Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Gigliuccio hemstitching done on the back side

A reader very kindly reminded me that I had never posted the second part of this post on finishing a hem with Gigliuccio hemstitching (Peahole hemstitch) executed on the back side of the fabric.

So, without further ado, here is how to do it. You need to execute this on the back side of the work because the four-sided stitching will match that of the series of stitches you have done to secure the hem. This step today will be knotting the bundles together to create the characteristic look of this lovely hemstitch.

Assuming that we are carrying on after having secured the hem as we did here, turn the work so that the already executed hem is at the top and work from left to right on the back side of the work.

Step one will form the first four-sided stitch:

Step two will form half of the second four-sided stitch:

Step three will knot the two bundles:

Step four will complete the second four-sided stitch and return you to step one:

Repeat the series. Here is what it looks like on the back side:

This is the front side:

If you do this in tone-on-tone you will not see the criss-cross of threads.

There is a great in-depth booklet on this and many other little tips and tricks for executing the Gigliuccio Hemstitch in a variety of ways which can be had by contacting the author, Liliana Babbi Cappelletti. Be sure to ask for the English version if that's what you need.

To see how to do the Gigliuccio hemstitch on the right side of the work, check out this post here.

Thursday, February 6, 2014

Liberty Style, Aemilia Ars Needle Lace and Forlì

In Italy Art Nouveau style is called Liberty after the British company Liberty of London. Art Nouveau style was influencing all forms of creativity during the time that Aemilia Ars needle lace was born which is apparent in early pieces of this beautiful needlework.

From February 1st until June 15th, 2014 there is a Liberty exhibition held at the San Domenico Museums in Piazza Guido da Montefeltro in Forlì, Italy.

Among the many things to see will be an Aemilia Ars needle lace exhibit and classes (I've outlined the information on the classes in red on the brochure pictured above). Here is a translation of what it says:

Aemilia Ars lace earring
Creation of needle lace
From February 15th to May 24th every Saturday (except the 19th and 26th of April and the 3rd of May)
Mornings from 10am to 12:30pm and afternoons from 3pm to 5:30pm
Other dates available on request
€30,00 (euros) per person
Cost includes a pair of gold earring mounts and entrance ticket to the Liberty exhibits
The workshop is available for individual visitors or groups with a maximum number of 25
A reservation is compulsory
For information and bookings:
Francesca Bencivenni
(contact info via telephone and email which I won't put here so that webcrawling spammers can't target them - check the brochure by clicking on the photo above)

(Francesca Bencivenni is the lacemaker behind the exquisite creations found on this website.)

Also featured in the Liberty exhibit at Forlì will be the Aemilia Ars needle lace altar cloth masterpiece created by the lacemakers and embroiderers of the Sanctuary of the Sacred Heart of Jesus of Bologna in the early years of the 20th century. I wrote an article for Piecework magazine about this altar cloth which I had the extreme privilege to view while on display at Easter at the Sacred Heart in Bologna in 2011. There are some photos of it here. 

In this post here, I told you about two table cloths created by the Aemilia Ars Society in the early part of the 20th century. I have as yet been unable to discover if either of these incredible pieces have survived to present day. Inspired by the beauty of these designs Francesca Bencivenni of Bologna has created her own masterpiece which will be on display as well at the Liberty exhibit in Forlì.

click on the photo for a closer look!

Francesca's peacock Aemilia Ars needle lace measures 89 centimetres long and 21 centimetres high and took more than 1100 hours for her to complete. It will be for sale at the end of the show - best offer will take it home - interested parties should contact her directly at her contact info on the brochure pictured above. I am in no way involved with, nor will I benefit from, the sale of the lace. If I could buy it myself I would have already made an offer!

If you find yourself in Italy this spring, make the effort to get to this show. I know I always say this but I really do wish I were able to get to this exhibit! If you go, please let me know how it was!

