Sunday, July 27, 2014

St. Bridget's Altar Cloth


Almost a year ago I was contacted by a lady from Sweden who is the grand-daughter of a lady named Elsa Peterson who started a lacemaking company in Vadstena in 1920. Today the company is run by the lady who contacted me's 90-year-old mother and she was interested in reproducing some old patterns so that they would not be lost.

Now, there was a highly skilled designer/lacemaker named Aurore Ingelotz who lived in Vadstena from 1889 to 1893. She specialized in making designs for the church. In 1895 she made and sent a lace altar cloth to Santa Brigida Church in Rome. Now St. Bridget of Sweden came from Vadstena so you can begin to see the connection. (Aurore's work was so good, some of it was selected to represent Sweden at the 1893 Chicago World Exposition.)

Well, back to our story. Some of Aurore Ingelotz's patterns were recovered from an attic and found their way into Elsa Peterson's possession. Here you can read (with the aid of Google Translator if you don't speak Swedish) the fascinating story of the research behind these patterns done by the lady who contacted me.

While doing her research, this lady was trying to find out if the lace altar cloth sent to Rome in 1895 still existed. We contacted Santa Brigida Church to find out that yes, it was still there and was used and exhibited once a year during the celebrations of the canonization of St. Bridget on October 7.

As I was going to be in Rome at the time, I offered to try to see if I could get some photos of the altar cloth or at the very least, go to see it for myself. The sisters of Santa Brigida also took some pictures in the meantime and when we visited they were very kind to let my friend and I have a few minutes after the ceremony alone at the altar to take a few photos.




The altar cloth is 4.4 meters long and 1.3 meters wide, at each end there is a medallion (two different designs) and there is a lace border of 20 cm wide.


Thank you very much Karin for letting us share in your adventure!

Sunday, July 20, 2014

Embroidery on ribbons - new book!



Anna Castagnetti from Verona has released her latest book: Ricami sui Nastri [Embroidery on Ribbons] through the ever-expanding "Lace and Embroidery" collection from Nuova S1 in Bologna.

Anna is now the author of many Italian embroidery books and she shows no sign of slowing down or running out of cool ideas.

This is a translation of what it says on the book's page at Nuova S1:

Zigzag ribbons are very versatile: they can be found in many colours and in various widths and, being flat and of a compact weave, are perfect to apply to fabric and embroider on effortlessly.

Starting with this simple ribbon the author offers many ideas with detailed instructions, accessible even to beginners, for decorating your creations.

The zigzag ribbons, I know as Rickrack trim and there are other trimmings used like grosgrain ribbons and gorgeous velvet ribbons alongside coloured embroidery threads.

Guest towel project from Ricami sui Nastri by Anna Castagnetti.

The book is 64 pages and contains diagrams for a few decorative embroidery stitches used in the embellishment of the projects of which there are 14 of various complexity. Delightful guest towels, bags and purses, cushions and placemats which all serve to get your creative juices flowing and lead you to think of a million other things that you can apply these ideas to.

It is chock-full of step-by-step large and close-up colour photos. The text is in Italian but there is enough here in the way of diagrams, illustrations and photography to help you figure out what to do especially if you already have some sewing and/or embroidery experience.

You can see a preview of a few pages here.

Simple and quick but enough to personalize. I admire the way that Anna can always do these kinds of things that are just perfect for today's embroiderer who has less time than previous generations but who still wants to create with needle and thread.

This book is available now and you can contact Anna through her website or Nuova S1 (I believe they take PayPal now).


Thursday, July 3, 2014

Sardinian Knotted Stitch - new book!



I can finally tell you about one of the projects that I've been working away on... for nearly the past four years! The result of intense study, research and lots and lots of blood, sweat and tears: Il Punto Annodato Sardo (Sardinian Knotted Stitch) is an instructional manual on the little-known needlework technique called Punt'e nù which comes from Teulada in southern Sardinia, a large Italian island off the western coast of Italy. 

