Saturday, March 21, 2015

DMC Natura Just Cotton for tassel making

The last time I went to Italy in October of 2013, a friend from home asked me to get her some Lampo Cotone Povero yarn to make tassels. It proved to be a difficult task and I was unable to get her any.

We've talked about Cotone Povero before here on the blog. It is a 100% pure soft cotton yarn with a matte finish used in Italy to make tassels and for stitching Caterina de'Medici embroidery among other things. At one time in history it came in many colours but now I believe you can only get natural or white though ebay searches still turn up other colours from time to time. The balls are 50 grams at about $3.00 USD each and you can make a lot with one ball. The yarn is made up of 6 threads twisted together. It is available from various places online like Tombolo Disegni, Ricamiamo-Insieme, Bergamasco, etc. but I was unable to find it in any store I walked into in Rome, Florence or anywhere I was in Puglia. This is not to say it's not there, I just couldn't find it.

Upon returning home I was told by an Italian friend that DMC makes a soft cotton yarn which is a nice substitute called Natura Just Cotton. It comes in many colours and is available outside of Italy though not in North America that I could find at the time. I ordered mine from Sew and So in the UK.

The balls are 50 grams and the yarn is made up of 8 twisted threads. I see it is now listed on the DMC US website but internet searches for resellers still result in mostly UK sources. Price is about $4.00 USD.

Lampo Cotone Povero on the top, DMC Natura Just Cotton on the bottom.

Comparing the two yarns, they are not identical but I decided to go all the way through an experiment to see if I liked the Natura anyway. I'm not sure that you can see, but the Cotone Povero is ever-so-slightly thicker and it's hard to tell from the photo but the Natura is slightly less "matte" than the Cotone Povero.

While in Phoenix last October at the EGA National Seminar, I bought a Deruta ceramic fuserola bead that my daughter picked out for herself, she wanted a tassel to match her camera strap. I got DMC Natura in black and Sable to match the bead.

Battery operated cord twister we dubbed the "zip-zip".

Using my fantastic new favorite tool, a battery-operated cord twister developed by a lady in Assisi which we lovingly dubbed the "zip-zip" as it makes cording in a zip - I made many many twisted cords. I think the real secret to tassel-making is that when you think you have enough, make more. Tassels should be full and not skimpy.

Then the knotting process began and I knotted my cording until my fingers were beyond sore. Next step is to string the cut pieces onto yarn as you would when stringing beads, see this tutorial here. Odd numbers are best, so groups of 3, 5, 7 or 9.

7 "legs" are made up of 5 groups of 9 pieces.
There is a cluster at the top of solid Sable and I used Black to string everything together.

I'm pretty happy with the result and I like the fact that DMC Natura comes in so many colours. For tassel-making I think it is a fine substitute for Cotone Povero. Next task will be to do some experiments in using it for Caterina de'Medici embroidery. I'm a little concerned that it may be too thin for the Buratto fabric and that the coverage won't be as good, but that's for another time.

Do you know of a soft, matte finish cotton yarn available in North America that I could investigate as a substitute for Cotone Povero? If so, please leave a comment below!

Saturday, February 14, 2015

Protagonists of Italian Needlework Crossword Puzzle

A lady from my chapter of the Embroiderers Association of Canada made a crossword puzzle out of needlework clues and I thought it would be fun to do one involving a few names from the history of Italian needlework.

Most answers can be found by searching my blog, I tried not to be too obscure in the clues. Post a comment with your email addy if you'd like the answers sent to you.

I hope this is as fun to do as it was to make! Click on the puzzle for a closer look.

Thursday, February 5, 2015

Deruta Drawn Thread Work - new book!

There is an ever-growing, never-diminishing stack of books on the floor beside my desk that I refuse to put away in my bookshelves because I want to tell you about them. I am woefully behind due to many projects that have more demanding deadlines but today I find myself with a few minutes and I want to tell you about a book which is filled with exquisite Deruta Drawn Thread Work embroidery or Deruta Sfilato as it's called in Italian.

This book actually came out last September and is the second for Maria Elide Melani of Ago, Aga e Fantasia on this beautiful and delicate Italian needlework technique. You can read about the first book here.

