Friday, December 26, 2014

Puncetto article translated

In doing some research lately, I had translated an article on Puncetto from an old Italian monthly magazine: Vita Femminile Italiana [Italian Women's Life] from 1907. It occurred to me that perhaps you might like to read it as it is not something you would normally come across. Any errors in translation are my own.

Clorinda Favro's Diploma from the Genoa Italian Exposition of Women's Work, 1903.

Valle Vogna and Puncetto
by Modesta dell’Oro Hermil. Vita Femminile Italiana, 1907.

It seems like a fairytale. Once upon a time in a valley far, far away… way up high up in the mountains, there were poor women, young and old, gathered in small huts buried in the snow. Their fathers, husbands, brothers far away in a foreign land to earn their bread. The women, alone in their miserable, difficult life. Finished the few brief tasks of their primitive family life, here they are in the light of the white snow reflected through small black narrow windows and in the evening in the light of the flame, here are the poor fingers that in summer are hardened by the harsh work in the fields, now in the break from the misery, become the nimble fingers of fairies. From those poor fingers blossoms lace, real Alpine flowers, real snowdrops of work, and the fine needle, shiny and patient, works and etches like an engraver.

And that strong brilliant work then adorns the shoulders of the workers and the lace supports the shoulder basket. Dear Italy, my beautiful homeland, where the light of art, a flower of beauty, emanates and is revealed even among the rocks, even among the poverty, even in the solitude, in the hardship.

And one day a lady, no, I mean the good fairy, passed by in the months in which the work bustles in the fields. Her expert and practised eye rested on those laces, true carved ivory. Her heart was touched by so much courageous poverty and rude work and the gaze of the artist was attracted to that form of feminine art.

And so it was that Mrs. Lynch, on a pilgrimage from Ireland, discovered the Valle Vogna and Puncetto.

Puncetto, the alpine stitch, the strong lace of the peasant women. The fundamental stitch is a double buttonhole stitch, that is: a second loop is made in the first and the two combined form a knot so that the lace can be cut without unraveling.

Puncetto is the word of the dialect of some valleys to the south of Monte Rosa for this lace that forms part of the local peasant costume. The seams of their blouses made of linen woven at home, are connected by the lines of incrustations of this lace.

Generally, women in the region are small, delicate, but they work harshly; they are the log splitters, the water bearers, cheese makers, shepherdesses, field workers; it is therefore necessary that every part of their dress can withstand the roughest jobs. “It is made for eternity” say they, and in fact it must be strong! In the summer those frail shoulders carry the trunks of the strangers who spend a few warm weeks at the only little hostelry of the valley.

A visitor to whom those weights seemed cruel said, “Send me a mule for my trunk. It is full of books, I do not want one of these girls to carry it.” He was told: “There is not one of them who would not regret the half lira that you will give for taking this trunk down to Riva, and a mule would cost more.” And they do it with gratitude.

Money is so scarce! And they take down and bring up those terrible weights on those rough roads, almost like staircases in parts. There are only women and children to struggle with the rocky soil. The picturesque slopes are rough to cultivate, almost only pendent edges, onto which frequently a layer of earth must first be brought and then carefully fenced, sheltered, supported, otherwise it would be washed away by rain and lost.

For a few weeks in the summer many women can earn some money by carrying huge weights on their shoulders, not only trunks, but also beams to the sawmill and staves to the Cooper, but how many times these small earnings are spent in anticipation!

Where and when was Puncetto first made?

The peasants who wear it, in Valsesia, Valle Vogna and the nearby valleys answer: “it is very old; it was old at the time of our grandmothers.”

The alpine women of Parrè in the Bergamo Alps produce a lace very similar to Puncetto and they associate it to the time of the plagues, saying that even then it was already an old authentic lace. At the time of the plague the women of Parrè vowed that neither they, nor their descendants would ever change their ancient costume, nor would they ever follow the dictates of fashion if only the plague were stayed. Outside the Sesia Valley, in other parts of the Alps, the same quality of lace is called “ivory stitch”, “saracen stitch”, “greek stitch” and “alpine stitch”. Saracen stitch could be the name given to anything in the days when the terrible pirates reigned terror down on the inhabitants. Towers, castles, hills, mountain passes, still carry the names of Saracens even when history shows no correlation between them and anything moorish.

The name “greek lace” may be supposed to be due to that many of the closest, tightest patterns of Puncetto have a distinct resemblance to the ancient handwoven linen used in the early pieces of Cutwork.

The oldest of all forms of lace was the Drawn-thread Work, the second, Cutwork and both forms flourished in Byzantium in the days of the Roman Empire. Puncetto, under its various names is only found in the Alps. A scholar of the history of lace expressed the theory that the Alpine stitch is the third age in the family of lace. We must not forget that Puncetto, although it is an authentic and beautiful lace is rather a kind of idealized macramé and not the soft spider webs of Honiton, Valenciennes, Point de Bruxelles, etc.

These rich rigid substantial laces have their own special use, they are especially suitable for household linen and everywhere where an edging of fine passementerie or gimp would go nicely. Puncetto takes a long time to execute and can never therefore be done cheaply.

