Saturday, July 13, 2013

Catherine de'Medici Embroidery - New book and some experiments

A couple of months ago this new book by Rosalba Pepi came out on Catherine de'Medici Embroidery. I have just recently gotten my hands on a copy of this over 120 page volume. I've told you a bit about Catherine de'Medici Embroidery in a few previous posts so you already know that it's a technique that I admire. I've written a bit about Rosalba Pepi of the Laboratorio Tessile di Alice in Castiglion Fiorentino, in the province of Arezzo in previous posts as well. She is also someone that I admire.

Rosalba has a very creative mind when it comes to textiles and has taken ancient traditional techniques like Trapunto and Catherine de' Medici Embroidery and made them delightfully contemporary: see one of her kits here and one of her books here. She was a part of the publication of this essential book on Tassels too.

Rosalba loves to work in breathtaking silk threads dyed with natural materials. Make yourself a cuppa and explore the website of the Laboratorio Tessile di Alice which has Italian and English language versions - you will be delighted by Rosalba's works.

Back to this book: The first section is a few pages on the history of the running stitch with photos of contemporary and early 20th century Catherine de'Medici Embroidery works among other things and a bit about the history of traditional materials used, colours and ideas for application of this technique. (Text in Italian) There follows an instructional section with clear diagrams for executing different pattern lines and starting and finishing working threads. There are some ideas and instructions for edge finishings and tassels too - as well as the care and maintenance of stitched pieces and the tools required for executing the work. The remaining 3/4 of the book is choc-full of over 75 charted patterns and motifs and colour photos of finished works.

There are no precise project instructions but that didn't stop me from deciding on a table runner project anyway. Inspired by Rosalba's use of indigo-dyed silk yarn, I ran off yesterday to my local knitting shop with a ball of Cotone Povero - the traditional cotton yarn used in Catherine de'Medici Embroidery and a piece of undyed modern Buratto linen fabric from Sotema. I found a 17%silk/83%cotton blend of yarn called Night Sea from Misti Alpaca which is slightly thicker than the Cotone Povero yarn but will work nicely all the same. Last night I stitched a bit of a sample border on a scrap of undyed Buratto.

Can you find my stitching error?

Worried about the colour running, I soaked the embroidery in cold water (the label says it's to be washed at 30 degrees) and Marsiglia (Marseille) soap for about an hour. The water was a bit blue but I can't detect any bleed marks on the fabric, at least it doesn't show up so much that it catches the eye. However when I ironed it dry face-down on a white towel, it left some blue on the towel. The hank of yarn is now soaking in a tub of soap and water and I'll be rinsing it until no more blue comes out.

In the meantime, I decided to try one of the tassels from the book using the traditional Cotone Povero yarn.

This is the first of two legs that will be tied together to make the tassel:

This tassel is made of knots on top of knots. I'm going to photograph the process of the second leg so I'll save that for a future post.

In Europe you can purchase this book directly from NuovaS1 the publisher via bank transfer. To pay with PayPal, check out Tombolo Disegni, click on "Libri/Books", then "Libri Ricamo", then "Assisi, Caterina de Medici, Ricamo a Treccia e Nappine" - its about halfway down the page. Send an email to order.

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