I've translated the book introduction for you:

The forgotten history, the tradition of a lost embroidery that I rediscovered retakes shape and transforms, leaving room for imagination in the creation of small, simple masterpieces.
Passing the time to recover the memory, studying old trousseaux and taking inspiration from the designs of many years ago, I felt the need to give a new utility to this embroidery.
The fragile cloth is intertwined with needle and thread, faithful to traditional motifs, but here ideas and new colours are born with unusual designs.
Purses and pillows in the colours of spring take form together with small lampshades, a delicate little dress which makes you think of a big party, not to mention the color red that offers many ideas for Christmas and many other pieces, outside of tradition and unthinkable until only a few years ago.
The simplicity of the execution is accompanied by instructions and photos which illustrate the various stages of the work, making it easy even for less experienced stitchers.
I wanted to introduce this book with only a few words because my intent is to let the embroideries and patterns "speak" and, with a personal touch, they can be perfectly adapted to any embroiderer.
Happy Stitching!

The book is 60 pages long with many large full-colour photos. The text is in Italian but step-by-step photos guide you along the preparation of the fabric, the mounting of the fabric into the frame, the series of stitches used in this technique and how to execute the various motifs. The only thing you'll really have to spend some time translating (use Google!) are the six sentences about care and washing when you're done. There are 22 patterns for the most exquisite projects: a handbag and workbasket, dress hemline and table runners, several stitching project bags, table centres, towel borders, lampshades, pillows, curtains, Christmas tree decorations and tablecloths. You can see a preview by clicking on the larger photo of the book on this page here.

The book is available directly from the publisher Nuova S1 - they accept PayPal, or through Tombolo Disegni - send an email to order; or from Lacis in the US.

Friday, December 26, 2014

Puncetto article translated

In doing some research lately, I had translated an article on Puncetto from an old Italian monthly magazine: Vita Femminile Italiana [Italian Women's Life] from 1907. It occurred to me that perhaps you might like to read it as it is not something you would normally come across. Any errors in translation are my own.

Clorinda Favro's Diploma from the Genoa Italian Exposition of Women's Work, 1903.

Valle Vogna and Puncetto
by Modesta dell’Oro Hermil. Vita Femminile Italiana, 1907.

It seems like a fairytale. Once upon a time in a valley far, far away… way up high up in the mountains, there were poor women, young and old, gathered in small huts buried in the snow. Their fathers, husbands, brothers far away in a foreign land to earn their bread. The women, alone in their miserable, difficult life. Finished the few brief tasks of their primitive family life, here they are in the light of the white snow reflected through small black narrow windows and in the evening in the light of the flame, here are the poor fingers that in summer are hardened by the harsh work in the fields, now in the break from the misery, become the nimble fingers of fairies. From those poor fingers blossoms lace, real Alpine flowers, real snowdrops of work, and the fine needle, shiny and patient, works and etches like an engraver.

And that strong brilliant work then adorns the shoulders of the workers and the lace supports the shoulder basket. Dear Italy, my beautiful homeland, where the light of art, a flower of beauty, emanates and is revealed even among the rocks, even among the poverty, even in the solitude, in the hardship.

And one day a lady, no, I mean the good fairy, passed by in the months in which the work bustles in the fields. Her expert and practised eye rested on those laces, true carved ivory. Her heart was touched by so much courageous poverty and rude work and the gaze of the artist was attracted to that form of feminine art.

And so it was that Mrs. Lynch, on a pilgrimage from Ireland, discovered the Valle Vogna and Puncetto.

Puncetto, the alpine stitch, the strong lace of the peasant women. The fundamental stitch is a double buttonhole stitch, that is: a second loop is made in the first and the two combined form a knot so that the lace can be cut without unraveling.

Puncetto is the word of the dialect of some valleys to the south of Monte Rosa for this lace that forms part of the local peasant costume. The seams of their blouses made of linen woven at home, are connected by the lines of incrustations of this lace.

Generally, women in the region are small, delicate, but they work harshly; they are the log splitters, the water bearers, cheese makers, shepherdesses, field workers; it is therefore necessary that every part of their dress can withstand the roughest jobs. “It is made for eternity” say they, and in fact it must be strong! In the summer those frail shoulders carry the trunks of the strangers who spend a few warm weeks at the only little hostelry of the valley.

