Thursday, September 3, 2015

Sardinian Knot Stitch in Inspirations Magazine

The new edition (#87) of Inspirations magazine is out and nestled amongst all the lovely projects you'll find a book weight project done in Punt'e nù embroidery from Teulada, Italy.

While a book weight is a break from traditional use for this embroidery, the pattern is authentic and features a pair of cockerels back-to-back with an almond motif between them. The pattern also features the pomegranate motif and the teeth border.

The book weight is also double-sided, done in the reverse colours on the other side:

You can use a book weight to keep your pattern books open when stitching or to keep your embroidery frame on a table while you work on an area that hangs out over the edge.

They make great gifts and are a nice size for experiencing a small sample of Punt'e nù embroidery!

Also in this issue of Inspirations is a lovely review of the English version of the book Sardinian Knot Stitch. This book is also available in an Italian version. Both books are available through Amazon.

Thank you Inspirations for doing such a beautiful layout for this little project!

Tuesday, August 25, 2015

Punto Antico 20th Anniversary and a new book

The Associazione Il Punto Antico is celebrating their 20th anniversary this year and commemorate it with a new book (in English and Italian!) of projects on this lovely needlework technique.

From the introduction:
Twenty years of passion: 1995-2015. In this book you will find the latest work and designs, some simple, others more complex, with in-depth explanations for their realization and all the designs charted. The embroidery is coloured and the worked articles are cheerful, adapted for young houses, a little informal... You will also find some photos from our early exhibitions, a testimony of the route which we took.
Twenty years of research, of study, of elaboration and the teaching of Italian Openwork are an important goal, at which I never thought to arrive. It is thanks to my students, to their affection, and to their friendship that these years have flown by and I would like, on this occasion, to embrace everyone.
---Bruna Gubbini

The book proposes 11 projects: a lampshade, table sets, curtains, runners, a cushion, towels; there are 16 different embroidery stitches described; lots of large colour photos to show off this latest batch of tasteful, very modern designs.

It has been interesting to see the evolution of Signora Gubbini's interpretations of this technique over the years and I must confess that I have all of her books. I find her immensely good at colour combinations and designs which are tasteful and refined while at the same time modern and cheerful. And while I personally love traditional designs and works, I can seriously consider Signora Gubbini's latest designs for gifts for the younger people in my life. That way I can have the best of both worlds: the joy of stitching the project and then that of delighting a friend or family member with a tasteful gift.

The English translation is done by Patricia Girolami, a British embroiderer who now lives in Italy for some years who is well acquainted with this needlework.

These designs are not traditional Punto Antico patterns in the historical sense and they use many stitches from other embroidery techniques not necessarily associated traditionally with Punto Antico so if you are looking to approach this technique from a strictly traditional point of view, I suggest you start with their first book.

You can purchase this or any of the many other books that the Associazione Il Punto Antico has produced through their website:

Sunday, August 23, 2015

Knots and Tassels and Maria Rita Faleri

The other day a beautiful photo meant for someone else came across my newsfeed which sparked a revisit for me to the Turk's Head Knot and tassels. For me its not the bright and shiny things that distract me, its the textile textural things... and Deruta beads...

Exceptional isn't it? It's creator is Maria Rita Faleri and she lives in Fermo in the Marche region of Italy which is located near the eastern coastline, pretty much in the middle of Italy: a little north of Rome, a little south of Florence.

Now, I knew a little bit about her and we've corresponded a couple of times about other things over the years and I told you about her wonderful Tassel book here. We started chatting about the tassel above and then another...

and another...

I mentioned that I had abandoned the Turk's Head knot which is what those little knots are and she helped me discover where I had gone wrong. I love the internet. She was nearly 9000 kilometres away and 9 hours ahead in time difference but within a few quick comments of a chat, she had made the lightbulb go on in my head.

There is absolutely nothing wrong with the instructions in her book, it was me that missed an important step. Looking at them now, they make perfect sense.

We started to chat about other things. Maria Rita is part of a cultural association in Fermo called Il Filo Che Conta (a little play on words: the thread that counts) where she teaches (among other techniques) Catherine de' Medici embroidery and knotted tassels. She edited the book on Catherine de' Medici embroidery that you'll find when you follow this link. She also wrote a book on marking stitches called Punti di Marca a few years ago.

Maria Rita told me that she will have a booth at the Abilmente trade show in Vicenza, Italy this October. It's one of the fairs that I'd love to go to one day, I really need to plan to be in Italy one autumn. Her booth is under her association's name: Il Filo Che Conta and you can find it in the Embroidery Salon area. She will have her books and materials for Catherine de' Medici embroidery, Bobbin Lacemaking and of course Tassels! Maria Rita will be there for demonstrations and she has made new kits for the three tassels you see above plus this one:

And also this adorable little bunch of grapes:

Inside the kits are the instructions, needle and threads plus two sizes of tiny wooden sticks which help in the execution of the knots. I want them all! Maria Rita tells me that this fair Abilmente is the only one she exhibits at and what she earns during the show helps keep her cultural association afloat.