Back cover
This book is the collaborative effort of four stitchers who set out to learn more about this beautiful needlework found traditionally on men's folk costumes from Teulada. The back cover above shows a close-up of the richly embroidered collar and below you can see the cuff of a man's traditional folk costume shirt. 

The book is intended as a beginner's approach to the needlework. As Punt'e nù has traditionally been local to Teulada and handed down by word-of-mouth there is very little written about it. Even Sardinians who live outside of Teulada only get to see it in some museums or on the costumes during religious festivals or on the rare occasion of an artisan exhibition. 

There is a group in Teulada now who has been working to bring this and other embroidery typical of the area to light with needlework shows exhibiting non-traditional pieces adorned with Punt'e nù like towels, tablecloths and other household and personal linens. For more information about this group and/or visiting Teulada and seeing this work, contact the owner of this blog.

A sample page spread from Il Punto Annodato Sardo

The book Il Punto Annodato Sardo is 70 pages and covers some historical background along with technical instructions, some traditional patterns and then a few non-traditional projects. 

It is available on amazon.it (and other amazon websites) but this first version is written in Italian. Very shortly there will be an English version and I'll keep you up-to-date when that is finished and available.

I must get back to work!

UPDATE: here is a review in Italian for those that would like it. Also there are now quite a few reviews (in Italian) on the amazon.it website page for the book.

Saturday, June 28, 2014

Sicilian Drawn Thread Work - new book!



Back in 2007 when I attended the Italia Invita Forum in Rimini, I took a two-hour class with the author of this book, Giovanna Gurrieri. It took intense concentration both to learn the technique and understand the Italian but I wanted to learn it so badly and to learn if from this maestra because she is so talented and makes such beautiful things. I was sure my little class which consisted of three other ladies (all Italians) thought I was very strange as I asked very detailed questions and stopped to write notes constantly because I did not want to get home and not remember anything.

Giovanna Gurrieri comes from Ragusa, a town in Sicily that is famous for its Sicilian Drawn Thread Work. This book is her commitment to passing on this wonderful technique and to aid in this, the text of the book is in three languages: Italian, French and English. To my knowledge this is the only book on Sicilian Drawn Thread Work in English.

After the preface, there is a page on the history of this technique and then a section on the materials required, two methods of transferring designs on to the fabric, the correct and incorrect ways to cut the fabric, information on the various styles (of which there are five: 400, 500, 700, Inverse and Chiaramonte), discussion on even weave and non-even weave fabric, how to work the embroidered netting, changing your thread, working the overcasting stitch for the 500 and Inverse styles which includes changing threads and working corners, working the darning stitch for the 700 style, the Chiaramonte stitch, washing, ironing and care instructions. Note: there are no instructions on the 400 style though there are a few tips and information about it. The book is 56 pages and 8.25 x 11.75 inches.

Breakdown of styles:

The 400 style:
400 style uses the darning stitch and the cloth stitch.

The 500 style:
500 style uses the overcast stitch around the perimeter of the designs.

The 700 style:
700 style uses the darning stitch.

The Inverse style:
Inverse style uses the overcast stitch around voided designs.

The Chiaramonte style:
Chiaramonte style uses this characteristic motif.
(Note, these photos are all my own work with the exception of the Chiaramonte which is a scan of a piece that was gifted to me and therefore are not examples from the above-mentioned book.)

I look forward to a time when I can sit down with this manual and finally start a work of the 500 style which is my favourite Sicilian Drawn Thread Work style.

You can purchase this book from Tombolo Disegni, send an email to order.

Saturday, June 14, 2014

Marta Cucchia and the Giuditta Brozzetti Weaving Studio


Sometimes people do things that make you absolutely marvel at their talent. Marta Cucchia of the Giuditta Brozzetti Weaving Studio in Perugia is one of those people who does this to me.

Everything Marta makes is amazing. I've told you a little about her and the Giuditta Brozzetti Weaving Studio before. I had the enormous good fortune of visiting them in 2009.