A visitor to whom those weights seemed cruel said, “Send me a mule for my trunk. It is full of books, I do not want one of these girls to carry it.” He was told: “There is not one of them who would not regret the half lira that you will give for taking this trunk down to Riva, and a mule would cost more.” And they do it with gratitude.

Money is so scarce! And they take down and bring up those terrible weights on those rough roads, almost like staircases in parts. There are only women and children to struggle with the rocky soil. The picturesque slopes are rough to cultivate, almost only pendent edges, onto which frequently a layer of earth must first be brought and then carefully fenced, sheltered, supported, otherwise it would be washed away by rain and lost.

For a few weeks in the summer many women can earn some money by carrying huge weights on their shoulders, not only trunks, but also beams to the sawmill and staves to the Cooper, but how many times these small earnings are spent in anticipation!

Where and when was Puncetto first made?

The peasants who wear it, in Valsesia, Valle Vogna and the nearby valleys answer: “it is very old; it was old at the time of our grandmothers.”

The alpine women of Parrè in the Bergamo Alps produce a lace very similar to Puncetto and they associate it to the time of the plagues, saying that even then it was already an old authentic lace. At the time of the plague the women of Parrè vowed that neither they, nor their descendants would ever change their ancient costume, nor would they ever follow the dictates of fashion if only the plague were stayed. Outside the Sesia Valley, in other parts of the Alps, the same quality of lace is called “ivory stitch”, “saracen stitch”, “greek stitch” and “alpine stitch”. Saracen stitch could be the name given to anything in the days when the terrible pirates reigned terror down on the inhabitants. Towers, castles, hills, mountain passes, still carry the names of Saracens even when history shows no correlation between them and anything moorish.

The name “greek lace” may be supposed to be due to that many of the closest, tightest patterns of Puncetto have a distinct resemblance to the ancient handwoven linen used in the early pieces of Cutwork.

The oldest of all forms of lace was the Drawn-thread Work, the second, Cutwork and both forms flourished in Byzantium in the days of the Roman Empire. Puncetto, under its various names is only found in the Alps. A scholar of the history of lace expressed the theory that the Alpine stitch is the third age in the family of lace. We must not forget that Puncetto, although it is an authentic and beautiful lace is rather a kind of idealized macramé and not the soft spider webs of Honiton, Valenciennes, Point de Bruxelles, etc.

These rich rigid substantial laces have their own special use, they are especially suitable for household linen and everywhere where an edging of fine passementerie or gimp would go nicely. Puncetto takes a long time to execute and can never therefore be done cheaply.

A former schoolteacher, during twenty-seven long years, taught the girls of Valle Vogna to use their needle as true artists during the long harsh winters. She sensed the opportunity, the benefits that the foundation of an industry of lace would offer to her pupils. No one better than she could understand the misery, the gloom of the long months of winter, when, ill-fed, ill-heated many of those girls did not even have the relief of work, but spent the long painful hours waiting for May.

The snow begins to fall generally in mid-October to melt, then fall again. At Michaelmas the cattle descend from the high Alps. Some go to fairs, others spend the winter at lower levels, others are installed in one of the divisions on the ground floor of the châlet, which becomes the living room. A solitary weaver said, “I stay here in the winter, my cow is such a nice companion!"

The husbands, the fathers, sons, brothers, boyfriends come back, if they want and if they can, from France with a small hoard to spend a few weeks in the brown châlets where they were born.

But a long and fierce winter has already passed before Christmas brings the men home and another still long and terrible one must pass before the return of spring. It is already late in the year before the field work can be restarted in the higher regions.

Poor, dear old teacher who kept that little flame of art and work alive, lit in the snow, in the silence, in the abandonment! And now from Ireland comes the intelligent and generous aid, and now that little flame has become the great fire of good industry, of well being that warms hearts and the small châlets. She had the satisfaction of seeing the lace industry launched and thriving before going to her final rest in death.

