Sunday, November 15, 2015

Snowflakes II: Guest Post with Gioja Ralui

Last year Gioja Ralui, author of the books Sardinian Knot Stitch (in English) and Punto Annodato Sardo (in Italian) appeared here and elsewhere as a guest to present a freebie snowflake pattern, this year she goes a step further to present a project of snowflakes! If you would like to read this post in Italian, please go to either blog: ricamo e... altro or TuttoRicamo. I turn the blog over to her, so she can tell you all about it:

Christmas Table Mat

As was done last year, also for this Christmas 2015 I would like to offer my Sardinian Knot Stitch pattern. It is a table mat on beige Assisi linen embroidered in the classic Christmas color: red.

As you can see it is a cascade of snowflakes of various sizes, each one different from the other. They are all enclosed in a frame of a simple zig zag with the 'gruxittasa' (remember that the 'x' must be read as the French 'j') pattern in each corner and in the middle of each side. [gruxittasa means 'the crosses' in Sardinian] Finally, to complete the project, some drawn-thread work (removing two fabric threads): the simple hem stitch for securing the hem and along the edge, the arches with picots that make up the classic edging of Sardinian Knot Stitch works.

Information on how to realize the hem with the mitred corners and the simple hemstitch can be found in large quantities in the internet. I limit myself to a couple of suggestions:
mitred corners
simple hemstitch
However if these do not seem comprehensive enough, type in a search engine 'tutorial mitred corners' and 'tutorial simple hemstitch' and you will find everything you need.

Some of the snowflakes on this embroidered table mat were published in my book Sardinian Knot Stitch and are not repeated here. I would like to remind readers that in it you will find all the instructions for the work, both with regard to the stitch execution and the needle lace edging. Remember too, that the proceeds from sales go to charity. Last year over $2,500.00 US dollars were donated to the Catholic Mission of Camp Garba in Kenya allowing kids to to attend school in the area. I wonder if this year you will help me achieve the same result?

As I mentioned above, for the execution of the table mat, 28ct Assisi linen fabric in beige with Anchor Ritorto Fiorentino no. 12 pearl cotton, colour no. 47 was used. The dimensions of the fabric are: 41 cm x 33.5 cm which includes the 1.5 cm to be folded back on each side to form the hem.

In the photo below, numbers have been assigned to facilitate the recognition of the snowflakes in relation to the corresponding patterns:

Due to space limitations and in order to not go on too long, the patterns indicated with numbers: 1, 2, 3a and 3b are not included here but can be found, respectively, on pages 55, 53 and 56 of the book.

Below are the patterns of the other previously unpublished snowflakes:

Snowflakes numbered 4, 5 and 6.

Snowflakes numbered 7 and 8.

And finally, snowflake number 9 and the patterns for the frame of zig zag with gruxittasa which is executed 1 cm to the inside of the drawn-thread work hemstitching. 

One last tip: although I realize that each of us has his own method of working: I do the hemstitching first (but the arches I leave until last) because it helps me with the placement of the rest of the embroidery... but it is not written in stone that you must do it this way!

Of course the placement of the snowflakes may be distributed in different ways depending on personal tastes, or the composition may also be reduced with regard to the number of snowflakes themselves. Furthermore they may be used differently: to decorate placemats, for example, or used individually (obviously only in the case of the tiniest ones) to make small Christmas gifts such as bookmarks or Christmas tree ornaments... Projects to achieve all of these suggestions can be found in the book Sardinian Knot Stitch.

Happy Stitching!

Sunday, November 8, 2015

Crochet Cotton for Needlework

Using Crochet Cotton thread for needlework is something that different types of Italian needlework call for. Crochet Cotton is a twisted mercerized cotton thread. It is not shiny the same as Pearl Cotton but does have a sheen to it. It gives a different effect to the embroidery. There are various weights and I've done some experimenting with it for tassels, using DMC Baroque and Natura but until recently, I've never tried it for embroidery.

DMC Babylo #10 ecru thread on 38 ct Sotema 20L linen.

Here is a sample of Sardinian Knot Stitch done on 18ct fabric with Anchor Crochet Cotton and DMC Pearl Cottons (click on the photo for a closer look):

When telling you about Giuseppa Federici's new book here, I mentioned that it called for Crochet Cotton and that in Italy (and other parts of the world) both DMC and Anchor offer a decent colour range in their crochet cottons. Alas they do not offer the same threads in North America and so I set about hunting down some Crochet Cotton in lots of colours.

