Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Rodi Stitch

Punto Rodi or Rodi Stitch is a Pulled Thread Stitch used for filling spaces of a design and creating a light, open area. It is used a lot in Italian needlework especially for filling the insides of flowers.

This image taken from the book Nuova Enciclopedia dei Lavori Femminili by Mani di Fata:

When I went looking to find instructions on how to execute it, I found that there are many variations! All have one thing in common and that is that Rodi Stitch is executed in diagonal lines.

I took needle in hand and made you instructions of two different variations. First we'll look at the way Vima deMarchi Micheli teaches it in her Italian Needlework Techniques class that she teaches for the Embroiderers Guild of America. I used 38ct Sotema 20L ivory coloured linen from Italy and DMC Spécial Dentelles #80 thread.

Rodi Stitch
- Technique 1

Worked from right to left, bottom to top, turn the work 180 degrees to do the return row. Pull the stitches firmly to open up holes which are bigger than the ground fabric holes for the desired effect. Each stitch is executed twice.

Click on the photo for a closer look:

I did it in coloured thread so you could see the stitches, then I did it in thread matching the background colour so you can see the effect. I also show you how the back looks:

With this method, the back looks the same as the front.

The second working I did was from Liliana Babbi Cappelletti's excellent booklet (see info below).

Rodi Stitch - Technique 2
Worked from right to left, top to bottom, you do not turn the work to do the return row. Again, pull each stitch to open up the fabric. Each stitch is executed only once. You must make a cross-over stitch at the end of the row in order to return.

Click on the photo for a closer look:

And here is the back:

As you can see, the back looks different from the front with this method. The overall effect is the same, though with only one stitch instead of two, this way looks a bit more delicate (it's hard to tell from these small patches, I know - it is the impression I get when looking at the two patches on my fabric here in my hand).

Liliana Babbi Cappelletti has at least six variations of Rodi Stitch in her instruction booklet: Il punto rodi e le sue varianti, il punto principessa e altri retini di fondo. Text in Italian but very clear diagrams. You can get this booklet from Tombolo Disegni. Click on "Libri/Books", then "Libri Ricamo", then "Ricamo Italiani", send an email request to order. (Note: there are no photos of this book on the page, it is the first entry in a listing.)

I believe the English terminology for this stitch is Faggot Stitch.

Here is a short video on YouTube.

Monday, June 28, 2010

World's Fair – Milan, 1906

"Our exposition, inaugurated the 3rd of May, 1906 by Their Majesties the King and Queen of Italy, was utterly destroyed by the overnight fire of August 2nd and 3rd. The pages of this book, collected while our halls offered themselves to the public like inspired revelations of Italian art and work, today take on a particular documentary merit and are left as a reminder of the artistic work done, the thought and the love of those who promoted and prepared it."
-- Le Industrie Femminili Italiane, 1906

... although rescue was quick, and despite the dedicated efforts of firefighters, both the Italian and Hungarian exhibitions of the Decorative Arts were engulfed in flames. When day came, all that remained of the site was a pile of smoldering rubble and charred beams...
-- L'Illustration, 1906

In what was probably the single worst loss of needlework excellence in history, the Decorative Arts Pavilion burnt to the ground halfway through the World's Fair in Milan in 1906.

An unpardonable act of arson. The list of pieces submitted to the Fair for display and for sale is a dozen pages long: furnishings – entire bedroom suites, dining room linens, door hangings and curtains, window treatments and coverings; clothing – traditional costumes, baby, children, women's and men's outfits, lingerie, personal, table and household linens; dolls wearing representative territorial costumes.

Needle lace, bobbin lace, knitting, crochet, traditional embroidery, territorial specialty embroideries and laces, tapestries, weaving – works of all materials: silk, linen, gold, straw, cotton.


Can you imagine the horrific news reaching the women who laboured to make their very best pieces? The loss... the loss!

Much more than embroidery and lace was burned to ashes: priceless manuscripts, documents, metal statues "reduced to ingots".

Then: within 40 days – the Pavillion was reborn. They literally worked around the clock: the architects, the builders, the artists and artisans, the embroiderers, the weavers and the lacemakers to produce exhibitions every bit as wondrous as those that had been lost. Grand prize and gold medal winners.