The story of the small Industry is a story of struggle. When Mrs. Lynch admired the lace, she thought it may offer a means to lift the extreme poverty of many of those women. She believed that when one can such produce a rare and artistic thing, one must find a market for the work. She gave, and conducted the introductions to give orders: collars, cuffs, borders for blouses, lace for lingerie. They were successful. Requests came for pillowcases, tea-table cloths, bedclothes. Gradually they found new uses for the strong lace; altar linens, work bags, etc. An American lady conceived a summer outfit with inserts of seven different lengths of Puncetto from Valle Vogna.

From poor Ireland came encouragement and invaluable assistance.

The Daily News of June 1897 announced: “Some of the curious and beautiful point lace of the Valle Vogna, (resembling Greek lace), is being mounted on Irish linen by the Irish Industries Association for Queen Margherita. It is to be offered to Her Majesty by some of her lace making peasant subjects. The Countess Bective has designed the royal crown for the different pieces. They can be seen at the Irish Depôt, Motcomb St., Belgrave Square.”

In the Queen newspaper of November 5, 1898: “The Val-Vognian Peasant’s Work. Last winter an Italian gentleman took to Rome, for presentation to Queen Margherita, a tea-table cloth, d’oyleys, and a cushion, trimmed with the handsome lace edgings and insertions made by the Val-Vognian peasants. Her Majesty has just sent, by the hand of the same Piedmontese gentleman 300 lire to be distributed among the workers. They are delighted at this Royal bounty. They never dreamt of reward beyond the honour of the Queen’s acceptance of their work. Now this gift will make a great difference in the lives of three or four poor châlets.”

So it began, laborious and ascending. Queen Margherita, whose private collection of lace is of great beauty and value, continued to buy. It was good - she is so surrounded by all the smiles and tears, as in all high art and the humble work of her people, and also Puncetto made from strong and patiently knotted threads in huts buried in the snow, now rigid and serene in the Royal Palace.

In the six or seven months of the winter reclusion they worked on a bedspread ordered by Her Majesty. It is copied from a pattern from about 400 years ago, the work of an Arab, probably a prisoner. The signature can be seen in the margin of the original piece. A pair of curtains of the same pattern were made at the request of the Italian Minister of Agriculture and Commerce and they go to the St. Louis Exposition. As a door curtain, curtains, etc., these embroideries are Arab-Val-Vognian - admirably suitable and highly artistic. Their true name is: Cutwork. One pair of these curtains gave work to five women over two years.

The lace done now in Valle Vogna is finer, more even, better designed than the Puncetto of eleven years ago. The industrious workers were given samples of the laces and embroideries of Greece, Bosnia, Hungary and they have copied almost every sort of complicated works of art. They make beautiful towels with knotted fringes that the Arabs introduced to the Mediterranean coasts. They collected photographs of the sculptures of Byzantine Ravenna beautifully suited for Puncetto patterns.

The dear alpine women like to give special names to their laces. The Mice Ladder for a mass of tiny thin bars. The Lattices of Alpe Motta - for a lace made of criss-crossing lines - Daisies - Rosettes - Lucia’s Pearls - Carolina’s Roses - Trefoils - I Give You Good Morrow - Forget-Me-Not, etc. So much unconscious poetry! In 1899, four women were occupied all day for each day of the week. In the winter of 1900-01 eighteen lacemakers were in constant employment and also the weavers found a market for their linen.

And they are so glad for each new order, their letters are so full of gratitude! “I must tell you something Signora; when I became too weak for field-labour and our only cow was dead, I said to myself: now my mother and I will perish from hunger. And then came the lace orders. It is as if the hope of work gave me courage and health. We are happy ever since.”

Lately Valle Vogna had the honour of a request to supply samples of Puncetto, Drawn-thread work and Cutwork from the Royal Museum of Brussels.

Collectors add samples of this special lace to their collections. In the winter Emily Holness’s store Valle Vogna Industry in San Remo at No. 8 Via Vittorio Emanuele sells pieces of Puncetto and in the summer in Ormea from the same Miss Holness. They can be found still from the Ghersi ladies at Courmayeur, Fräulein Huber’s shop in St. Moritz, from Frau Kniel in Davos-Platz.

In London Puncetto suitable for dress purposes is at Sheba’s in No. 15 Sloan Street, S.W. and the bigger pieces at Walcot’s, Moulton Street, W.