A former schoolteacher, during twenty-seven long years, taught the girls of Valle Vogna to use their needle as true artists during the long harsh winters. She sensed the opportunity, the benefits that the foundation of an industry of lace would offer to her pupils. No one better than she could understand the misery, the gloom of the long months of winter, when, ill-fed, ill-heated many of those girls did not even have the relief of work, but spent the long painful hours waiting for May.

The snow begins to fall generally in mid-October to melt, then fall again. At Michaelmas the cattle descend from the high Alps. Some go to fairs, others spend the winter at lower levels, others are installed in one of the divisions on the ground floor of the châlet, which becomes the living room. A solitary weaver said, “I stay here in the winter, my cow is such a nice companion!"

The husbands, the fathers, sons, brothers, boyfriends come back, if they want and if they can, from France with a small hoard to spend a few weeks in the brown châlets where they were born.

But a long and fierce winter has already passed before Christmas brings the men home and another still long and terrible one must pass before the return of spring. It is already late in the year before the field work can be restarted in the higher regions.

Poor, dear old teacher who kept that little flame of art and work alive, lit in the snow, in the silence, in the abandonment! And now from Ireland comes the intelligent and generous aid, and now that little flame has become the great fire of good industry, of well being that warms hearts and the small châlets. She had the satisfaction of seeing the lace industry launched and thriving before going to her final rest in death.

The story of the small Industry is a story of struggle. When Mrs. Lynch admired the lace, she thought it may offer a means to lift the extreme poverty of many of those women. She believed that when one can such produce a rare and artistic thing, one must find a market for the work. She gave, and conducted the introductions to give orders: collars, cuffs, borders for blouses, lace for lingerie. They were successful. Requests came for pillowcases, tea-table cloths, bedclothes. Gradually they found new uses for the strong lace; altar linens, work bags, etc. An American lady conceived a summer outfit with inserts of seven different lengths of Puncetto from Valle Vogna.

From poor Ireland came encouragement and invaluable assistance.

The Daily News of June 1897 announced: “Some of the curious and beautiful point lace of the Valle Vogna, (resembling Greek lace), is being mounted on Irish linen by the Irish Industries Association for Queen Margherita. It is to be offered to Her Majesty by some of her lace making peasant subjects. The Countess Bective has designed the royal crown for the different pieces. They can be seen at the Irish Depôt, Motcomb St., Belgrave Square.”

In the Queen newspaper of November 5, 1898: “The Val-Vognian Peasant’s Work. Last winter an Italian gentleman took to Rome, for presentation to Queen Margherita, a tea-table cloth, d’oyleys, and a cushion, trimmed with the handsome lace edgings and insertions made by the Val-Vognian peasants. Her Majesty has just sent, by the hand of the same Piedmontese gentleman 300 lire to be distributed among the workers. They are delighted at this Royal bounty. They never dreamt of reward beyond the honour of the Queen’s acceptance of their work. Now this gift will make a great difference in the lives of three or four poor châlets.”

So it began, laborious and ascending. Queen Margherita, whose private collection of lace is of great beauty and value, continued to buy. It was good - she is so surrounded by all the smiles and tears, as in all high art and the humble work of her people, and also Puncetto made from strong and patiently knotted threads in huts buried in the snow, now rigid and serene in the Royal Palace.

In the six or seven months of the winter reclusion they worked on a bedspread ordered by Her Majesty. It is copied from a pattern from about 400 years ago, the work of an Arab, probably a prisoner. The signature can be seen in the margin of the original piece. A pair of curtains of the same pattern were made at the request of the Italian Minister of Agriculture and Commerce and they go to the St. Louis Exposition. As a door curtain, curtains, etc., these embroideries are Arab-Val-Vognian - admirably suitable and highly artistic. Their true name is: Cutwork. One pair of these curtains gave work to five women over two years.

The lace done now in Valle Vogna is finer, more even, better designed than the Puncetto of eleven years ago. The industrious workers were given samples of the laces and embroideries of Greece, Bosnia, Hungary and they have copied almost every sort of complicated works of art. They make beautiful towels with knotted fringes that the Arabs introduced to the Mediterranean coasts. They collected photographs of the sculptures of Byzantine Ravenna beautifully suited for Puncetto patterns.

The dear alpine women like to give special names to their laces. The Mice Ladder for a mass of tiny thin bars. The Lattices of Alpe Motta - for a lace made of criss-crossing lines - Daisies - Rosettes - Lucia’s Pearls - Carolina’s Roses - Trefoils - I Give You Good Morrow - Forget-Me-Not, etc. So much unconscious poetry! In 1899, four women were occupied all day for each day of the week. In the winter of 1900-01 eighteen lacemakers were in constant employment and also the weavers found a market for their linen.

And they are so glad for each new order, their letters are so full of gratitude! “I must tell you something Signora; when I became too weak for field-labour and our only cow was dead, I said to myself: now my mother and I will perish from hunger. And then came the lace orders. It is as if the hope of work gave me courage and health. We are happy ever since.”