"... Also worthy of particular praise, is the National Cooperative of Women's Industries... which managed, with really wonderful results, to awaken and discipline in the remotest provinces of Italy... traditional female industries - embroidery, lace or woven fabrics - characteristic of each region. Of these works there were some wonderful ones from Sardinia or from Friuli, the Abruzzi or Bergamo, from Valsesia or Calabria, [which were] burned in the first exhibition, and although much less numerous, there are beautiful ones in the renewed exhibition. ... Among all the other works, of special, very distinguished importance appeared and appear, however, the exquisitely delicate lace of Aemilia Ars..."
-- Vittorio Pica, L'Emporium, 1906.

Many, many thanks to the people of the Ning Group MI 1906 who have made this post possible.

I will continue my research for traces of these pieces and will post here when I find them!

Sunday, June 27, 2010

Knotted Tassel II

Recently a friend from Italy sent me a small kit as a gift. I decided to document making the project here. It is a knotted tassel - I love making these and each one is a little different from the other.

The kit is from the Laboratorio Tessile di Alice. Two very talented women are responsible for this workshop/embroidery school: Rosalba Pepi and Paola Baldetti. The Laboratorio's main home is in the 14th century Church of St. Stephen in via San Lazzo in Castiglion Fiorentino near Arezzo, Italy. Now a cultural centre, this church's interior walls are covered in frescos from the late 14th and early 15th centuries. The other seat of the Laboratorio is the 18th century Villa Candida in Viale Roma no. 21, in Foligno, Italy which is also home to a sporting club. Can you imagine going to a needlework class in one or the other of these fantastic settings?

In a recent issue of one of the Italian needlework magazines, I don't remember if it was RAKAM or Ricamo Italiano, there was a photo of a tassel sampler on the wall. A frame with a coloured background and different tassels pinned to it. I really like that idea and was thinking to work my way through the tassels in the book Nappe e Pendagli by Giuseppa Federici... it is still in the idea process but if I do decide to do it, I'll show you how it goes along.

Back to the kit! It is very simple, a piece of cardboard with a photo of the finished knotted tassel on one side and the instructions on the back, some Cotone Povero, (cotton yarn) and a ceramic bead.

The cotton is precut into six three-stranded lengths with a knot at one end, all ready to get you started on making your knots!

There is also one long length for stringing the pieces together.

I made a series of knots on each length about 1 cm apart and cut them every second knot to get six groups of 20 knotted pieces.

Next I took the long length and doubled it, then put it into a needle and knotted one end. Then I strung the pieces on in groups of 20, placing a knot before and after each group with about 1 cm between each group.

I always pierce the middle of a strand for the first and last piece so they don't slip over the knot that is supposed to hold them in groups.

Then I cut between the fifth and fourth groups so that I had a length with four groups and a length with two groups still on the end of the length in my needle.

I inserted the needle with the two groups on its length through the hole in the bead, made a loop the size I wanted for hanging the tassel and passed the needle through the hole in the bead again, making sure to hang on to the loop on top to keep it the desired size. I caught the length with four groups around the middle; that is: with two groups on either side so that now I had three lengths hanging below the bead with two groups each. I passed the needle back through the bead. At this point it says to overcast the loop that will be used for hanging the tassel. I don't usually do this, but I will do it here as I'm always game for new things!

I found that overcasting the loop was the hardest part of the whole thing! In the end I managed it and did my last stitch as a Buttonhole stitch to lock the overcasting in place. Then I plunged the needle through the bead one more time (my lumpy Buttonhole stitch ended up hiding in the hole of the bead). On the other side of the bead I made a knot close to the bead and cut the thread.

Now comparing my knotted tassel with the one in the photo, I notice that the loop on top in the picture is quite small and there is another piece of thread looped into it for hanging. Oh well, mine is quite twisty and I like it!

At this point you can move the pieces in the groups around so that they are going every which-way and for added fluffiness, get them wet and let them dry. You get a super fluffy tassel!

You can get the book Nappe e Pendagli from Tombolo Disegni: click on "Libri/Books", then "Libri/Ricamo", then "Ricamo Italiani", the text is in Italian – send an email request to order.

(p.s.: my tassel doesn't look like the photo in the kit because my idea of 1 cm was probably twice as long as it should have been! With smaller pieces, you get the effect of the individual groups whereas mine is a bit of a blob! – I need more practice!)