For any purchase or order or clarification or samples it is best to contact Signora Clorinda Favro, Casa Verso, Valle Vogna, Province of Novara. She is the Chief worker in the Industry. She won a gold medal at the Genoa Exhibition and a diploma from the Ministry of Agriculture, Industries and Commerce.

Land of misery and now land of cheerfulness.

The whole history of the Valley Vogna is contained in these words.

Poor dear old lady who’s death Mrs. Lynch saw as a blessing. She was believed the first director; she had never seen her do anything for nothing; the nothing - material that implies great spiritual wealth, continually. Then she understood that tenacious, patient, ardent goodness. And in the last hour she saw again the harsh work of summer, the long frozen winters, lonely, dark, like painful vegetating, not a life but a non-death; saw again the poor hands slowly working the Puncetto of home!

Then she saw the large group of happy and industrious workers, saw the flow of beautiful designs, beautiful antique laces, the multiplication of the work in the better-lit, better-heated huts, saw the poor Puncetto leave for distant countries, go to the Queen, go to museums. She saw a new light of prize-winning work, of intelligence, of emulation and closed her eyes - blessed in that vision and wished that the good old lady might be told that for her "a land of misery is now a land of cheerfulness.”

Dear little old lady of Valle Vogna!

How beautiful the word “cheerfulness" is. She didn’t say wealth or progress - cheerfulness - joy, the bloom of honest, appreciated work; the fruit of the labour, not only in money, but in moral development, in the well-being of the soul.

Kind ladies, make a place among the gauzy laces and soft silks, make a place for the strong Puncetto of Valle Vogna. When you go out in the summer sun, ascend to the mountains in fresh outfits of good linen, make a place for Alpine stitch. 

The soft laces of the living rooms in our artificial light; at the top, in the open air, is the Puncetto worked by hands that have reaped, tilled: the Puncetto worked in winter huts, that blossomed at the foot of the mountains like the edelweiss pure and strong.

- - - - - - - - - - - -

Many thanks to Bianca Rosa and Ivana!

Sunday, November 23, 2014

Needlework Competition

I adore needlework competitions even though I never find the time to participate in them. You may recall the A Mirror To My Art competition and the Chatelaine de Vergy competition that I told you about previously from which came some truly beautiful needlework.

The Museo della Tappezzeria Vittorio Zironi and the publishing house Nuova S1 of Bologna, Italy announce a needlework competition which will produce some breathtaking works, I am sure!

They have recently collaborated with a book release and museum exhibition of the designs of Guido Fiorini, an early 20th century Bolognese artist and key figure in the "Liberty" (Art Nouveau) style which runs through to the end of July 2015 - if you can get there, go!

Those of you who know a little of your Liberty history will know that Liberty + Bologna = Aemilia Ars! Under the direction of the Countess Lina Cavazza of the Aemilia Ars SocietyGuido Fiorini made many lace designs like the one shown above.

You can see some of the designs on display at the museum in this YouTube video:

For Italian speakers, the needlework competition rules can be found here. For English speakers, I have translated them below. Please let me know if you are entering a piece in the contest! Worth a note: if you are a registered participant, you are entitled to a 15% discount off the purchase of any publication from Nuova S1! They now accept PayPal.


Create and exhibit at the museum! Participate in the "Drawings of Guido Fiorini" competition!

On the occasion of the autumn edition of Il Mondo Creativo (November 21-13, 2014 in Bologna), Edizioni Nuova S1 inaugurates the website:
On the site and on the Facebook page Merletti e Ricami della Nuova S1 the following initiative takes place, realized in collaboration with the Museo della Tappezzeria Vittorio Zironi of Bologna: a competition, open to the techniques of embroidery, lace, knitting and weaving inspired by the Drawings of Guido Fiorini.
The competition is free and takes place online: the prize for the works with the most votes is that they will be exhibited at the Museo della Tappezzeria alongside the Fiorini works.
Read the rules and participate!
You can exhibit your work twice! First online and than at the museum!

The Drawings of Guido Fiorini Competition

The publishing house Nuova S1, in collaboration with the Museo della Tappezzeria Vittorio Zironi, organizes a competition of embroidery and lace based on the drawings contained in the publication: "I Disegni di Guido Fiorini" with the aim of setting off new works of this 20th century artist.