Lately Valle Vogna had the honour of a request to supply samples of Puncetto, Drawn-thread work and Cutwork from the Royal Museum of Brussels.

Collectors add samples of this special lace to their collections. In the winter Emily Holness’s store Valle Vogna Industry in San Remo at No. 8 Via Vittorio Emanuele sells pieces of Puncetto and in the summer in Ormea from the same Miss Holness. They can be found still from the Ghersi ladies at Courmayeur, Fräulein Huber’s shop in St. Moritz, from Frau Kniel in Davos-Platz.

In London Puncetto suitable for dress purposes is at Sheba’s in No. 15 Sloan Street, S.W. and the bigger pieces at Walcot’s, Moulton Street, W.

For any purchase or order or clarification or samples it is best to contact Signora Clorinda Favro, Casa Verso, Valle Vogna, Province of Novara. She is the Chief worker in the Industry. She won a gold medal at the Genoa Exhibition and a diploma from the Ministry of Agriculture, Industries and Commerce.

Land of misery and now land of cheerfulness.

The whole history of the Valley Vogna is contained in these words.

Poor dear old lady who’s death Mrs. Lynch saw as a blessing. She was believed the first director; she had never seen her do anything for nothing; the nothing - material that implies great spiritual wealth, continually. Then she understood that tenacious, patient, ardent goodness. And in the last hour she saw again the harsh work of summer, the long frozen winters, lonely, dark, like painful vegetating, not a life but a non-death; saw again the poor hands slowly working the Puncetto of home!

Then she saw the large group of happy and industrious workers, saw the flow of beautiful designs, beautiful antique laces, the multiplication of the work in the better-lit, better-heated huts, saw the poor Puncetto leave for distant countries, go to the Queen, go to museums. She saw a new light of prize-winning work, of intelligence, of emulation and closed her eyes - blessed in that vision and wished that the good old lady might be told that for her "a land of misery is now a land of cheerfulness.”

Dear little old lady of Valle Vogna!

How beautiful the word “cheerfulness" is. She didn’t say wealth or progress - cheerfulness - joy, the bloom of honest, appreciated work; the fruit of the labour, not only in money, but in moral development, in the well-being of the soul.

Kind ladies, make a place among the gauzy laces and soft silks, make a place for the strong Puncetto of Valle Vogna. When you go out in the summer sun, ascend to the mountains in fresh outfits of good linen, make a place for Alpine stitch. 

The soft laces of the living rooms in our artificial light; at the top, in the open air, is the Puncetto worked by hands that have reaped, tilled: the Puncetto worked in winter huts, that blossomed at the foot of the mountains like the edelweiss pure and strong.

- - - - - - - - - - - -

Many thanks to Bianca Rosa and Ivana!

Sunday, November 23, 2014

Needlework Competition

I adore needlework competitions even though I never find the time to participate in them. You may recall the A Mirror To My Art competition and the Chatelaine de Vergy competition that I told you about previously from which came some truly beautiful needlework.

The Museo della Tappezzeria Vittorio Zironi and the publishing house Nuova S1 of Bologna, Italy announce a needlework competition which will produce some breathtaking works, I am sure!

They have recently collaborated with a book release and museum exhibition of the designs of Guido Fiorini, an early 20th century Bolognese artist and key figure in the "Liberty" (Art Nouveau) style which runs through to the end of July 2015 - if you can get there, go!

Those of you who know a little of your Liberty history will know that Liberty + Bologna = Aemilia Ars! Under the direction of the Countess Lina Cavazza of the Aemilia Ars SocietyGuido Fiorini made many lace designs like the one shown above.

You can see some of the designs on display at the museum in this YouTube video:

For Italian speakers, the needlework competition rules can be found here. For English speakers, I have translated them below. Please let me know if you are entering a piece in the contest! Worth a note: if you are a registered participant, you are entitled to a 15% discount off the purchase of any publication from Nuova S1! They now accept PayPal.


Create and exhibit at the museum! Participate in the "Drawings of Guido Fiorini" competition!

On the occasion of the autumn edition of Il Mondo Creativo (November 21-13, 2014 in Bologna), Edizioni Nuova S1 inaugurates the website:
On the site and on the Facebook page Merletti e Ricami della Nuova S1 the following initiative takes place, realized in collaboration with the Museo della Tappezzeria Vittorio Zironi of Bologna: a competition, open to the techniques of embroidery, lace, knitting and weaving inspired by the Drawings of Guido Fiorini.
The competition is free and takes place online: the prize for the works with the most votes is that they will be exhibited at the Museo della Tappezzeria alongside the Fiorini works.
Read the rules and participate!
You can exhibit your work twice! First online and than at the museum!

The Drawings of Guido Fiorini Competition

The publishing house Nuova S1, in collaboration with the Museo della Tappezzeria Vittorio Zironi, organizes a competition of embroidery and lace based on the drawings contained in the publication: "I Disegni di Guido Fiorini" with the aim of setting off new works of this 20th century artist.