Saturday, January 18, 2014

Preparing a skein of Ritorto Fiorentino

Recently a friend asked me what I do to manage my skeins of Anchor's Ritorto Fiorentino pearl cotton thread which is only available in Italy. It occurred to me that maybe readers of my blog might have the same question so here below is what an Italian embroidery teacher showed me to do. Sorry the photos aren't the best, they were taken quickly with my iPod Touch. For more information and a review of Ritorto Fiorentino thread, check out Mary Corbet's blog Needle 'n Thread.

Ritorto Fiorentino is a pearl cotton thread that comes in two weights #8 and #12 just like the pearl cotton thread we know. It comes in hanks of 45 grams which is 350 metres of #8 and 550 metres of #12. I have heard different stories about why it exists but have been unable to confirm any. The legend I like the best is that it was created for the Tuscan market for the embroidery technique of Punto Antico. As works of this type of embroidery generally meant densely covered embroideries on large pieces like tablecloths, there was a need for more thread to complete them. Whatever the story is, they are lovely!

Slide the label off the top of the skein and open it out.

Look for the two ends which will be knotted together like so:

Cut the knot and cut through the threads.

Slide the label on one of the ends of the skein and position it at the middle of the length of threads.

Separate a small amount of threads to the inside of each leg on either side of the label.

Gather the two smaller sections into the centre to form a third leg and LOOSELY braid the three legs.

Near the label separate a single strand with one hand.

Grasp the rest of the skein firmly in the other hand and pull on the single strand.

The skein will bunch up but will relax again after you have extracted the single strand. If your braid was too tight this part will be difficult so make sure the tension on your braiding is loose.

The skein will stay braided. Cut your single strand to your desired thread length, eg. in half or into thirds or whatever you feel comfortable with. The strand is too long to stitch with without cutting it as pearl cotton thread loses its sheen if worked for too long.

Any unused strands can be attached to the skein using a lark's head knot near the label.

You can purchase Ritorto Fiorentino online from Italy from a number of shops like Tombolo Disegni or Casa Cenina. Ritorto Fiorentino is also available in cones for colours like white and ecru.  

Thursday, December 26, 2013

Needlework in Martina Franca, Puglia

In Martina Franca, Puglia while I was picking up some handmade pasta and local cheese to take to a friend in Ferrara I asked the shop owner if there were any handmade embroidery or lace shops in town. She told me that there was one shop with things of the 'certain quality' that I was looking for in the main square.

Simply called: Pizzi e Merletti di Nella Acquaviva [Nella Acquaviva's Laces] the shop indeed sits opposite the big fountain in Piazza Roma, no. 17. We had missed it on our way through the square because it wasn't open yet and the sign is on the inside of the big brown wooden door which covers the window when the shop is closed. We arrived breathless with excitement to find the owner of the little shop, Signora Acquaviva among a treasure trove of needlework.

Signora Acquaviva's specialty is hand-knotted netting Filet embroidery and she showed us a few sets of guest towels and curtains that she had made herself, including one towel set of pale blue linen with the most amazing padded embroidery done on ivory-coloured hand-knotted netting - it was a masterpiece!

There were also many sets of Tatted earrings done with various semi-precious stones, crystals and pearls including a lovely set with cameos made in Naples!

We discovered some exquisite Tatted sachets and Filet lace inserts which we really couldn't help ooohing and ahhhing over. The work was so fine and all done by the Signora herself.

In the shop window display was a particularly fine piece of bobbin lace done in the technique called Rosaline:

Rosaline bobbin lace in front with Filet lace on the table.
Signora Acquaviva does work on commission as well and showed us some lovely wedding favours and a breathtaking large oval Filet Lace insert ready to be attached to a floor-to-ceiling-sized curtain. If you find yourself in Martina Franca, do not miss this shop!

A huge thank you to Susan for the photos!

Saturday, December 7, 2013

Traditional Needlework of Locorotondo

When travelling through the Puglia region of Italy this past fall, I was always on the lookout for examples of local needlework. One morning while we were on a guided tour of Locorotondo which is a pretty little town in the province of Bari, I spotted an embellished curtain hanging in the window of a residence:

I took a quick snapshot but didn't have any time to study it as we were on the move with our guide. I thought it seemed to be some kind of needle lace but I really didn't get a good look and I resolved to study the photo later.

