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Spotlight on Culture

People that call this area Home:

European cultures and the people that emigrated

looking for a better life in a continent across the Atlantic


Norwegian/Scandinavian Dakotan


Art Expressions of their people

The Norwegian Art traditions, such as Hardanger Embroidery, Hardanger fiddles and religious wood carvings, were also brought back from Europe with the immigrants. These traditions continue today in our area, thanks to some businesses and individuals that work hard to keep them alive, and that in some cases teach their techniques to new individuals.


Hardanger Embroidery

Hardanger embroidery or "Hardangersøm" is a form of embroidery traditionally worked with white thread on white even-weave linen or cloth, using counted thread and drawn thread work techniques. It is sometimes called whitework embroidery.

Historically, Hardanger employed linen even-weave fabric of 36 count or higher. However, modern Hardanger fabric is an even-weave cotton material woven with pairs of threads, typically 22 pairs per linear inch in both directions, referred to as '22-count'. The weave gives a squared appearance to the fabric, with distinct holes, making it easy to count and work on.

Traditional Hardanger embroidery is worked with a thread color that matches the fabric, usually white or cream. Using self-colored thread enhances both the sculptural nature of the stitches and the details in the intricate filling stitches. Many contemporary designs, however, do make use of colored, variegated and overdyed threads to great effect.

The traditional style of Hardanger work is very geometrical in form and based on several basic shapes such as squares, rectangles, triangles, diamonds, hearts, zig-zags and crosses. The combination and placement of these elements allow an unlimited number of beautiful patterns of all sizes to be created. Hardanger was originally used to decorate cushions, table linens and other household items. Several modern needlework designers have incorporated elements of Hardanger cut work into their embroidery designs and samplers, often combining them with other needlework techniques, stitches, specialty threads and other embellishments.

In the last few decades, some Lutheran pastors of Norwegian descent in the United States have had stoles embroidered with Hardanger work made for their use. While altar paraments in Hardanger work have been traditional in Norwegian churches for a long time, their use in American Lutheran churches is becoming more common as an alternative to the more traditional machine-embroidered damask paraments. Even the traditional alternating cross and chalice motif of Norwegian Hardanger work is now found in American Lutheran churches.

For more information on the history of these beautiful works of needle art, you can visit this page on the Nordic Needle website (there was a store in Fargo, but it closed in 2017) . There's also more information about it in this document from Sons of Norway. You can also see examples this summer at the Fiber Arts Festival.


Hardanger fiddles

A Hardanger fiddle (Norwegian: hardingfele) is a traditional stringed instrument considered to be a national instrument of Norway. In modern designs, this type of fiddle is very similar to the violin, though with eight or nine strings (rather than four as on a standard violin) and thinner wood. Four of the strings are strung and played like a violin, while the rest, named understrings or sympathetic strings, resonate under the influence of the other four.

The Hardingfele is used mainly in the southwest part of Norway, whereas the ordinary violin (called flatfele - 'flat fiddle' or vanlig fele - 'common fiddle') is found elsewhere. The Hardingfele is used for dancing, accompanied by rhythmic loud foot stomping. It was also traditional for the fiddler to lead the bridal procession to the church.

The instrument is often highly decorated, with a carved animal (usually a dragon or the Lion of Norway) or a carved woman's head as part of the scroll at the top of the pegbox, extensive mother of pearl inlay on the tailpiece and fingerboard, and black ink decorations called 'rosing' on the body of the instrument. Sometimes pieces of bone are used to decorate the pegs and the edges of the instrument.

For more information, you can read this wikipedia page.

There is a group of musicians in Fargo that offers concerts, the Fargo Spelemannslag.




Next week we'll continue this series with more information on the Norwegian Dakotan art tradition of wood carving.

Stay tuned for more information on more cultures in future posts. Our area is blessed to be called home by many people of many cultures, and they deserve to be acknowledged.