Friday, January 28, 2011

Italian Almanacs

Often when I'm researching online, I lose hours and hours just browsing documents. It's always interesting and once in a while I find things relating to what I was looking for in the first place. Most often though, I find things that take me on a completely different path.

I started out looking for something on the Universal Exposition of Turin in 1911 and ended up discovering that the Internet Archive has some scanned copies of old Italian Almanacs from the beginning of the 20th century.

These are fun to browse through for the photos and advertisements if you don't read any Italian. They are like mini-encyclopedias and re-caps of the news of the past year and the events for the next year.

Sometimes there are pages of summaries of other articles from previous issues which send you on your way to check out something you missed. Key words are: moda = fashion, lavori femminili = women's work, ricamo/i = embroidery/ies, trina/e or merletto/i or pizzo/i = laces.

In the 1914 Almanac, I came across this delightful Filet lace which is hard to tell if it was executed in the Darning Stitch or the Linen Stitch:

And this intriguing needle lace called Punto Sforza:

The accompanying article is brief and talks of the many different types of embroideries and laces and of the expositions of Siena, Turin and Paris. The author expresses a desire for more of such exhibitions in Italy "so that women can be encouraged to exercise their inventive faculties, and show what their intelligence is capable of producing."

With regard to Punto Sforza, it says that it is characterized by figures in lace stitches on a background of needle lace. It looks somehow familiar to me... like I've seen it somewhere else. Off I run to my library and in Lucia Petrali Castaldi's Dizionario Enciclopedico di Lavori Femminili it says:
 ... execution derived on a variation of the Milanese Lace... hmmm. Elisa Ricci's Trine a Fuselli doesn't seem to name it but there are some photos of exquisite pieces which seem to follow the criteria in the chapter on Milanese lace... yet, I know I've seen something very close to the photo from the Almanac somewhere...

Uh, oh... how did we get to "Milan" when I started out in "Turin"?
See how it happens? How easy it is to get distracted by beautiful things?!

Ah! Let me think about this Punto Sforza for a bit and let's see if something comes back to mind. In the meantime, have a browse through the old Almanacs for a bit of early 20th century Italy flavour.


  1. Thanks for sharing. have a nice day!

  2. Dear Janine, I was led to your blog by Aracne of la Griccia. She thought you might be able to help identify this embroidery/applique technique I posted on my blog:
    I can see that it's pretty simple but wonder about its history.