We ended our tour in the main square of Locorotondo and as the guide was wrapping up I glanced around and spied a small shop with embroideries hanging in the window. As we were being told we had 10 minutes for a bathroom pitstop before we would meet our bus to go on to an olive oil tasting, I was already backing slowly away from the group in the direction of the shop. As soon as the guide finished talking I pivoted and ran. I'm sure the proprietor of the shop (who was sweeping the pavement in front of the shop) wondered at the crazy tourist bearing down on her at speed!

Breathlessly I explained that I only had 10 minutes and could she please tell me of any local tradition of needlework? She dropped the broom and we rushed inside the shop - a woman who understood me! 

She showed me a shawl made out of wool in the unusual work that I had seen on the curtain pictured above. She also explained that it was a crochet technique called Margherita Stitch and that traditionally the shawls were made for wearing to church but that the technique had been adapted lately for different things like table runners, ornaments, earrings, wedding and other celebration favours, borders for curtains, towels, handkerchiefs and Christmas tree ornaments using different threads like embroidery and crochet cotton, silks and linen threads. 

I picked a small doily to take away with me and as she was ringing me up, the other ladies from my tour arrived breathlessly as they had discovered the textile museum next door and were looking for me because they knew I'd want to see it. Alas, our 10 minutes were up and I did not get to see the museum but I was told that there were some amazing pieces to see in the windows alone.

Signora Spalluto was lovely to come outside the shop and pose for a photo, if you look in the background you can see some ornaments and an amazing tablecloth done in Filet Lace hanging from the ceiling:

Signora Spalluto was able to tell me that she teaches embroidery and has a group of stitchers who make items for the shop and work on commission for trousseaux, weddings, christenings and the like. Her group is well versed in traditional embroidery, tatting, crochet, filet lace and many other techniques as well as the restoration and cleaning of antique pieces.

She has a website which has pages in English as well as Italian where you can look through the galleries of photos of works done in Margherita Stitch as well as other techniques.

We were sorry to leave without taking a good look at what was in the shop, but you can bet if any of us is ever in Locorotondo again, we will be back to the shop and explore the museum right away! I'd love to hear from you if you've been through the museum.

Thanks to Susan for taking the photo of the front of the shop!

Saturday, November 30, 2013

Needlework course in Florence with Adriana Armanni

When I was thinking about planning my last trip to Italy which included going on one of Vima deMarchi Micheli's Italia Mia tours, Vima asked me if I'd be interested in taking an embroidery course in Florence at the end of the tour. I said yes without thought to the teacher or the technique, knowing that it would be an experience that I wouldn't want to miss regardless of subject matter.

It's always great to discover that you've made the right decision by going with your instincts. Our course was three afternoons with all materials included, held in the delightful Residence La Contessina where we were staying. Our teacher was the very talented Adriana Armanni of the needlework school Arti e Pensieri® in Florence. (There is a lovely article about her here (in Italian) from 2003.)

Cover of course material.

The technique was Florentine Whitework mounted on a frame inspired by a Rovescia which traditionally was the "pretend" fold-back part of the top sheet of the matrimonial bed. This was used to "dress-up" the matrimonial bed for when visitors came to call and was removed before going to sleep. I didn't get a clear photo of the whole piece but you can get an idea of the embroidery from the course booklet cover pictured above (click on the photo for a closer look).

Antique Rovescia found in a local flea market.

Adriana modelled this course on an antique Rovescia that she found in a local flea market. She also had matching pillow cases which were traditionally part of the set. The work was stunning and so delicate! Not willing to burn a thread from her pieces in order to understand what kind of fabric it was, Adriana said that it was either very fine Cambric linen or cotton or very fine Batiste linen and in fact, it was very, very sheer. The sheerness of the fabric is essential to the work as the embroidery is designed to use a combination of stitches to achieve an overall balance of chiaroscuro effect.