Saturday, June 26, 2010

Goldwork in Renaissance Italy

During the Renaissance, Florence took the lead in Or Nué, or shaded gold technique, producing works of metal thread embroidered art which rivaled paintings. Though the technique probably originated in Belgium, the Florentines took it to new heights of excellence and made it their own, creating the period known as Opus Florentinium. Executed on a heavy cotton or linen background fabric with silk threads, split stitches and satin stitches in innumerable colour shades and thread thicknesses were used to couch down rows of metal threads creating incredible three-dimensional scenes. To aid the 3-D effect, soft cotton threads were applied to the ground fabric and stitched over thus raising the gold and silver threads.

The most famous surviving examples of this technique are the embroideries of St. John the Baptist which are now preserved in the Museo dell’Opera del Duomo in Florence. They are a series of 27 scenes of the life of St. John the Baptist which once decorated vestments worn by the priests of the Baptistry commissioned by the members of the Arte di Calimala.

I'm sorry my photo is not very clear, but here is one of the pieces:

Painter and Architect Giorgio Vasari mentions in his book “The Lives of the Most Eminent Painters, Sculptors and Architects” (first published in Florence in 1550) that the artists who designed for needlework had the ambition to produce embroideries which looked as much like paintings as possible.

In 1437 Cennino Cennini of Florence wrote out techniques for artists who were commissioned to design for embroidery (Il Libro dell'Arte). It was the artist, not the embroiderer, who drew out the designs on the ground fabric, and there were precise instructions for designs on linen and different ones for designs on velvet.

Goldwork embroidery on clothing and furnishings may not have been a luxury for the average citizen but nothing, not even Sumptuary Laws restricted the rich. In Old Italian Lace, Elisa Ricci quotes an inventory document which states: "In the wedding-trousseau of Elisabetta Gonzaga of Montefeltro (1488) the cushions were of crimson satin with a network of gold and silver, two shirts, one of cambric, the other of bombasine were worked with gold; the sheets were trimmed with gold and gold fringe." And again here she quotes inventory documentation of the wardrobe of Lucrezia Borgia, dated 1502: "minute descriptions are given one after another of embroideries for bed-furniture in silk and gold, velvet embossed with gold, and two cushions of green velvet with tassels and lace of gold."

The Church was often the commissioner of expensive needlework. A Renaissance period dalmatic, credited to the region of Umbria is preserved at the Orvieto Museo del Duomo. It is a rich red brocaded velvet which has the scenes of the “Adoration of the Magi”, the “Presentation in the Temple”, and the “Resurrection and Ascension” embroidered in gold and silk threads on it. It belongs to a set of another dalmatic and a chasuble, the designs of which are credited to either the artists Luca Signorelli, Sandro Botticelli or Raffaellino del Garbo.

Check out this Italian Corporal Cover at the Victoria & Albert museum.

While religious material provided endless subject matter for gold embroideries, hunting scenes were popular as well. The nuns of Florence were also doing commissions of embroideries at this time. Their skill was praised by the Bishop of Florence and by Fra Savonarola who then later in the century changed his mind and reproached the sisters for devoting their time to the "vain fabrication" of gold laces with which to adorn the houses and persons of the rich.

The 16th century was the height of decorative design and it is at this time that Italian styles and fashions had the greatest influence on Europe. During this period ancient Roman houses were being excavated and an interest in classical design began to be reflected in art. "Since the excavated houses of ancient Rome, by now buried under the detrius of years, emerged as caves, they became known as grottoes and their wall paintings were described as grotteschi, or grotesques. Essentially the style consisted of a light, cool balanced scheme of cartouches set in an airy framework of linear and floral decoration, which was whimsically or even ludicrously interspersed with imaginary beasts, mask and human or anthropoid figures" (Needlework, an Illustrated History, 1978). The artist Raphael is credited with developing this type of design work.

An example of Raphael grotesque design:

Around the same time, Islamic decoration was also used by Renaissance designers and these two design influences were combined to create the style of Renaissance artwork. Early Middle Eastern design inherited through Sicily and flower patterns were also incorporated. Classical acanthus leaves, arabesque scrolling or wave patterns sometimes combined with animal patterns were stylized to geometric ground-covering patterns.