  • Participation in the competition is free.
  • The competition is open to all, amateurs and professionals with no age limit.
  • Participate by reproducing a work from the publication "The Drawings of Guido Fiorini, works for Aemilia Ars lace, page headers and ornate initials" (Nuova S1, 2014).
  • Only one work per person is to be submitted. Measurements are open to a maximum of 20 cm x 20 cm.
  • Not only Aemilia Ars lace! Your work can be realized in any technique of lace, embroidery, knitting or weaving.
  • To register, send an email to: or telephone: 051-346050 by and no later than December 23, 2014. Subsequently, photos of finished works will be sent to by and no later than April 20, 2015.
  • All photos of the works will be published on the website dedicated to the competition at: and on the official Facebook page of the "Lace and Embroidery" publication collection:
  • The works with the most "likes" on Facebook will be exhibited at the Museo della Tappezzeria Vittorio Zironi in Bologna. The organizers of the competition reserve the right to periodically supervise the conduct of voting.
  • Winners will be notified by telephone or email.
  • Voting will be closed by May 15, 2015.
  • Registered participants are entitled to a 15% discount on the purchase one or more of the titles from the Edizioni Nuova S1 catalogue.
  • Winning works will be sent via tracked mail to: Nuova S1 snc di Pietro Cimmino & C., Via Albertazzi, no. 6/5, 40137, Bologna, Italy.
  • Works will only be returned to those who explicitly request it.
  • The organization, while ensuring the utmost care of the works, declines all responsibility for loss, theft and damage. 
  • The authors of the works, by the very fact of participating in the competition, give the right to publication without any claims of copyright. The artistic property will always remain that of the author. The organization reserves the right use the works to organize exhibitions, paper and/or electronic publications including online and other initiatives without owing anything to the author, who will always be credited by name. Each author is responsible for the works submitted and, with their submission, authorizes its publication and gives permission to the organization to be able to manage fully and exclusively the work itself, under current regulations on the protection of privacy and confidentiality. 
  • Under the provisions of Law 196/03 (law on the protection of personal data), the participation in the competition implies the unconditional acceptance of these rules.

Note One: Do not wait until the last minute to register! If the required minimum of entrants is not received by December 23, 1014, the competition will be cancelled.

Note Two: Send in a photo of your work as soon as it is finished! The sooner you do, the sooner it will be published allowing for the maximum visibility of your work.


Italian Needlework assumes no responsibility as to the accuracy of the above translation and shall not be held responsible for errors in translation.

Bit of a layout change

I have changed the sidebar on the blog at the numerous requests of readers. I'm sorry it has taken me so long to get this done. The search bar is now near the top so you can find and search topics more easily and I've added the email notification widget so that you can now sign up for emails when I post. Please let me know if something is not working,

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

EGA National Seminar - Italian purchases

Saturday I'm going to Italy... well, not really, but it's as close as I can get right now - I'm going to the EGA National Seminar in Phoenix, Arizona and Vima deMarchi Micheli is bringing over some Italian embroiderers, similar to the EGA National Seminar in San Francisco in 2010.

I can't wait to see the ladies again and I've been saving my pennies as they always bring stitching supplies, books and patterns, kits and stitched pieces from the Italian province of Umbria.

I've been told that there will be stitched pieces for sale in the following embroidery styles: Assisi, Catherine de'Medici, Antique Umbrian, Perugino, Antique Deruta and embroidery on Tulle as well as the Orvieto and Irish Crochet Laces.

There will also be ceramic beads, buttons and fuserole from Anna Lisa Piccioni of Deruta as well as threads and fabrics for executing the above-mentioned techniques. 

Italian linens!!! I believe that there will also be handwoven works from the Giuditta Brozzetti Workshop.

I am drooling at the thought of Merchandise Night on Tuesday, October the 21st!

There are going to be Italian teachers demonstrating Assisi, Catherine de'Medici, Perugino and Antique Umbrian Embroidery as well as embroidery on Tulle. I hope they will be doing tassels too but I don't have confirmation on that one.

The ladies won't be taking credit cards so come prepared, I can't wait!!!!

Thank you Vima for the use of your photo!

Friday, October 10, 2014

Snowflakes… Guest Post: Gioja Ralui

Today I willingly relinquish my blog to a "friend":

Hi! It's Gioja Ralui, author of the manual: Sardinian Knot Stitch

First, I'd like to thank everyone who has purchased it and especially those who published their book reviews on Amazon. I must admit that I was particularly pleased to hear that many of those who reviewed the book had appreciated the clarity and comprehensiveness of the instructions.

Secondly, for those who would like to purchase it, the book is available through Amazon. Proceeds go to the Mission of Camp Garba in Isiolo, Kenya.

Well then, after this dutiful introduction, let's move on to the reason that I asked a few friends for space on their blogs (see also TuttoRicamo and Ricamo e… altro).

We are already into autumn, by now the summer holidays are just a memory and we are settling down to our usual routines… so I thought: why not give those Sardinian Knot Stitch enthusiasts an idea, a little inspiration if you will, for a Holiday Season gift?

