Saturday, August 31, 2013

Needlework Contest - Florence Update

Back in March of this year I told you about an upcoming needlework contest which will take place in Florence at the end of the year.

I have just received an update from the Club del Punto in Croce and wanted to pass on these dates and locales to you. It seems I was not totally in error to tell you that the exhibition would be displayed at the Palazzo Davanzati after all - they have added a second exhibition:

November 9 - 30 2013 – Palazzo Borghese – via Ghibellina, 110 – Firenze

December 3 - 15 2013 – Palazzo Davanzati – via Porta Rossa – Firenze (open only in the morning!)

Please let me know if you see or participate in this exhibit, I'd love to hear about it!

Blackwork, Italian style

For a little while I have been admiring the Blackwork designs of Valentina Sardu of Ajisai Press. Instead of just telling you about her work which you can see on her website and blog (and read in English), I contacted her directly to see if I could tell you a little bit more about her. She graciously answered all my questions and gave me permission to use some of her photos.

Valentina, pictured above, is inspired by nature and Japanese Ukiyo-e prints and the name of her company Ajisai Press is the Japanese word for the Hortensia, or 'embroidery flower' as it translates literally. Her Blackwork designs reflect Japanese influence.

Valentina studied Painting and Decorative Painting at the Liceo Artistico (Art School) of Turin, and is self-taught when it comes to her needlework. She feels certain that her Sardinian heritage (her paternal great-grandmother was an expert Sardinian weaver) has equipped her with the fine sense of precision and aesthetics so fundamental to embroidery. She owes much as well to her maternal Piedmontese great-grandmother from whom she inherited a few special items: a beautiful Viennese Biedermeier embroidery pattern and a few embroidered holy cards which Valentina later discovered had belonged to two great-aunts who were cloistered nuns in a convent destroyed during World War II. Her curiosity to learn more about these items led her to the world of textile arts.

Along the way to learning about the textile arts, Valentina began to collect old needlework publications and three years ago after publishing a book on the Japanese art of furoshiki, in collaboration with the publishing house Marco Valerio she had the first Italian edition (1890) of the Encyclopedia of Needlework by Thérèse de Dillmont reprinted. She has since reprinted a number of old publications.

Valentina then started to design Blackwork patterns:

What I love is its more contemporary style, with classic geometric filling motifs scattered here and there, breaking up or merging with other patterns, or they become more sparse, to create areas of light and shadow worthy of a work of art... Furthermore, I always experiment with new effects, and so often I do not stop at the traditional black on a white background, I enjoy using different colours, both for the threads and the fabrics. ...lately I've found it very interesting to combine blackwork and cross stitch because the little crosses are strengthened by the Blackwork and they seem to emerge from the canvas taking on a nearly three-dimensional appearance.

The design above is an example of the tri-dimensionality Valentina talks about. The ladybug & daisy is the first in a series of these mixed techniques.

Check out Valentina's online store where you can download digital copies of her patterns or order her needlework book reprints. Don't forget to stop by her blog too for lots of information including a step-by-step instructional video!

Sunday, August 11, 2013

Delicious Umbrian Embroidery

The very best gifts are those that are unexpected. Last week a courier arrived with a package from Italy and I had no idea what it could be. The little girl in me took over as soon as I'd signed for it and I sat down right there on the stairs and ripped open the envelope. Inside was truly a wonder to behold and I sat there for the better part of an hour (probably with my mouth open the whole time).

As regular readers will know, I absolutely LOVE the textured Italian embroideries and this is a stunning example. An Umbrian Embroidery pillow cover in amazing condition!

This very fortunate find was discovered by Bianca Rosa Bellomo of the Associazione I Merletti di Antonilla Cantelli in Bologna. She told me that she found it at a stall in the market at an excellent price. The lady running the stall told her that it came from an rich estate in the hills which was vacated. It has certainly been well looked after!

In the book Ricami della Bell'Epoca I found two photos of a table cover with the same design (repeated seven times!). The caption says that that piece dates to the 1930s. I wonder how old the one I have is?

This book says that pieces of this kind of embroidery can be found in the collections of the Cooper Hewitt Museum in New York, the Museo Storico Didattico della Tappezzeria di Bologna and the Fondazione Ranieri in Perugia.

Detail of my pillow cover.

Four delightful knotted tassels, one at each corner of the pillow cover. Inside the head of each one appears to be a wooden bead.

Check out these exquisite buttons which run along the top edge to enclose a pillow! They are slipped through buttonhole loops to close.

Insertion stitching used on three sides to join the front and back together. See how the edging matches? The back has three sets of blanket stitches repeating all the way around and the front is bordered by chain stitching. The stitching matches along the edge of the insertion stitches.

Detail of my pillow cover.

Detail of my pillow cover.

Detail of my pillow cover.

Detail of my pillow cover.
I can study the back side of the embroidery too!

I just happen to have the perfect size pillow to put in it and now it sits on my bed so I can see it every time I walk into my room!

A tremendous and heartfelt thank you to Bianca Rosa for this most precious of gifts!