Symbolism and double meaning was popular among the people of Italy in the 16th century and was often reflected in Goldwork embroidery along with heraldry, monograms and ciphers. These types of patterns were used for wall hangings, bed valences, covers for chests and tables, horse trappings and coverlets worked in gold threads usually on velvet or satin or in appliqué outlined with applied braids.

Catherine de’Medici of Florence was a great patron of embroidery and was a highly skilled embroideress herself, having learned the art while in the convents of Florence during her early childhood. It is said that Catherine took the most skilled of Italian embroidery craftsmen with her to the French Court and while there, spread Italian needlework techniques among the French. I love this quote from an essay in a 1930 issue of Antiques Digest: "Catherine de’Medici, always interesting and intriguing because of the times she reflected, presents a magnificent picture of the luxury of woe. On the death of Henri II she tore down the gorgeous brocades of the bed and replaced them with more of magnificence than even color could express. Into this bed they popped the widowed queen, and this is how it was draped. A canopy was over her head of black silk damask lined with white. From this depended a dossier which hung behind the bed’s head, also of black damask, but embroidered in silver. But the fine effect was given by the curtains long and full, all of black velvet. They were embroidered with gold and silver and finished across the hem with silver fringe. When they parted it was to reveal the queen lying under a coverlid of black velvet and black damask set off with flashes of silver and pearls. Who could doubt the sincerity of woe thus beautifully expressed? This style of bed was aptly called the lit de parade."

The Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York has a late 16th century, possibly Venetian, woman’s camicia with lavender silk and gold embroidery patterns. Unfortunately, their website does not have a photo of this piece and they have no record of who it belonged to.

Check out this amazing Italian christening blanket at the Victoria & Albert museum! Don't forget to click on the "More Information" tab to read all the information.

In another post we will explore Italian Goldwork in other time periods.

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Who was Lunardo Fero?

I'm always fascinated by the lives of the people behind needlework. Just as American schoolgirl samplers are appraised at a far higher value if the owner knows the history of the embroiderer, I think the techniques, designs, embroideries, etc. are more interesting if I know the story of how they were made and by whom.

One of the most frustrating things about amateur research is that many times I am unable to find out anything about a particular person. I often wish for lottery millions so I could travel to the various museums and libraries around the world and research for myself among the archives... who knows if I'd be any more successful?

I have never been to the Victoria and Albert Museum in London but you can bet that if I ever get the chance, I'll probably spend my entire vacation there. They have many Italian needlework-related things. One of them is a book of embroidery designs done in ink and watercolours by Lunardo Fero, Venice, October 16, 1559. Lunardo? I'm no expert on names but this is one I haven't come across before... could it be Leonardo? Either way I can turn up nothing doing internet searches on this guy.

The information I can find on this little book is that it "contains dozens of beautifully crafted embroidery patterns displaying an impressive range of floral and ornamental motifs, some inspired by classical forms, others by contemporary Middle-Eastern designs." It is dedicated to the "virtuous and noble" Elena Foscari. The Foscari coat of arms is on the last page "both as a mark of ownership and as a pattern to be applied to all kinds of household textiles".

"The vellum binding and the striped, decorative endpapers are eighteenth or nineteenth century. The title-page is fairly clean and suggests that the designs were originally bound in a volume even though the binding is not contemporary with the designs."

There are 26 entries for this book on the Victoria & Albert Museum website, but there are only four images. I kept very busy clicking on the different entries as there are different descriptions for each page even when there aren't any photos.

Searches for Elena Foscari turn up empty too. Foscari is an ancient Venetian name and Francesco Foscari became Doge of Venice in 1423. He's the only guy who turns up when I search the name.

If anyone has any other information please, please leave me a comment! I'd love to know what the rest of the book looks like... have you been to the V&A and seen it yourself? I wonder how many other embroidery pattern books like this there were?

These images were taken from At Home in Renaissance Italy by Marta Ajmar-Wollheim and Flora Dennis. This is an excellent book!

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Different Styles of Reticello - Part Four

So let's look at those hugely ornate Reticello collars and cuffs of the late 16th and early 17th centuries.

For those of you who may be joining us just now, we started this series on the Different Styles of Reticello here.