So here they are for you – my snowflakes: a small one for those who are still exploring this technique and a bigger one for those who are feeling pretty comfortable with their ability.

For each snowflake there is a complete design, to give you an idea of the final result, and an enlarged pattern of one quarter of the motif so as to be more readable.

This is the complete pattern for the small snowflake… 

…and here below is an enlargement of one quarter of the same snowflake:

This is the complete pattern for the bigger snowflake

…and this is one quarter in detail: 

These two motifs can be used separately but also together for a tablerunner or for a cushion or even connected with a zig-zag pattern (that you can find in the book) to become decorations on a Christmas placemat…

Thanks again for the hospitality and attention and good luck! I'll leave you with my email address

Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Sardinian Knotted Embroidery - new book by Yvette Stanton

Today Yvette Stanton of Australia is launching her latest book: Sardinian Knotted Embroidery. If you're already familiar with Yvette's other books, you will know that this latest book can safely be purchased sight-unseen. Yvette makes excellent needlework books. After writing half a dozen, she knew what to do and she did it very well.

She is also a very talented designer and needlewoman. You will delight in her work and the projects she has proposed.

Sardinian Knotted Embroidery - Whitework from Teulada is Yvette's seventh needlework book and this time she has turned her eye on Italy. She and her family vacationed in Italy so she could better research this book and she was able to meet people who embroider this technique, see their manufactures and absorb the tradition and history of it in it's native environment. All of this shows through on every page as does Yvette's talent and enthusiasm. She takes your hand and stays with you every step of the way through learning Sardinian Knotted Embroidery - whether you are right or left-handed. Yes, you read that correctly. There are left-handed instructions for the embroidery as well as right-handed ones. And I'm not talking about just mirrored images, but real, helpful, achievable left-handed instructions as you see, Yvette herself is a left-handed stitcher.

The book starts off with a quick introduction and some background history, there is a bit about materials and equipment then by page 15 you dive right into the beautiful projects that Yvette has designed and stitched herself. There are 11 projects in all of varying degrees of difficulty and time-investment: the smallest item being a necklace pendant and the largest being a tablecloth. Even though the tablecloth is the biggest, it is simple enough that you can see yourself actually stitching it and not having it become a UFO (unfinished object). Yvette's photography shows off the projects nicely and it's easy to just sit and drool for a long while before picking up your needle and thread!

After the projects section are the instructions which fill the remainder of the book. There are not just instructions on the embroidery, but also on hemming which include planning, folding, mitred corners and three different hemstitches with complete right and left-handed instructions as well as a lacy edge treatment.

Instructions on the actual stitch are enhanced by tips, tricks and advice such as right and left-handed instructions on working the knot, changing directions, ending a motif, ending a thread, changing the thread, particularly tricky motifs and how to handle them, typical mistakes and how to avoid them but also how to fix them! All of these things have both right and left-handed diagrams to help you out.

Then there are instructions on damp stretching the work once you are done the projects and finally where to get supplies. A removable envelope of fold-out patterns is glued to the last page. Text in English.

You can purchase Sardinian Knotted Embroidery direct from Yvette's website where you can also get thread and fabric too including imported Italian linen. If you're contacting her right now, give her a few days to answer you, she is at a needlework event in Adelaide launching the book and teaching classes.

Monday, September 8, 2014

Italian Renaissance Recreation

Today, my article on the Italian Cassone or Hope Chest is making a guest appearance on the La Bella Donna website, with my permission of course.

Signora Giata Maddalena Alberti contacted me a few weeks ago and I'm so glad that she did! She is a member of the SCA which is an international organization dedicated to researching and re-creating the arts and skills of pre-17th-century Europe. Her particular field of interest is: 

"Italy during the trecento, quattrocento, and cinquecento. I especially am enamored with the city-states of Firenze and Venezia. So for my "persona" within the SCA I have chosen to learn about and portray a woman born in 'Florence' in the late 1400s who lives in 'Venice'. I have, through research, chosen a name and during our events I dress, speak, think, and even dine as she would have (except during the lovely steamy summers, where I transport further back in time and wear Roman or Greek garb)."
Signora Giata has done a great deal of research on Italian women and much more and has made her research available for free download here. There is a lot more to download and read here on what she's been doing.

Grab a cup of tea and settle in for some interesting reading!

Tuesday, August 5, 2014

Estense Embroidery - new book!

At long last there is a second book on Estense Embroidery from Elisabetta Holzer of the cultural association RicamArte of Ferrara. This book is worth the wait since her first book in 2007.

The manual is over 200 pages and weighs in at 1.8 lbs! Elisabetta is not kidding around about it being a "manual". There are 36 embroidery stitches, 8 drawn thread corner treatments, 10 trimmings, 4 frames, 15 filling stitches, 3 borders, 2 decorations, cording and 7 delicious projects – plus photos of other ideas and suggestions for further combining all the stuff that has been diagrammed.

And there are a lot of diagrams.
I know.
I did them.
Did I mention there are a lot of them?