  • Participation in the competition is free.
  • The competition is open to all, amateurs and professionals with no age limit.
  • Participate by reproducing a work from the publication "The Drawings of Guido Fiorini, works for Aemilia Ars lace, page headers and ornate initials" (Nuova S1, 2014).
  • Only one work per person is to be submitted. Measurements are open to a maximum of 20 cm x 20 cm.
  • Not only Aemilia Ars lace! Your work can be realized in any technique of lace, embroidery, knitting or weaving.
  • To register, send an email to: or telephone: 051-346050 by and no later than December 23, 2014. Subsequently, photos of finished works will be sent to by and no later than April 20, 2015.
  • All photos of the works will be published on the website dedicated to the competition at: and on the official Facebook page of the "Lace and Embroidery" publication collection:
  • The works with the most "likes" on Facebook will be exhibited at the Museo della Tappezzeria Vittorio Zironi in Bologna. The organizers of the competition reserve the right to periodically supervise the conduct of voting.
  • Winners will be notified by telephone or email.
  • Voting will be closed by May 15, 2015.
  • Registered participants are entitled to a 15% discount on the purchase one or more of the titles from the Edizioni Nuova S1 catalogue.
  • Winning works will be sent via tracked mail to: Nuova S1 snc di Pietro Cimmino & C., Via Albertazzi, no. 6/5, 40137, Bologna, Italy.
  • Works will only be returned to those who explicitly request it.
  • The organization, while ensuring the utmost care of the works, declines all responsibility for loss, theft and damage. 
  • The authors of the works, by the very fact of participating in the competition, give the right to publication without any claims of copyright. The artistic property will always remain that of the author. The organization reserves the right use the works to organize exhibitions, paper and/or electronic publications including online and other initiatives without owing anything to the author, who will always be credited by name. Each author is responsible for the works submitted and, with their submission, authorizes its publication and gives permission to the organization to be able to manage fully and exclusively the work itself, under current regulations on the protection of privacy and confidentiality. 
  • Under the provisions of Law 196/03 (law on the protection of personal data), the participation in the competition implies the unconditional acceptance of these rules.

Note One: Do not wait until the last minute to register! If the required minimum of entrants is not received by December 23, 1014, the competition will be cancelled.

Note Two: Send in a photo of your work as soon as it is finished! The sooner you do, the sooner it will be published allowing for the maximum visibility of your work.


Italian Needlework assumes no responsibility as to the accuracy of the above translation and shall not be held responsible for errors in translation.

Bit of a layout change

I have changed the sidebar on the blog at the numerous requests of readers. I'm sorry it has taken me so long to get this done. The search bar is now near the top so you can find and search topics more easily and I've added the email notification widget so that you can now sign up for emails when I post. Please let me know if something is not working,

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

EGA National Seminar - Italian purchases

Saturday I'm going to Italy... well, not really, but it's as close as I can get right now - I'm going to the EGA National Seminar in Phoenix, Arizona and Vima deMarchi Micheli is bringing over some Italian embroiderers, similar to the EGA National Seminar in San Francisco in 2010.

I can't wait to see the ladies again and I've been saving my pennies as they always bring stitching supplies, books and patterns, kits and stitched pieces from the Italian province of Umbria.

I've been told that there will be stitched pieces for sale in the following embroidery styles: Assisi, Catherine de'Medici, Antique Umbrian, Perugino, Antique Deruta and embroidery on Tulle as well as the Orvieto and Irish Crochet Laces.

There will also be ceramic beads, buttons and fuserole from Anna Lisa Piccioni of Deruta as well as threads and fabrics for executing the above-mentioned techniques. 

Italian linens!!! I believe that there will also be handwoven works from the Giuditta Brozzetti Workshop.

I am drooling at the thought of Merchandise Night on Tuesday, October the 21st!

There are going to be Italian teachers demonstrating Assisi, Catherine de'Medici, Perugino and Antique Umbrian Embroidery as well as embroidery on Tulle. I hope they will be doing tassels too but I don't have confirmation on that one.

The ladies won't be taking credit cards so come prepared, I can't wait!!!!

Thank you Vima for the use of your photo!