As Elisa Ricci says in her introduction to the 1909 reprint of Federico Vinciolo's Les Singuliers et Nouveaux Pourtraicts, "To judge by the number of times this little book by Vinciolo was reprinted between 1587 and 1658, one must believe that the refined and demanding ladies of the time considered it the best of its kind. There are some 17 editions that we know of – but there is reason to believe that there were more, since it is inconceivable that some fragment or recollection of every edition has come down to us, considering the manner in which ladies would use, or rather consume, such pattern books, ripping out the pages and distributing them to their embroiderers, as one does today with patterns found in fashion magazines."

It is amazing that we have traces of these pattern books, considering all the factors against their survival like fire, water, mice, wear and tear, mould, mildew – the ones to survive must have been jealously guarded indeed. There are some that still are... jealously guarded that is. Vari Disegni di Merletto by Bartolomeo Danieli and Libro di Lavorieri by Aurelio Passerotti are ones I'd love to see... I don't know if they contain patterns for Reticello or not.

There is quite an informative article in the back of the Italia Invita 2005 Forum Book by Marialuisa Rizzini on the various pattern books of the 16th century that cites some 156 editions which are known. I thought I had a list of them all at one point but I can't find it now, I will keep looking and post it when I find it.

From Les Singuliers et Nouveaux Pourtraicts by Federico Vinciolo:

Ornate collars and cuffs were the thing to be wearing. Here we have a detail of collar and cuff by Scipione Pulzone, late 1500s (click here for the whole picture):

Elisabetta Catanea Parasole Romana, 1616, Teatro delle Nobili et Virtuose Donne – numerous designs for "Reticella", this is only one page:

There were many other antique pattern books to draw from, and the best way to see the embroideries now is to check out portraits from the period.

From Old World Lace by Clara Blum:

From Old Italian Lace by Elisa Ricci:

There is a free downloadable German version of Elisabetta Catanea Parasole Romana's, Teatro delle Nobili et Virtuose Donne, under Parasole: Musterbuch für Stickereien und Spitzen at the Online Digital Archive. While there you can also download Old World Lace by Clara Blum, and Old Italian Lace by Elisa Ricci and even Federico Vinciolo's Les Singuliers et Nouveaux Pourtracits.

To purchase a reprint of five antique pattern books collected in one volume, check out Disegni per Merletti e Ricami.

Different Styles of Reticello - Part One
Different Styles of Reticello - Part Two
Different Styles of Reticello - Part Three

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Grosso Intaglio - Large Cutwork

I really enjoy the look of Cutwork embroidery though the actual execution of it bores me to tears... endless Buttonhole stitches! I noticed in Italy that Cutwork embroidery was everywhere...

... a window in Perugia...

... in the salon of our hotel in Rome...

A few years ago I read in RAKAM, an Italian needlework magazine, about another kind of Cutwork embroidery called Grosso Intaglio also known as: Grosso Richelieu, Doppio Intaglio or Doppio Richelieu.

In this type of needlework, besides the fact that it is executed on a lower count linen with thicker threads, you embellish the insides of the cut out designs, that is: with Satin Stitch and other classic embroidery stitches, you fill in the motifs.

This image is from Grosso Richelieu by Amelia Brizzi Ramazzotti. It is a third edition and bears no date but the second edition carries the date of 1915 to give you an idea of timeline.

This technique dates back to the beginning of the 20th century. The motifs were mainly floral and ornamental though sometimes geometrical. Heavier and more robust fabrics were used sometimes with threads as thick as Pearl cotton nos. 2 and 3. This work was mostly done in white on white or cream on cream, sometimes in ecru on undyed fabric and there were also a few coloured works.

As Grosso Intaglio was more durable than regular Cutwork, it was perfect for things like curtains, cushions, the turn back margin on bedsheets, and table centres but was also done on parasols, bags, items for the bathroom and nursery and to protect the backs and arms of furniture.

I think I would find this kind of Cutwork more interesting to do - what about you?

RAKAM, Dicembre 2006 has some execution instructions by Liliana Babbi Cappelletti.

Sunday, June 20, 2010

Handwoven Fabrics from Perugia

Just outside the walls of the city of Perugia, there is a beautiful deconsecrated church called San Francesco delle Donne which houses a lot of history. Dating back to 1212, it is one of the oldest Franciscan churches in Italy. Today it is home to the Giuditta Brozzetti Workshop which makes the most beautiful handwoven textiles.