The explanations include drawn diagrams which feature the paths of the working thread showing through so you can tell what's happening on the back of the work, along with a colour photo of the front and back of the stitching.

Sample stitch instruction page

Great pains have been taken to make this manual comprehensible. It is jam-packed with colour photos of examples of ways to execute and combine the stitches, techniques and colours that make up Estense Embroidery.

Il manuale completo del Ricamo Estense [The Complete Manual of Estense Embroidery] is the fruit of several years of labour. Everything has been stitched and tried out and then improved and re-stitched. When I was doing the diagrams I had three fabric doodle cloths going. If I didn't understand something Elisabetta listened and in some cases reworked her instructions, diagrams and/or photo sequences because she reasoned that if I were confused, other stitchers might be too. More often though, I didn't have any trouble working the stitches because Elisabetta's precise step-by-step photos and diagrams are very, very clear.

Hours and hours have gone into the study of the colours used in Estense Embroidery. Taking her inspiration from the ancient Ferrarese graffito ceramics of the 14th to 16th centuries, Elisabetta has found that for the most part Anchor thread colours work the best but she has studied which DMC colours might be substituted and provided a list so that you can start embroidering that much sooner, not having to figure out the conversions for yourself.

There are many things that I love about this manual but one of the top things has to be the explanations for how to turn the corners for all 8 of the drawn thread corner treatments.

Sample corner treatment instructions

Among the 7 exquisite projects (I want to make all of them!) is the exceptionally lovely bomboniera from the 2009 Italia Invita exhibit.

All projects have instructions for the embroidery, the construction and the finishing. Text is in Italian.

For those of you not familiar with Estense Embroidery, I wrote a bit about it here.

You can see a preview of some of the pages on the publisher's website. To order, send them an email and tell them you want to pay with PayPal. Otherwise you can get if from Tombolo Disegni, send them an email to order.

Saturday, August 2, 2014

Sardinian Knot Stitch - new book English version

As I told you here, I've been working on a book on punt'e nù, a counted thread needlework technique from Teulada, Sardinia. In that previous post, I told you that I'd let you know when the English version was available... so it is now!!

Back cover

I've checked and Sardinian Knot Stitch is already available to order on and and the other amazon websites will show it in the days to come.

A sample page spread from Sardinian Knot Stitch

Sardinian Knot Stitch is the collaborative effort of four stitchers who set out to learn more about this beautiful needlework found traditionally on men's folk costumes from Teulada. The back cover above shows a close-up of the richly embroidered collar and just above you can see the cuff of a man's traditional folk costume shirt (click on the images for a closer look).

The book is 70 pages and covers some historical background along with technical instructions, some traditional patterns and then a few non-traditional projects of varying levels of difficulty, this being the most complex:

Cushion project from Sardinian Knot Stitch

Sardinian Knot Stitch is intended as a beginner's approach to the needlework. As punt'e nù has traditionally been local to Teulada and handed down by word-of-mouth, there has been very little written about it.

There is a group in Teulada now who has been working to bring this and other embroidery typical of the area to light with needlework shows exhibiting non-traditional pieces adorned with punt'e nù like towels, tablecloths and other household and personal linens. For more information about this group and/or visiting Teulada and seeing this work, contact the owner of this blog.

If you happen to be vacationing in Sardinia right now, on August 5th there is an exhibition in Teulada:

If you get to go, will you leave a comment below?

Sunday, July 27, 2014

St. Bridget's Altar Cloth

Almost a year ago I was contacted by a lady from Sweden who is the grand-daughter of a lady named Elsa Peterson who started a lacemaking company in Vadstena in 1920. Today the company is run by the lady who contacted me's 90-year-old mother and she was interested in reproducing some old patterns so that they would not be lost.

Now, there was a highly skilled designer/lacemaker named Aurore Ingelotz who lived in Vadstena from 1889 to 1893. She specialized in making designs for the church. In 1895 she made and sent a lace altar cloth to Santa Brigida Church in Rome. Now St. Bridget of Sweden came from Vadstena so you can begin to see the connection. (Aurore's work was so good, some of it was selected to represent Sweden at the 1893 Chicago World Exposition.)

Well, back to our story. Some of Aurore Ingelotz's patterns were recovered from an attic and found their way into Elsa Peterson's possession. Here you can read (with the aid of Google Translator if you don't speak Swedish) the fascinating story of the research behind these patterns done by the lady who contacted me.

While doing her research, this lady was trying to find out if the lace altar cloth sent to Rome in 1895 still existed. We contacted Santa Brigida Church to find out that yes, it was still there and was used and exhibited once a year during the celebrations of the canonization of St. Bridget on October 7.

As I was going to be in Rome at the time, I offered to try to see if I could get some photos of the altar cloth or at the very least, go to see it for myself. The sisters of Santa Brigida also took some pictures in the meantime and when we visited they were very kind to let my friend and I have a few minutes after the ceremony alone at the altar to take a few photos.

The altar cloth is 4.4 meters long and 1.3 meters wide, at each end there is a medallion (two different designs) and there is a lace border of 20 cm wide.