The Rovescia was traditionally embroidered with sayings like this one, Felici Sonni = Sweet Dreams. Classic embroidery stitches are used like padded satin stitch, shadow work, French knots, stem stitch, long and short stitch and pulled and/or drawn thread stitches. It is important that the fabric be stretched on an embroidery frame in order to achieve an "embossed" effect which would be impossible if the work were done in hand. Good lighting and magnification are essential as the work is very fine.

Adriana instructs our "non-embroiderer".

Our own project was not executed with materials as fine as the original but we were still able to achieve the look with the threads and fabrics that Adriana had chosen for us. There was one lady in our course who was not an embroiderer and she was able to produce some lovely results.

The huge embroidery frames we worked on.

Adriana was able to provide the non-Italian speaking pupils with a booklet in English and provide assistance and instruction in English as well. She not only taught us the practical needlework execution but also the principals and science of the choice of stitches to be used when choosing what to fill the motifs with. This made me immediately think of my blog readers who have asked me where they can take a needlework course taught in English in Italy. Adriana is well-versed in all kinds of needlework techniques and you could contact her to choose one for yourself on your next trip to Florence. I found her to be a patient and well-explained teacher, she was full of tips and tricks that you only really learn from experience. Since she also does commissioned work as well as teaching needlework, you know that she is very good at what she does.

Detail of model piece.

Detail of model piece.

Detail of model piece.

When I asked Adriana if she would mind if I wrote a post about our class and published my photos she said that she would be more than happy. She believes that needlework will only be kept alive by sharing knowledge. This is truly an important attitude and one that you don't always find amongst needlework teachers in Italy, many prefer to jealously guard their secrets.

At the end of our three days we had covered quite a lot of stitches and Adriana then unmounted and cut up the fabric so that we could each have enough to make a pillowcase of our work completed at home.

Thursday, November 21, 2013

Fabric and thread shops in Rome

I spent seven glorious days in Rome the first week of this past October with friends who live on the outskirts of the city. The first day after arriving from the airport, we headed out to celebrate our visit with a gelato. That was it, no big plans, it was late afternoon and I'd been up some 24 hours or more.

To get to the gelateria, you must pass a merceria which is a shop which carries embroidery threads, fabrics, buttons, ribbons, sewing notions and the like. We decided to stop in just for a minute...

I swear I only wanted to get the no. 30 coton a broder thread!
But then there was a table with discontinued Anchor threads on sale. I couldn't let that silk just sit there, or the pearl cotton either. After we had rung up the purchase, the clerk told us that he also had discontinued colours of Anchor coton a broder no. 25 on sale too...

... so we had to go back the next day. Luckily I had my iPod with my list of what I already have at home, even though in the end if I'd taken one of everything I would have only ended up with a couple of duplicates. Needless to say, we had a delightful time going through all the drawers filled with threads.

This merceria as I said is on the outskirts of Rome but in the case that you might be nearby on one of your travels to Italy, the store is in Via Millesimo no. 53 in the suburb called Torrevecchia.

A couple of days later we headed into the centre of Rome to see some newly restored silk and gold embroidered vestments at the Church of St. Francis a Ripa Grande. Along the way from the bus stop in Piazza Venezia to where we took the street car to Trastevere, we walked through the section of town where there are some textile-related stores.

Paganini Fabric Store, Via Botteghe Oscure, no. 50, Rome.

We stopped in at the Paganini fabric store which is a huge place with 14 window displays. They have been around since 1948 and carry all kinds of fabrics and rugs. You can see some photos of the inside of the store here.

I bought some "cencio della nonna" which is a linen gauze (11 threads per centimetre) for backing Trapunto. You can see it on the back of Silvana Vannini's Trapunto project here.

From there we headed to the Merceria Alfis in Largo Ginnasi no. 6 where (among the threads and other textile things) they have a large selection of buttons.

Check out my previous post for more shops in Rome. Do you have a favorite textile-related store in Rome? Leave a comment below!