Here is a report from a previous Abilmente show in 2012 where you can see some of Maria Rita's beautiful tassels displayed absolutely marvellously:

Photo copyright Gabriela Trionfi of

If you are in Italy and go to Abilmente, please leave a comment below and tell us how it was. Drop by the Il Filo Che Conta booth and say hello to Maria Rita for me...

Sunday, August 2, 2015

Reproduction research - Tassel

For a few years I have been looking on and off for some idea of what kind of knots make up the tassels on my vintage Punto Umbro cushion that I talked about here.

The tassel is made up of a needle lace covered head with 20 little knots covering the top part and five legs which each have 18 of the same little knots on them.

I've been to thread stores in Italy and asked lots of people. Everyone who had an idea, I tried out with no real success. Always close but not exact.

Recently while looking up something else (as usually happens with research) I stumbled across a photo of something pretty close to my tassel in Rosalba Pepi & Maria Rita Faleri's lovely book on Tassels. Who knows why I didn't notice it before.

Anyway, I started looking seriously through knot books and online.

I made a few different types of knots in paracord first...

Then a few in cotone povero cotton yarn...

I like the Turk's Head knot but it was a bit too round and I also liked the Monkey Fist Knot but it didn't have enough facets.

This is a close up of the head of my tassel with all it's little knots:

Then I thought: am I making this too complicated? This tassel was made near the beginning of the 20th century - what was available to embroiderers then? There is one knot explained in the DMC Encyclopedia (scroll down to the bottom) and one in the Italian Book of Women's Work which I showed you here. I tried them both. They were the closest yet to mine.

Still, they took me some time to work and the thought of taking an hour to make each knot when I had 92 to make motivated me to investigate YouTube, now that I had the name "Chinese Knot" at least to reference. Well, I lost a few days watching YouTube videos but I finally settled on Suzen Millodot's Double Chinese Button Knot tied on a single cord because it's pretty close and because it's relatively easy. I won't know for sure until I get better at making the knot.

I added the French knots as picots in the four corners of the bottom like the ones on my tassel and I'd say that with some practise, I could be happy with these.

Here's a bottom view for comparison:

Double Chinese Button Knot

Now, I really liked the Monkey Fist knot with picots too but that will be for a tassel not related to this one. I show you a photo of a single and then a group of four knotted together just in case you might like to make some for yourself!

Monkey Fist Knot with French Knot picots

Four Monkey Fist Knots with Picots tied together.

If you know what knot it really is on my tassel, will you leave a comment below and let me know?

Friday, July 10, 2015

Printwork Embroidery or Ricamo a Chiaroscuro

Some fun news, I've starting writing a regular column for the new Italian embroidery magazine Giuliana Ricama that I told you about here. They have graciously permitted me to print an English translation of my column here on my blog when each issue that it appears in has come out. So, if you're in Italy and you'd like to read the article in Italian, you'll have to contact the magazine, but for those English speakers, it is below. Please note that the photos of the actual embroidery did not appear in the magazine due to technical issues and the photo of the original etching print does not appear here on my blog because the magazine purchased permission to use it and my blog did not.

One more thing: the photos of this embroidery were sent to me by a lady who contacted me trying to find out something about the piece that she had found at an antiques shop in the U.S. The photos are hers and are used here with permission.


Printwork Embroidery is a technique of embroidery that imitates engraving artwork prints and was very popular in the first half of the 1800s. It then experienced a great revival after the The Great Exposition of London in 1851 where a masterpiece of the technique which featured a young girl embroidering surrounded by the alpine countryside was exhibited by the Swiss embroiderer J.U. Tanner.

Great pains were taken to precisely imitate the marks of the engraver and in order to reproduce the effect of the prints, the embroidery was executed in silk thread in either black or tones of seppia brown. In some cases the work was realized entirely with stitches while in others the background was given washes of colour in order to produce tones similar to the original etching and to avoid endless detailed stitching to obtain a three-dimensional effect.

Catalogues of Italian expositions of the period attest to many prizes being awarded for excellence in this technique as we can deduce from this quote: "...printwork embroidery in silk (awarded) for accuracy and fineness of work and for the well-understood application of shading". (Provincial Exposition of Industry and Agriculture held in Parma, 1871.) In that catalogue there are a dozen prizes which were awarded to this technique alone.

The photos are of a piece that was found at an antiques shop in Crystal River, Florida in the U.S. about 20 years ago. It is a work that is executed with great skill by an embroiderer whose name we know: Luigia Muzio. Dimensions of the piece are 18cm x 12cm and everything is stitched except the date which is printed in ink with a stain around it. After it was purchased, it was reframed using archival materials to ensure it's protection. The ground fabric is silk while the thread is difficult to determine whether it is very fine silk or hair. The embroidery is in good condition with the exception of a bit of deterioration at the top corners. The dedication reads: "For M. Maria Elisabetta Simons in thanks Muzio Luigia stitched 1869".