Thank you very much Karin for letting us share in your adventure!

Sunday, July 20, 2014

Embroidery on ribbons - new book!

Anna Castagnetti from Verona has released her latest book: Ricami sui Nastri [Embroidery on Ribbons] through the ever-expanding "Lace and Embroidery" collection from Nuova S1 in Bologna.

Anna is now the author of many Italian embroidery books and she shows no sign of slowing down or running out of cool ideas.

This is a translation of what it says on the book's page at Nuova S1:

Zigzag ribbons are very versatile: they can be found in many colours and in various widths and, being flat and of a compact weave, are perfect to apply to fabric and embroider on effortlessly.

Starting with this simple ribbon the author offers many ideas with detailed instructions, accessible even to beginners, for decorating your creations.

The zigzag ribbons, I know as Rickrack trim and there are other trimmings used like grosgrain ribbons and gorgeous velvet ribbons alongside coloured embroidery threads.

Guest towel project from Ricami sui Nastri by Anna Castagnetti.

The book is 64 pages and contains diagrams for a few decorative embroidery stitches used in the embellishment of the projects of which there are 14 of various complexity. Delightful guest towels, bags and purses, cushions and placemats which all serve to get your creative juices flowing and lead you to think of a million other things that you can apply these ideas to.

It is chock-full of step-by-step large and close-up colour photos. The text is in Italian but there is enough here in the way of diagrams, illustrations and photography to help you figure out what to do especially if you already have some sewing and/or embroidery experience.

You can see a preview of a few pages here.

Simple and quick but enough to personalize. I admire the way that Anna can always do these kinds of things that are just perfect for today's embroiderer who has less time than previous generations but who still wants to create with needle and thread.

This book is available now and you can contact Anna through her website or Nuova S1 (I believe they take PayPal now).

Thursday, July 3, 2014

Sardinian Knotted Stitch - new book!

I can finally tell you about one of the projects that I've been working away on... for nearly the past four years! The result of intense study, research and lots and lots of blood, sweat and tears: Il Punto Annodato Sardo (Sardinian Knotted Stitch) is an instructional manual on the little-known needlework technique called Punt'e nù which comes from Teulada in southern Sardinia, a large Italian island off the western coast of Italy. 

Back cover
This book is the collaborative effort of four stitchers who set out to learn more about this beautiful needlework found traditionally on men's folk costumes from Teulada. The back cover above shows a close-up of the richly embroidered collar and below you can see the cuff of a man's traditional folk costume shirt. 

The book is intended as a beginner's approach to the needlework. As Punt'e nù has traditionally been local to Teulada and handed down by word-of-mouth there is very little written about it. Even Sardinians who live outside of Teulada only get to see it in some museums or on the costumes during religious festivals or on the rare occasion of an artisan exhibition. 

There is a group in Teulada now who has been working to bring this and other embroidery typical of the area to light with needlework shows exhibiting non-traditional pieces adorned with Punt'e nù like towels, tablecloths and other household and personal linens. For more information about this group and/or visiting Teulada and seeing this work, contact the owner of this blog.

A sample page spread from Il Punto Annodato Sardo

The book Il Punto Annodato Sardo is 70 pages and covers some historical background along with technical instructions, some traditional patterns and then a few non-traditional projects. 

It is available on (and other amazon websites) but this first version is written in Italian. Very shortly there will be an English version and I'll keep you up-to-date when that is finished and available.

I must get back to work!

UPDATE: here is a review in Italian for those that would like it, and another one here. Also there are now quite a few reviews (in Italian) on the website page for the book.

Saturday, June 28, 2014

Sicilian Drawn Thread Work - new book!

Back in 2007 when I attended the Italia Invita Forum in Rimini, I took a two-hour class with the author of this book, Giovanna Gurrieri. It took intense concentration both to learn the technique and understand the Italian but I wanted to learn it so badly and to learn it from this maestra because she is so talented and makes such beautiful things. I was sure my little class which consisted of three other ladies (all Italians) thought I was very strange as I asked very detailed questions and stopped to write notes constantly because I did not want to get home and not remember anything.

Giovanna Gurrieri comes from Ragusa, a town in Sicily that is famous for its Sicilian Drawn Thread Work. This book is her commitment to passing on this wonderful technique and to aid in this, the text of the book is in three languages: Italian, French and English. To my knowledge this is the only book on Sicilian Drawn Thread Work in English.

After the preface, there is a page on the history of this technique and then a section on the materials required, two methods of transferring designs on to the fabric, the correct and incorrect ways to cut the fabric, information on the various styles (of which there are five: 400, 500, 700, Inverse and Chiaramonte), discussion on even weave and non-even weave fabric, how to work the embroidered netting, changing your thread, working the overcasting stitch for the 500 and Inverse styles which includes changing threads and working corners, working the darning stitch for the 700 style, the Chiaramonte stitch, washing, ironing and care instructions. Note: there are no instructions on the 400 style though there are a few tips and information about it. The book is 56 pages and 8.25 x 11.75 inches.

