At the end of the 19th century excavations in Arezzo, Italy revealed some pieces of unevenly woven cloth dating to about 1400. Embroidered on these pieces were some patterns executed in Cross Stitch using only rust and blue coloured thread.
Just after these discoveries some women of the area decided to recreate and revive this embroidery. At the time, women in many cities and areas of Italy were developing or reviving local embroidery and lace techniques.
Fabric was handwoven in the nearby town of Città di Castello especially for this project. Designs of traditional motifs like stylized birds, fantasy animals and Romanesques were used with geometric patterns – designs very similar to the traditional designs of Perugian weaving.
Essentially a Counted Thread technique, the designs were filled in with Long Arm Cross Stitch over four/eight ground threads, and lines were done in Double Running Stitch over four ground threads. The narrow hems of the pieces were finished with Four-Sided Stitch. Hemp threads were used in rust and blue colours.
Items made were: placemats, bags, curtains, tablecentres, panels, cushions with inserts of bobbin lace and sometimes with knotted fringe or tassels.
Works were exhibited in local and regional exhibits.
This embroidery enjoyed some popularity at the time and other areas like Florence adopted it.
Over time it went into decline and is today almost forgotten. I have seen only a couple of modern pieces – one is pictured in the catalogue for the Italia Invita Lace and Embroidery Forum of 2005, executed by the Laboratorio Tessile di Alice in Castiglion Fiorentino; the other can be found if you click on the 'english' button in the top right hand corner of their homepage, then 'activity' at the bottom of the page, then 'weekly courses' there will appear a row of six images along the bottom left-hand side of the page: in the third from the left, is a small bird stitched in blue and rust. This is the only online picture that I can find to show you - if anyone knows of others, please, please – leave a comment below!
Black and white pictures of works from the beginning of the 20th century can be found in:
Anchor Manual of Needlework, Interweave Press
Dizionario Enciclopedico di Lavori Femminili by Lucia Petrali Castaldi
L'Opre Leggiadre by Lucia Petrali Castaldi