Monday, May 30, 2011

Sicilian Drawn Thread Work

In April I went to Sicily with a stitching friend to take a Sicilian Drawn Thread Work course from Roberta Rizza in Comiso.

Roberta has a lovely shop in Comiso called Passione Ricamo (at the corner of Via Salvatore Quasimodo and Via dei Roveri) where she and her mother Franca run workshops and have a large display area for all their wonderful embroideries.

Lots of beautiful things in the shop windows!

There is a special area for embroidery courses well away from the commercial area with lots of great lighting. The course lasted three days for a total of 12 hours. We started on a Wednesday morning and our fabric was presented to us already cut and ready to go.

We learned that Sicilian Drawn Thread Work is made up of three principal types: '400, '500 and '700 and a few variations. The '500 Inverso is a variation of the '500. Patterns from the different historical periods are traditionally used with each different type (eg. patterns from the 15th century are used with '400 and so on). You can, however, use any cross stitch or filet pattern you like for executing this kind of embroidery.

A netted ground is prepared for most types of Sicilian Drawn Thread Work by cutting the ground fabric warp and weft threads and then wrapping the bars with thread. The fabric used is usually a high count evenweave linen. For the Cloth Stitch which is used in the '400 type of Sicilian Drawn Thread Work the fabric is then "rewoven" back into the netted ground with thread to fill the squares of the design. The '400 is done before wrapping the netted ground. For '700 the design is woven onto the completed netted ground using the Darning Stitch. Here is an example of the two types together, the top left corner is the '700 and the petals are done in the '400:

In the '500 type of Sicilian Drawn Thread Work the design area is not cut out of the middle of the netted ground but instead the ground fabric is left and it is outlined with an overcasting stitch:

'500 Inverso is the design made up of the netting and an overcast stitch outlining the edge of the design:

Here is our course project, the first photo is what I've got done so far on mine and then a photo of the finished stitched sample in the shop:

On the last day of the course, we were taught how to cut the fabric. Of course I miscalculated and cut mine wrong! It is fantastic to have a teacher to explain everything to you, so much more enjoyable than learning from a book at home alone! I feel confident in cutting out a new design but I'll have to lock myself in a room alone with no distractions to do it!

Roberta is an excellent teacher and gave us lots of hints and tips for working our patterns. She likes to travel around Italy to teach and you can invite her to your place by giving her a call: +39 333 705 3976.

There is an excellent tutorial at Tuttoricamo, click on the British flag for the English pages, then click on "How it's done" and then on "Sicilian Drawn Thread Work". 

Thanks to Elisabetta for the photo of the works in the shop window!


  1. Grazie a te Jeanine! Come è bello il tuo lavoro di sfilato siciliano! Il mio invece è pazientemente in attesa di prossime attenzioni!!! :-)
    Il soggiorno siciliano è assolutamente un'esperienza da ripetere, vero?
    Ciao! Elisabetta H

  2. che bei lavori, jeanine! mi sarebbe piaciuto essere là con voi. ho riguardato il kit che mi hai regalato, ma mi manca il coraggio di toccarlo: non vorrei rovinarlo!