Giuditta Casini Brozzetti started her workshop in 1921. She hunted down all the local medieval and renaissance designs that she could find and employed the women of her area to weave household and church fabrics and woven furnishing products. She permitted her workers to weave their products at home so that they could also attend to their families while earning a living at the same time. For the most part, the items woven were worked on hand operated jacquard looms. Patterns were hammered manually using a system of wooden pegs to make punched cards. With the help of the artist Bruno da Osimo, who prepared many of the patterns used by her workshop, Giuditta Brozzetti produced many beautiful items.

Some sketches for Perugian fabric by Bruno da Osimo from the book: L'Officina di Bruno da Osimo:

The workshop became much appreciated and admired and before the Second World War its products were even exported to the US.

The tradition of the Giuditta Brozzetti workshop has been passed down by now four generations and today the workshop calls the church San Francesco delle Donne its home. Marta Cucchia is the youngest descendant who now creates her own designs there.

Here Marta and Vima deMarchi Micheli hold up a magnificent runner woven with silk:

Marta was kind enough to give us a guided tour in May of 2009, giving us demonstrations of weaving and pattern punching as well as letting us fondle all the beautiful products on display.

The Giuditta Brozzetti workshop teaches weaving, embroidery, lacemaking and gives guided tours of the church. It should not be missed if you spend any time in Perugia!

For more photos and enthusiastic reviews, go here, here, here and here!

Saturday, June 19, 2010

Lanzo Folk Art

In the first decade of the 20th century Elena Albert Mars, a painter originally from Nice, started to apply Crochet made by local peasant girls to a local handwoven hempcloth called Trògio in a small town called Lanzo near Turin. Wool threads were used to execute the Crochet.

Many items were made such as wall hangings, cushions, tablemats, bags, curtains and other household items using motifs of flowers, foliage, trees, fruit and scrollwork.

This style of applied "embroidery" became very popular and was even exported mainly to Norway, the UK and the US. Some pieces were commissioned for the famous shop "Lavori Femminili" in Turin. A delegation of girls dressed in the folk costumes of Lanzo brought a few Lanzo embroideries to Rome and donated them to Prince Umberto and Maria José for their wedding in 1930.

The Second World War led to the decline of this technique and it was all but forgotten for a few decades before being "reborn" in the early 1970s by Ester Fornaia Borla who participated in a community effort to revive the folk art of the area. Researching the technique, she discovered old works kept by the descendants of Elena Albert Mars and she then began teaching the art to others. One of her biggest challenges was to reproduce the handwoven hempcloth which by then was no longer produced. She was able to procure an antique loom and learned to weave from the Scuola di Tessitura [School of Weaving] in Turin. Ester was responsible for initiating several local exhibitions with the proceeds of any sale of items going to charity.

Border taken from the Italia Invita 2005 book:

In 1997, after a few years of inactivity, about 20 local women founded the group Ricamare a Lanzo and became part of a larger group called Ricamare in Piemonte initiating annual courses and exhibition. The group is still active today and has participated in the Italia Invita Lace and Embroidery Forums and also their work has been featured in both RAKAM and Ricamo Italiano, two of Italy's foremost needlework publications.

From RAKAM January 2003:

Ester Fornaia Borla is still teaching this technique today and can be reached through the website for Ricamare a Lanzo.

Friday, June 18, 2010

Filet Lace in Turin

Whenever I used to think of Filet lace, I always thought of designs done mostly in Darning stitch or Crochet Filet... Italian Filet from the various regions has really opened my eyes to how different and interesting this ancient art can be.

Right now at the Palazzo Madama in Turin there is a lace exhibit which will be there until the end of the year. This particular display, which consists of 95 pieces of lace including Reticello, Venice Gros Point, Punto in Aria, Filet and types of 17th and 18th century laces, shows the course lace has taken through history. The museum holds over 450 pieces so this is but a small sampling.

