The following two pieces are samples of borders that one could buy by the metre in Bologna, Italy around the middle of the twentieth century. I'm guessing that one picked out one's preferred motifs when commissioning a tablecloth or other stitched item. If anyone can offer other information, please – please leave a comment below!
After the end of the Aemilia Ars Society in the late 1930s and the bombing of their shop during the Second World War, a woman by the name of Maria Garagnani (1904–1989) purchased the store and had it restored. By employing former teachers and students of the defunct Society, the store produced and sold many different kinds of needlework. The store logo is stamped on the labels.
The label here says that this border cost 18 Lire per metre.
And this border cost 10 Lire per metre.
In 1950 there were 625 Lire to one US dollar.
By today's terminology these are samples of Punto Antico Embroidery and Reticello needle lace. A row of Four-Sided Stitch is used to separate the rows of Punto Antico motifs stitched in Curl Stitch, Buttonhole Stitch, Eyelets, Satin Stitch and Bullion Knots. The Reticello needle lace area is bordered with Overcast Stitch, the needle lace motifs are done in Detached Buttonhole Stitch, Needleweaving, Buttonhole Stitch, Overcast bars and Picots.
Could you ever contemplate stitching metres and metres of this?!
These two pieces and a few other samples are among the collection of needlework at the Poldi Pezzoli Museum in Milan, Italy.
You can learn more about Maria Garagnani at Tuttoricamo. Look under the "Prominent Characters" heading, then under the column heading "...yesterday".
There is an article about the history of the Aemilia Ars Society in the May/June 2009 issue of Piecework magazine.
Thanks to Stefania for the photos!