Depicted is Felice Orsini (1819-1858) an Italian patriot who became famous for his attempt to assassinate Napoleon III on the 14th of January 1858 and for which he was later guillotined in Paris that same year.

The original artwork print is signed Masutti (which could be the artist Antonio Masutti, 1813-1895) and today is part of the collection of the Risorgimento Museum in Turin, Italy. The embroidered copy meanwhile, can be found with the American lady who found it at her home in North Carolina. It is unknown if the embroidery was executed in Italy or in America.


(The subject of the print is Felice Orsini making bombs of his own design in his room in England where he tested them before making the attempt on the life of the French Emperor in Paris.)

Thank so much to Susan for permission to use her photos and for the wonderful adventure of investigating this interesting piece!

Saturday, July 4, 2015

Punto Risparmiato - Split Stitch Needlepainting

When I think of Needlepainting embroidery I usually think of the Long and Short Stitch. There are many talented embroiderers around the world who make the most beautiful pictures with this stitch.

When I was first translating Italian needlework terminology, I came across Punto Risparmiato which is the Split Stitch and I noticed that traditionally and historically it seemed a lot more prevalent in Italian needlework than in North American embroidery for example. I mistakenly thought that it was old-fashioned or perhaps little used today versus during our mother's and grandmother's days. As I was searching out typically Italian needlework techniques, I basically ignored and/or discounted this stitch as not very interesting.

Boy was I wrong. Now, I don't know about other countries or even much about North America but the Italians have done some breathtaking things with Punto Risparmiato and since that is what we concern ourselves with here at Italian Needlework, let's talk a bit about that.

Punto Risparmiato is the Split Stitch as I mentioned above, but "risparmiare" is the verb "to save" as in "to economize on". If you look at the back of the work, you can see that there is not as much thread coverage on the back as there is in say, Long and Short Stitch or Satin Stitch or even Straight Stitch embroidery. Threads are expensive, especially silk threads so it makes sense to use Punto Risparmiato when creating a Needlepainting picture.

Laura Boglione of Il Club del Ricamo e Arti Femminili di Grosseto in Tuscany has recently published a didactic manual packed full of tips and advice for using Il Punto Risparmiato.

This little manual is 63 pages and has more than a dozen designs for projects as well as step-by-step big colour photos and explanations for a few other complimentary stitches to use alongside Punto Risparmiato.

One of the projects from Il Punto Risparmiato by Laura Boglione.

Clicking on the photo of the book cover will take you to where you can see a preview of a few of the book's pages.

One of four vignettes of the Tuscan countryside from the book.

I had never considered Split Stitch for Needlepainting before and it's got me thinking that maybe it's something that I could do as my own experiments with Long and Short Stitch have been a little haphazard to say the least. I think with Punto Risparmiato being a little more regulated, I would feel more comfortable and less afraid. In the introduction of the book Signora Boglione says that the stitch is quickly learned and there are very few "rules" for execution. A versatile and manageable stitch that can be used on many kinds of fabric. It is a perfect stitch for allowing freedom when executing it, thus leaving the designs open to each embroiderer's own creativity and taste.

This book is available direct from the Italian publisher NuovaS1, they take PayPal or you can get it from Lacis in the U.S.  Text in Italian.

Saturday, May 30, 2015

Estense Embroidery in Inspirations Magazine

The latest issue of the Australian embroidery magazine Inspirations is out and it is a really, REALLY nice one. Among the other beautiful projects in this issue are two little Estense Embroidery items from Elisabetta Holzer of Ferrara, Italy.

Elisabetta Holzer's Estense Embroidery projects from the latest Inspirations.

A thimble holder and a small bell-shaped ornament done in the characteristic colours of Estense Embroidery. I translated the instructions and did some stitch diagrams and I have to say it looks wonderful and I am so proud to have been a part of this! Inspirations really is the world's most beautiful embroidery magazine.

As you already know, I absolutely love Estense Embroidery so I jumped at the chance to help make this happen. I had such a good time stitching the projects (I always test out my translations if I can by making the project I'm translating or at least trying out the stitches to ensure that what I've written in English makes sense). I had never assembled something like this before but always admired those little thimble holders.

My own attempt at the thimble holder project.

There was something very enjoyable about putting these together that made me notice and miss that I haven't had much stitching time lately.

I really only needed to check the assembly instructions for the bell so mine is not as ornately embroidered as the one in Inspirations, but I like it all the same.

There is even a little book review of Elisabetta's latest manual:

If you haven't take a look at Inspirations for awhile this is definitely an issue to treasure, it is packed with so many interesting historical articles and the projects are outstanding. You can get a digital subscription or just buy one digital issue from Zinio instead of waiting for the mail.