A kind friend from Italy sent me some Anchor Freccia #12 which is similar in weight the #10 Crochet Cotton we can find in North America. Then I found some DMC Babylo #10 on a UK website that I have ordered from often for other things. They appear almost identical in thickness. Pretty close to Pearl Cotton #5 but a bit thinner. Please note that I could not try all of DMC's products like Cebelia and Traditions or Coats Aunt Lydia's because I could not find them locally in colours that I wanted and there were only so many funds I wanted to spend on online ordering for an experiment. The point of my experiment was really to find a #10 Crochet Cotton in the widest range of colours possible. There are other products available in North America that you can try.

An internet search led me to a website called Handy Hands which sells a line of various weights and colours of 100% Egyptian cotton cordonnet thread called Lizbeth. It comes in 102 solid colours, 87 variegated colours and 10 colours which are a mix of three different colours twisted together. Handy Hands is based out of Paxton, Illinois, though they do not have a bricks and mortar storefront.

Now, Anchor or DMC #10 Crochet Cotton which is what I was looking to match, is made of 3 threads twisted together. Lizbeth thread is made of 6 threads twisted together so obviously the look of the Lizbeth thread is a bit different but I decided to see if it would be a suitable substitution.

I wrote and asked them if they could help me match some samples of Anchor and DMC colours that I had gotten from Italy. They answered right away and gave me some matches but it's difficult to match from photos so in the end, I mailed them my thread samples because there just isn't anything better than having something in your hand when you're trying to match colours!

I have to say, Handy Hands' customer service is excellent. They must have looked up the colours as soon as my samples arrived because, allowing for cross-border mailing, it was no time at all before I received colour-matches for all the colours I asked about. These colours are for a project which I will tell you about in a different post.

The Lizbeth #10 thread is the same thickness as my Anchor and DMC threads but because it is made up of three sets of 2 threads twisted together, it's a little like stitching with a cord instead of a thread.
I did three lines of stitches: stem stitch, chain stitch and Palestrina Knot stitch. The top or first line of each set is the Anchor Freccia and the other is the Lizbeth.

Anchor Freccia #12 and Lizbeth #10 on Zweigart 36 ct Edinburgh linen.

There is a bit of difference in sheen and of course the twist, but overall, I'd say it's an excellent substitute! I love the way the thread sits up on the fabric for a very textural embroidery. I'm thinking Palestrina EmbroideryParma Embroidery, Umbrian Embroidery, even traditional embroidery when you want to create a more rustic, raised effect.

Lizbeth thread is distributed worldwide, they have a list of distributors online for a store near you or you can order directly from their website. Signing up for their newsletter before December 31, 2015 gets you free shipping in the US.

Much thanks to Barbara at Handy Hands for her infinite patience, valuable insight and quick, efficient service!

Friday, October 23, 2015

Italian Needlework Books easily available outside Italy

One of the most frequent requests I get is: "where can I buy these books in English?" Now, I've come to understand that this does not necessarily mean that readers are asking that the texts be in English, though most of the time that is what they are asking, but they also want to buy them from websites in English because they are not comfortable with the uncertainty of online translators.

I do not get any compensation for mentioning books here, even the ones I translated (just to get that out of the way). I try to tell you about the things that I know are available and how I know how to get them. In the past I haven't recommended resellers as a rule because these books are already marked up as the resellers have had to cover their own costs in receiving the books from Italy. When possible, I have mentioned direct sources so you get the lowest cost which might mean a bit more work to make the purchase.

Please know that when I write a book review, I always say what languages the text is in. If I write "text in Italian" that means that an English language version does. not. exist. I'm sorry that I cannot translate the books for you. I would love it if all of them were in English text too!

In the past few years the Lace and Embroidery line of books from Nuova S1 in Bologna has been able to secure distribution in a few places outside Italy: Amazon's various websites and affiliates, Barbara Fay in Germany, Book Depository in the U.K., Lacis in the US. and Ryunan Bros in Japan. (Please note that Nuova S1 publishes other types of books so not everything that shows up in a search of their name will be a book about embroidery.)

Books for you in Canada sells a selection of Italian needlework books, though I did not see any Nuova S1 books, there were others which I've reviewed here.

I found searching Book Depository's website that there were a number of titles available and at reduced cost, plus they ship free worldwide. I did various searches including by publisher, by author's name, by technique. Use my Italian Needlework Library page as a reference for many titles and authors but remember that I don't have everything and some stuff will be out of print.