If you download their newsletter (at the bottom of the page, click on: SCARICA IL NUMERO O (2MB) - text in Italian), check out the header on top of page 5 for some really unusual needlework with gold and little pieces of coloured stones dating back to the Renaissance which was donated to the museum by Elisa Ricci, foremost Italian needlework scholar, author, collector of the early 20th century. There is a photo of the full piece on the link for the exhibition but it's difficult to see anything, the shot in the newsletter is a closeup of a small section and the gold threads and beads are clearer. There is a full page colour photo of this piece in the book: Tessuti Ricami e Merletti in Italia by Marina Carmignani if you can get your hands on a copy (it's a very expensive book!) though, the text does not go into much detail. This piece alone would be worth going to this exhibit.

Visit the museum's Flickr group to see more than six hundred photos of the museum and some of its displays. It's definitely worth making yourself a cuppa and looking through them, not so much from a textile standpoint but for internal shots of the amazing palazzo! There are more interior photos on the website here.

Ah... where was I? It is so easy for me to get sidetracked... yes, Filet lace. A kind Italian friend sent me some photos of the show - among which were these two photos of a most interesting piece of Filet lace:

Look at all the different stitches used on this piece... and different weights of thread to add emphasis to certain motifs. Definitely a piece worth studying - what a lot of work!

For more reading on a different type of Italian Filet, check out the post on Sardinian Bosa Filet lace. For lots of photos, go to the Museo del Merletto an online museum of lace.

Thanks to Silvia for the photos!

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Chiacchierino ad Ago - Needle Tatting

Tatting or Chiacchierino [kjak-kjer-ee-no] in Italian, is stylish, daring, has good design, harmony and beauty - in Italy of course!

I recently received the gift of a new book on Needle Tatting written by a Polish lady who has lived in Italy since 1999. Alicja Kwartnik of the Laboratorio di Techniche Artistiche [Workshop of Artistic Techniques] teaches Needle Tatting in the Val d'Arno Region of Tuscany where she lives.

Some friends of mine took her workshop at the Italia Invita 2009 Forum in Parma.

Alicja's love affair with the manual arts has lasted almost 40 years and her work is precise, imaginative and very attractive.

In the book there are many Tatting projects of varying difficulty. I love the towel edgings and these little sachets:

There are also many jewelry projects and the attachment of beads and crystals; bookmarks, coasters, table mats, key fobs, table centres, Christmas tree decorations, and even a summer purse pattern!

Alicja writes that she likes to use unusual materials for Tatting projects like raffia, string, crochet cotton and wool.

This book makes me want to hunt down my Tatting needle which I set aside in frustration many years ago.

Mani di Fata has several Italian pattern books for Tatting, occasionally there are patterns in RAKAM magazine as well.

For some eye candy, check out this website of a couple of Italian ladies from Apuglia. (I don't know if this is Needle Tatting or not.)

To purchase Chiacchierino ad Ago by Alicja Kwartnik, send an email to either Elena at Italian Needlecrafts or Gianfranca of Tombolo Disegni.

Thanks to Isabella for the photo of the Tatting workshop!

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Jesurum - A lace tradition in Venice

Michelangelo Jesurum opened his first lace-making workshop in 1870 after learning the art of Pellestrina bobbin lace as part of an effort going on in Venice at the time (1870) to revive the ancient art of lacemaking which had fallen into decline. Adding coloured threads to the laces earned a Grand Prize for Jesurum at the 1878 Universal Exhibition in Paris. There is a small picture of the prize-winning entry on the Jesurum website but there is a great picture of another coloured silk thread piece in the book: Il Merletto Veneziano by Doretta Davanzo Poli (1998). There are lots of other pictures of Jesurum lace in this book, as well as a wealth of photos of all kinds of Venetian lace and info (text in Italian).

By the beginning of the 20th century there were seven Jesurum workshops employing nearly 3000 women and the lace was recognized and sought worldwide.

Jesurum became lacemakers to the Italian Royal family and other nobility throughout Europe. In 1906 Michelangelo Jesurum opened a Lace Museum in his home.

World War I interrupted the workshops and halted the market for lace. Jesurum kept many of its workers employed making military uniforms. Only a marginal increase in business after the war put the company in danger of bankruptcy and closure. In 1939 the Levi Moreno family took over the company but kept the name as it was well-known and respected.

Some pieces from the Levi Moreno family lace collection are on display at the Relais Ca' Maffio situated half way between Venice and Treviso, if you find yourself out that way!

Recently Jesurum is under new ownership and has opened a new store on Calle Larga XXII Marzo, San Marco 2401 - just off Piazza San Marco in Venice where they sell household and yacht linens.