Breakdown of styles:

The 400 style:
400 style uses the darning stitch and the cloth stitch.

The 500 style:
500 style uses the overcast stitch around the perimeter of the designs.

The 700 style:
700 style uses the darning stitch.

The Inverse style:
Inverse style uses the overcast stitch around voided designs.

The Chiaramonte style:
Chiaramonte style uses this characteristic motif.
(Note, these photos are all my own work with the exception of the Chiaramonte which is a scan of a piece that was gifted to me and therefore are not examples from the above-mentioned book.)

I look forward to a time when I can sit down with this manual and finally start a work of the 500 style which is my favourite Sicilian Drawn Thread Work style.

You can purchase this book from Tombolo Disegni, send an email to order.

Saturday, June 14, 2014

Marta Cucchia and the Giuditta Brozzetti Weaving Studio

Sometimes people do things that make you absolutely marvel at their talent. Marta Cucchia of the Giuditta Brozzetti Weaving Studio in Perugia is one of those people who does this to me.

Everything Marta makes is amazing. I've told you a little about her and the Giuditta Brozzetti Weaving Studio before. I had the enormous good fortune of visiting them in 2009.

Back then Marta had recently finished a piece she had been studying and figuring out from a Pintoricchio painting.

She explained how she was fascinated by the designs on the fabric in the painting and thought to challenge herself by recreating the piece.

The piece is quite long and each line is a different pattern!

The inspiration for this work is the cloth that the Baby Jesus is wrapped in in this Pintoricchio painting which can be found in the Galleria Nazionale dell'Umbria museum in Perugia.

I am still in awe of Marta's talent five years later. She continues to do amazing work and is always finding new things to challenge herself with. If you ever find yourself in Perugia, you should not miss a trip to the Giuditta Brozzetti Weaving Studio, they have guided tours (in English too!).

Thanks to Vima for the use of her photos!

Saturday, May 31, 2014

Needlework adventures

One day back in the spring of 2011 I received an email from a Canadian reader who was looking for someone to teach her travel group an Italian needlework technique while they were on holiday in Italy. They planned to go in the fall of 2012, rent a place to stay and wanted a teacher who spoke English to come and teach them.

I suggested a few names and sent a few emails but the reader had some medical problems which ended up preventing her from making the trip as planned and I didn't think much more about it. Then in the spring of 2013 the same reader contacted me again saying she was all healed and was trying again to organize the trip she had been planning before.

Her group were stitchers of varying levels of experience and they liked to travel to different countries and learn a local needlework technique while there. They had already travelled to places like Ireland, Scotland, England and France.

Villa Saraceno in Finale di Agugliaro where the ladies stayed while in Italy.
They had rented the Villa Saraceno near Verona and this put me in mind of Anna Castagnetti who I have mentioned a few times here. The trip was planned for the spring of 2014.

I'm delighted to say that Anna was available and she put together an introductory class on the cutwork part of Punto Antico for the ladies.

Anna also took the group to the Don Mazza museum in Verona where they were delighted with the fantastic needlework collection there.

I received equally enthusiastic emails afterwards from both the reader and Anna about the whole experience. It seems it was a marvellous time for all involved and I'm very happy to have played my part in it! Many thanks to the ladies for sharing their experiences with us!

Saturday, May 17, 2014

Venetian Needle Lace - new book

Of all the needle laces, those from Venice and Burano are certainly the most complex, but they are also the most versatile because the limitations imposed by the design are removed.

This publication contains a how-to section of the stitches to start you off accompanied by instructions, photographs and very clear diagrams.

Exciting news for those who wish to delve into the world of Venetian Needle Lace! Ombretta Panese and Marialuisa Severi have been hard at work creating this book. 

I have translated what Ombretta has written on her blog:

We have tried to give clear and simple instructions on some stitches, which are supported by photographs and designs, so as to introduce the manufacture of needle lace to those who have the intention to learn.
At the end we have included designs of varying degrees of difficulty so you can experiment with what you have learned.

About the authors:
Marialuisa Severi is the President of the cultural Associazione "Il Merletto Veneziano" which was formed in 2005 with the aim to keep alive, enhance and promote the ancient art of Burano needle lace and Pellestrina bobbin lace. Both techniques are traditionally rooted in the island territory of Venice. You can see some pictures of their work here.

Ombretta Panese is a lacemaker from Mestre who has been awarded the title: Expert Needle Lace Maker achieved after two courses of 300 hours each, at the Scuola Professionale della Provincia di Venezia. Together with some of her classmates from these courses, she was involved in the creation of the Associazione "Il Merletto Veneziano". She does some beautiful work, check out her blog.

My copy is in the mail somewhere between here and Italy but I couldn't wait for it to get here before telling you about this book which you can get directly from the publisher: NuovaS1 (send them an email and tell them you'd like to use PayPal for those outside of Europe). Lacis distributes some NuovaS1 books in the US, if you want to see this one brought in, you may have to write to them and request it.

Let me know what you think in the comments below if you do get this book which I understand may be the first in a series.