Back then Marta had recently finished a piece she had been studying and figuring out from a Pintoricchio painting.


She explained how she was fascinated by the designs on the fabric in the painting and thought to challenge herself by recreating the piece.


The piece is quite long and each line is a different pattern!




The inspiration for this work is the cloth that the Baby Jesus is wrapped in in this Pintoricchio painting which can be found in the Galleria Nazionale dell'Umbria museum in Perugia.


I am still in awe of Marta's talent five years later. She continues to do amazing work and is always finding new things to challenge herself with. If you ever find yourself in Perugia, you should not miss a trip to the Giuditta Brozzetti Weaving Studio, they have guided tours (in English too!).

Thanks to Vima for the use of her photos!

Saturday, May 31, 2014

Needlework adventures


One day back in the spring of 2011 I received an email from a Canadian reader who was looking for someone to teach her travel group an Italian needlework technique while they were on holiday in Italy. They planned to go in the fall of 2012, rent a place to stay and wanted a teacher who spoke English to come and teach them.

I suggested a few names and sent a few emails but the reader had some medical problems which ended up preventing her from making the trip as planned and I didn't think much more about it. Then in the spring of 2013 the same reader contacted me again saying she was all healed and was trying again to organize the trip she had been planning before.

Her group were stitchers of varying levels of experience and they liked to travel to different countries and learn a local needlework technique while there. They had already travelled to places like Ireland, Scotland, England and France.

Villa Saraceno in Finale di Agugliaro where the ladies stayed while in Italy.
They had rented the Villa Saraceno near Verona and this put me in mind of Anna Castagnetti who I have mentioned a few times here. The trip was planned for the spring of 2014.

I'm delighted to say that Anna was available and she put together an introductory class on the cutwork part of Punto Antico for the ladies.


Anna also took the group to the Don Mazza museum in Verona where they were delighted with the fantastic needlework collection there.


I received equally enthusiastic emails afterwards from both the reader and Anna about the whole experience. It seems it was a marvellous time for all involved and I'm very happy to have played my part in it! Many thanks to the ladies for sharing their experiences with us!


Saturday, May 17, 2014

Venetian Needle Lace - new book



Of all the needle laces, those from Venice and Burano are certainly the most complex, but they are also the most versatile because the limitations imposed by the design are removed.

This publication contains a how-to section of the stitches to start you off accompanied by instructions, photographs and very clear diagrams.


Exciting news for those who wish to delve into the world of Venetian Needle Lace! Ombretta Panese and Marialuisa Severi have been hard at work creating this book. 

I have translated what Ombretta has written on her blog:

We have tried to give clear and simple instructions on some stitches, which are supported by photographs and designs, so as to introduce the manufacture of needle lace to those who have the intention to learn.
At the end we have included designs of varying degrees of difficulty so you can experiment with what you have learned.



About the authors:
Marialuisa Severi is the President of the cultural Associazione "Il Merletto Veneziano" which was formed in 2005 with the aim to keep alive, enhance and promote the ancient art of Burano needle lace and Pellestrina bobbin lace. Both techniques are traditionally rooted in the island territory of Venice. You can see some pictures of their work here.

Ombretta Panese is a lacemaker from Mestre who has been awarded the title: Expert Needle Lace Maker achieved after two courses of 300 hours each, at the Scuola Professionale della Provincia di Venezia. Together with some of her classmates from these courses, she was involved in the creation of the Associazione "Il Merletto Veneziano". She does some beautiful work, check out her blog.

My copy is in the mail somewhere between here and Italy but I couldn't wait for it to get here before telling you about this book which you can get directly from the publisher: NuovaS1 (send them an email and tell them you'd like to use PayPal for those outside of Europe). Lacis distributes some NuovaS1 books in the US, if you want to see this one brought in, you may have to write to them and request it.

Let me know what you think in the comments below if you do get this book which I understand may be the first in a series.