery needle;
  • thread (for example, perle cotton #5);
  • scissors;
  • a pattern scheme (optional, you can improvise).

Step 1

If your pattern, as in our case, is symmetrical, it’s best to start embroidering from its center. Find the center of your base and mark it with a pin or bend a crease in the canvass. Measure a length of thread so that you have enough to embroider at least one row of the pattern. Thread the thread through the needle, do not tie a knot. Find the marked middle of the work and start embroidering there. Make the first stitch and pull the thread through so that half of the section is left free. Continue stitching to the edge of the work. Then return to the center, thread the remaining length of thread into the needle, and complete the row the other way.

If your next row of the pattern, as in our case, is done with the same color thread, then you can turn the work around and embroider further if there is enough thread left over. There are no knots in classic Swedish embroidery: it should look neat from the face and from the wrong side. When the thread ends, you need to secure it by making 2-5 stitches in the opposite direction, and then cut it off. You can carefully tuck the end of the thread under the embroidery or between the threads of the fabric. When you start embroidering with a new piece of thread, fix it in place using the same principle. If your work does not involve showing the wrong side, you can make knots.

Step 2

After practicing making simple paths of stitches of different lengths, you can embroider more complex patterns, such as the one in the photo above. Start from the center as well, first embroidering to one side and then to the other.

Step 3

You can add stitches that intersect with the stitches you’ve already embroidered, or you can make up your own design elements by stitching up, down, or diagonally. The main thing is to keep track of the thread count. Finish the ornament for symmetry with the same rows of paths as it was started.

Author: Ramon Powell