There are some clues to find the information you want. At Book Depository I couldn't get any of Nuova S1's books to come up under a general search of the publisher's name but searching an author's name gave me results:

Now, here the languages are listed as "multiple languages" but in the title it says: "inglese" which means "English".

Amazon brings up all of Nuova S1's books by doing a search of their name which is handy, it gives you everything together without having to search individual author's names but it also brings up non-needlework books too. A search with the word "ricamo" (Italian for embroidery) brought up all kinds Italian books, not only the Nuova S1 ones, so be imaginative in your search terminology.

One final word about resellers: while Amazon and Book Depository are well known and honourable, it is helpful to ask if the book is actually in stock before approving payment when dealing with other, smaller online resellers. Many wait for an order to come in before searching out the book themselves and your wait time can be frustrating. Remember that when not buying direct from the source, you are essentially hiring someone to find the book for you.

I hope this helps you with your holiday shopping!

Wednesday, October 14, 2015

Macramè from Chiavari

Last April when I was in Bologna, I got to attend a trade fair called Mondo Creativo [Creative World]. There was some embroidery and lace, lots of quilting and beading, decoupage, ceramics, jewellery making, felting, knitting, crochet, cake decorating and all kinds of do-it-yourself crafts that you'd expect at a fair of this kind. You can watch some video coverage of it here.

It was quite crowded and I walked around and around, going up and down the aisles trying to take it all in. I was there for a few hours and it was getting close to the end of the day when I reached the farthest corner of the vast space and discovered a booth full of the most wondrous Macramè.

I've told you in previous posts about the Macramè of Italy and how it's not anything like what North Americans usually think of. What I saw in this booth would take your breath away.

The lady demonstrating was Luciana Brescia and I got to talk to her for a bit. She told me about the type of Macramè she was doing which is a style local to the area where she lives, it is called Chiavari.

Chiavari is a small town a bit to the south of Genoa on the north-western coast of Italy. It is said that Macramè has been produced in the area for more than 700 years. It is traditionally used to ornament household and ecclesiastical linens and Luciana showed me the linen she uses that is locally woven especially for embellishment in macramè.

I couldn't resist getting a guest towel made of the special linen, worked in Chiavari Macramè by Luciana in a typical pattern called Fieschi.

The linen is called: grana di riso [grain of rice] and is handwoven by the deMartini family in nearby Lorsica.

Luciana has been perfecting this art for nearly 40 years. She is very proud to have made a towel that was presented to Pope John Paul II in 1998 when he visited the historic deMartini weaving studio in Lorsica.

Luciana teaches courses in her hometown and exhibits at the various trade shows around Italy. While she likes to make traditional items, she also makes more modern applications such as earrings, brooches, bookmarks and decorations. Her table of goods kept me enthralled for quite awhile and it was very difficult to make a choice for my purchase.

I also picked up a kit with instructions to make a flower assembled of individual petals and Luciana told me to go to a booth at the show where I would find some waxed cotton thread that would be good for me to practise with. I'll let you know how it goes!

Friday, September 18, 2015

Three in One - new book!

The latest book from Giuseppa Federici revisits three techniques: Ars Aesis, Catherine de'Medici Embroidery and Buratto drawn-thread work.

This volume is 64 pages beginning with a little bit of history on Catherine de'Medici Embroidery, then some background on Buratto drawn-thread work and some instructions on how to do it and the things you'll need in general followed by a small ornament project which is used to explain how to execute the withdrawn area and fill it with a motif done in the linen stitch. There are a good 7 pages of step-by-step photos so if you don't speak Italian, you'll still get it. Ornament embellishment and assembly finish this section.

There are then seven projects combining Catherine de'Medici and Buratto drawn-thread work - some lovely border treatments here as well. After that are several pages of charted patterns for both techniques to be used with your own imagination to create other lovely things with the project of a small clasped purse to get you going.

Commercial Buratto fabric is loosely woven evenweave linen with about 16-18 threads per inch so withdrawing threads to create a netted ground lends itself beautifully to larger design areas which are completed relatively quickly. It goes fabulously with Catherine de'Medici Embroidery creating delights of light and dark areas of design.

The final section is on Ars Aesis and here you'll find several pattern designs, projects, borders and edgings though you'll need her first book for detailed instructions on how to execute some of the needle lace edgings. Just so I've said it, the text is all in Italian.

