Thursday, May 27, 2010

Sicilian Drawn-Thread Work - I

I never get tired of looking at Sicilian Drawn-Thread Work, especially the style called '500 or Cinquecento. I am probably (once again) attracted by the texture of it as much as the motifs. Strange animals are the things I delight in the most and there are plenty of monsters in Sicilian Drawn-Thread Work - especially sea creatures.

Unfortunately I could not find anything with strange sea creatures that I could afford when I wanted to buy a piece of this technique but I was happy to settle for flowers...

This is a piece of '500 style on relatively high count ivory-coloured linen:

The work is done by cutting out the design, then building the surrounding netting and overcasting the edges. This must be done in an embroidery frame and the fabric must be on the straight of the grain and drum tight. I took a two-hour class and only got a small heart done but I have to tell you, I've never seen anyone stretch and pull fabric like I saw our teacher do to get it as taut as possible in the frame. I'll never handle my own stitching with care again... linen fabric is strong!

The fabric must be tight and not move because you actually cut the threads first and then overcast them so they can't be moving around at all. We basted our linen to a big piece of muslin first and then cut out a centre square window of the muslin so that the linen could be worked on. Tiny stitches overcast three ground threads using one or two padding threads. I kept forgetting to breathe while I was stitching! I was waiting for the ground threads to work their way out of the overcasting but they didn't. We didn't get to do any of the netting in class but I have made netting on fabric before so that was okay.

I bought a pre-cut piece to do at home...

I was afraid to start it as I didn't know if I'd be able to figure out what to do - then I remembered that the design is drawn on the back first and the work is executed on the front...

... okay, without the drawn design to distract me I feel better... maybe I can figure out what to do.

This lady does some amazing work, don't forget to click on "vai alla pag. 2" at the bottom of the page for more pictures!

I would love to have this tablecloth (middle picture - click on it for a closer look).

There are lots of things to look at here and even a video of a display of embroideries.

There is an article on Tuttoricamo with some instructions on how the different styles are executed.

The Anchor Manual of Needlework (Interweave Press) has a bit of information.

Elisa Ricci's Old Italian Lace has some great photos of antique works, you can download it at the Online Digital Archive.

One day I will get to the Museo del Ricamo e dello Sfilato Siciliano [Embroidery and Sicilian Drawn-Thread Work Museum] in Via Lauria, no. 4, Chiaramonte Gulfi, near Ragusa in Sicily...


  1. in 1978 i learn this technic from one of my neighbour i made a pillow, but unfortunately i forget the technic. and i am looking for instruction or book in english my email address is

  2. The only book I know of on this technique is in Italian and French:

  3. Italian embroidery is amazing. I love French and British design, but Italian needlework is a work of art! In Poland I can buy Ricamo Italiano. Projects are usually very complicated.

    I saved Merletti di Orvieto, free project from Ricamo Italiano site, from Ottobre 2004. I don't know the technique, but I like it very much.