The Online Digital Document Archive has a free, downloadable Jesurum monograph (text in Italian) in which the last paragraph reads: The simplicity of the manual production used in Venetian lace therefore consents the most variety and the most valuable results: a Jesurum lace has the same worth as any work of art and, like a painting could be signed before being offered for the admiration of those who love beautiful things.

There are photos of Jesurum laces in Elisa Ricci's Old Italian Lace (1913), also available from the Online Digital Document Archive.

On YouTube there is an excellent 9 minute documentary on the lace of Pellestrina. Make sure to watch it in 720pHD!

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Different Styles of Reticello - Part Three

Sometimes there are people or animals in Reticello as is the case in this border, taken from Old Italian Lace (1913) by Elisa Ricci, preserved now at the Victoria & Albert museum.

(As mentioned in the two previous posts in this series, Old Italian Lace can be downloaded in pdf form from the Online Digital Documents website.)

How can you tell this is Reticello and not Punto in Aria or some other needle lace?
Antonio Merli in his 1864 text - Origine ed uso delle Trine a filo di Refe says the following:
"Reticello is made in two ways: the oldest consists of withdrawing ground threads from a part of the fabric and working a design with the needle over top of those [threads] remaining - perfected then by sometimes adding additional threads when the design requires; the other [method] is by building a square or rectangular framework on top of parchment and working it similarly to the preceding method."
So, see those vertical bars? Reticello. Remember though, very often different techniques were combined on one piece. It is not always easy to find one classification for some embroideries.

From the Collezioni Comunali d'Arte Museum in Bologna:

There is something really interesting in discovering and identifying human figures and animals in needlework. I know some people who even collect all the examples they can find. Figures are found in needle lace (and embroideries) especially in the 16th and 17th centuries.

Maria Del Popolo's style of Reticello is different again from the previous ones we've looked at.

She does some of the most amazing Reticello work which she learned from her mother! This is the cover of her third book: Disegni di Reticello Antico which is just for drooling over, there are no didactic instructions inside like there are in her first two publications: Il Reticello Antico and Reticello Antico e Filet. You can see some examples of her work here, here and here.

Next time we'll visit some of those elaborate Reticello collars and cuffs from Renaissance art and antique pattern books.

You can get Maria Del Popolo's books from Tombolo Disegni. Click on "Libri/Books", then "Libri Ricamo", then "Libri Ricamo Italiani" - send an email request to order.

Different Styles of Reticello - Part One
Different Styles of Reticello - Part Two
Different Styles of Reticello - Part Four

Thanks to Elisabetta for the Bologna Reticello photo!

Sunday, June 13, 2010

Ricamo Estense

I'm still in the mood for colourful embroideries today. I want to show you some Ricamo Estense or Estense Embroidery from Ferrara, Italy. Just to give you a bit of historical background, Ferrara was ruled by the Este family for a number of years with particular prosperity and patronage of the arts during the Renaissance. Graffito (also known as Sgraffito) ceramics from this period and area were amazingly detailed and breathtakingly beautiful.

In 2007 I translated an Italian needlework book about embroideries which had been inspired by the Graffito ceramics of Ferrara. You can read a great review of Estense Embroidery from the Ferrarese Graffito Ceramics at Mary Corbet's blog: Needle 'n Thread.

In 2009 I went to visit the author, Elisabetta Holzer Spinelli at her home in Ferrara and met Manuela Barattini, the potter who's work inspires Ricamo Estense. Here is Manuela with a plate after firing and before:

Manuela also participated in the exhibit for the reprinting of Disegni per Merletti e Ricami demonstrating that the antique patterns could be used for other design mediums. This piece is modeled after a Paganino design:

Elisabetta herself also participated in the exhibit with these two borders done in Ricamo Estense:

Since the 2007 printing of her book, Elisabetta has been anything but idle. If possible, she has created embroideries more beautiful than before.

Elisabetta likes to hunt through antique needlework books and revive old forgotten stitches. She is especially talented with colour and stitch combinations giving depth to her embroideries.

Right now Elisabetta is in Dobbiaco in the Southern Tyrol region of Italy teaching a Ricamo Estense course. I can't show you the project they are stitching but I can tell you it's amazing. What I wouldn't give to be at that class right now!