Now, you know how I love textured embroidery! I just had to get out my needle and thread to try one of the borders which I had previously admired in the first book:

Ars Aesis uses no. 10 crochet cotton for thread which provides a different finish from pearl cotton. In Europe, both DMC and Anchor market quite a few colours in this type of thread (DMC Babylo no. 10 and Anchor Freccia no. 12) however I'm having some difficulty sourcing much on this side of the pond.

If you know anywhere in North America which sells DMC Babylo no. 10 or Anchor Freccia no. 12 in anything other than white and ecru, would you leave a comment below?

In Europe you can purchase this book by bank transfer directly from the author herself
Tombolo Disegni has it for those of us not in Europe, it can be found in the section of books with Catherine de'Medici Embroidery.

Tuesday, September 15, 2015

Ferragamo and the needle lace of Tavarnelle

From a private collection in Florence, since donated to the Salvatore Ferragamo Museum.

The following is an English version of my latest column in the Italian needlework magazine Giuliana Ricama issue no. 6. A couple of things to note: the Salvatore Ferragamo Museo in Florence gave me photos to include in the publication but I did not ask for permission to publish them here, so I do not include them with this translation. If you want to see them, obviously if you are in Italy you can get the magazine or go to the museum but you can also check out their website or you can explore the 20th century archives of the Ministry of Goods and Cultural Activities website.

From a private collection in Florence, since donated to the Salvatore Ferragamo Museum.

“There is no limit to beauty, no saturation point in design, no end to the materials a shoemaker may use to decorate his creations so that every woman may be shod like a princess and a princess may be shod like a fairy queen.” -- Shoemaker of Dreams. The Autobiography of Salvatore Ferragamo, London 1957, Italian edition 1971, edited by S. Ricci.

At the end of the 1920s Salvatore Ferragamo (1898-1960), known Italian fashion designer and founder of the fashion house of the same name, decided he wanted to use needle lace on a few models of his shoes. The nearby small towns of Tavarnelle, Mercatale and Greve, located between Florence and Siena, were centres of lace production in those days. Several models were created using the work done by local embroiderers in their own homes. Tavarnelle lace was used by Ferragamo again in the 1930s and 1950s and his big innovation was the use of colour in the needle lace. Some shoe models were called the Anna, Carina, Iride, Merletto and Sofia.

Ferragamo shoe model from 1930-1932.

Thanks to Mr. Ferragamo, the lacemakers of Tavarnelle embroidered for the most famous women of the day like Sophia Loren, Anna Magnani, Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis, Elisabeth Taylor, Audrey Hepburn and many more.

In the archives of the Salvatore Ferragamo Museum in Via Tornabuoni, Florence are models of shoes and sandals decorated with the lace of Tavarnelle but unfortunately nothing is displayed in the museum's permanent exhibition. You can however write to the museum and make an appointment to study them.

In 1906 a nun named Arcangela Banchelli arrived in Greve in Chianti and, being acquainted with the technique of needle lace, taught it to the students of the embroidery school which was one of the activities cared for by the Order of the Servants of Our Lady of Sorrows.

Over time, the fame of this lace arrived in Florence and very soon it was popular with the companies who created trousseaux. The first commissions came from them but soon commissions were also arriving from private individuals. At one time every girl in the area had tablecloths, curtains and other household linen items in their trousseaux decorated with the lace of Tavarnelle. In the beginning the lace was quite complex but over time, due to the high commercial demand, it became more simplified in order to reduce production time.

Two doilies of Tavarnelle lace from my collection.
Tavarnelle lace derives from Venetian needle lace but has a technical preparation more similar to Aemilia Ars needle lace from Bologna. The design is drawn on wax paper which is placed on top of 5-6 layers of butcher paper and all layers are then basted together around the outer edge. Then support stitches are added to aid in the working of the lace. Typical motifs worked are geometric shapes, flowers and leaves, small animals, religious symbols, initials and the figures of a man and woman. After the work is finished, the support stitches are cut on the back side and the lace is removed from the support.

About five years ago a lady named Carla Cantoni from San Casciano Val di Pesa decided to recreate an old design of a Ferragamo shoe with Tavarnelle lace for her own personal use:

Created for private use by Carla Cantoni, San Casciano Val di Pesa.
These shoes were created using Ritorto Fiorentino pearl cotton no. 12 and took approximately 90-100 hours to create the lace. Aren't they lovely?

In 2002 Ebe Ciampalini Balestri published a small volume (in Italian) on this technique called: Il "Punto Tavarnelle", e dintorni... It is still available direct from the Pro Loco di Tavarnelle tel: 055 8077832.

Thank you very much to Blandina for the use of her photos of her mother's shoes which she donated to the Salvatore Ferragamo Museum and to Carla for the photos of the lovely shoes that she made for herself.

Thursday, September 3, 2015

Sardinian Knot Stitch in Inspirations Magazine

The new edition (#87) of Inspirations magazine is out and nestled amongst all the lovely projects you'll find a book weight project done in Punt'e nù embroidery from Teulada, Italy.

While a book weight is a break from traditional use for this embroidery, the pattern is authentic and features a pair of cockerels back-to-back with an almond motif between them. The pattern also features the pomegranate motif and the teeth border.

The book weight is also double-sided, done in the reverse colours on the other side:

You can use a book weight to keep your pattern books open when stitching or to keep your embroidery frame on a table while you work on an area that hangs out over the edge.

They make great gifts and are a nice size for experiencing a small sample of Punt'e nù embroidery!

Also in this issue of Inspirations is a lovely review of the English version of the book Sardinian Knot Stitch. This book is also available in an Italian version. Both books are available through Amazon.

Thank you Inspirations for doing such a beautiful layout for this little project!

Tuesday, August 25, 2015

Punto Antico 20th Anniversary and a new book

The Associazione Il Punto Antico is celebrating their 20th anniversary this year and commemorate it with a new book (in English and Italian!) of projects on this lovely needlework technique.

From the introduction:
Twenty years of passion: 1995-2015. In this book you will find the latest work and designs, some simple, others more complex, with in-depth explanations for their realization and all the designs charted. The embroidery is coloured and the worked articles are cheerful, adapted for young houses, a little informal... You will also find some photos from our early exhibitions, a testimony of the route which we took.
Twenty years of research, of study, of elaboration and the teaching of Italian Openwork are an important goal, at which I never thought to arrive. It is thanks to my students, to their affection, and to their friendship that these years have flown by and I would like, on this occasion, to embrace everyone.
---Bruna Gubbini

The book proposes 11 projects: a lampshade, table sets, curtains, runners, a cushion, towels; there are 16 different embroidery stitches described; lots of large colour photos to show off this latest batch of tasteful, very modern designs.

It has been interesting to see the evolution of Signora Gubbini's interpretations of this technique over the years and I must confess that I have all of her books. I find her immensely good at colour combinations and designs which are tasteful and refined while at the same time modern and cheerful. And while I personally love traditional designs and works, I can seriously consider Signora Gubbini's latest designs for gifts for the younger people in my life. That way I can have the best of both worlds: the joy of stitching the project and then that of delighting a friend or family member with a tasteful gift.

The English translation is done by Patricia Girolami, a British embroiderer who now lives in Italy for some years who is well acquainted with this needlework.

These designs are not traditional Punto Antico patterns in the historical sense and they use many stitches from other embroidery techniques not necessarily associated traditionally with Punto Antico so if you are looking to approach this technique from a strictly traditional point of view, I suggest you start with their first book.

You can purchase this or any of the many other books that the Associazione Il Punto Antico has produced through their website:

Sunday, August 23, 2015

Knots and Tassels and Maria Rita Faleri

The other day a beautiful photo meant for someone else came across my newsfeed which sparked a revisit for me to the Turk's Head Knot and tassels. For me its not the bright and shiny things that distract me, its the textile textural things... and Deruta beads...

Exceptional isn't it? It's creator is Maria Rita Faleri and she lives in Fermo in the Marche region of Italy which is located near the eastern coastline, pretty much in the middle of Italy: a little north of Rome, a little south of Florence.

Now, I knew a little bit about her and we've corresponded a couple of times about other things over the years and I told you about her wonderful Tassel book here. We started chatting about the tassel above and then another...

and another...

I mentioned that I had abandoned the Turk's Head knot which is what those little knots are and she helped me discover where I had gone wrong. I love the internet. She was nearly 9000 kilometres away and 9 hours ahead in time difference but within a few quick comments of a chat, she had made the lightbulb go on in my head.

There is absolutely nothing wrong with the instructions in her book, it was me that missed an important step. Looking at them now, they make perfect sense.

We started to chat about other things. Maria Rita is part of a cultural association in Fermo called Il Filo Che Conta (a little play on words: the thread that counts) where she teaches (among other techniques) Catherine de' Medici embroidery and knotted tassels. She edited the book on Catherine de' Medici embroidery that you'll find when you follow this link. She also wrote a book on marking stitches called Punti di Marca a few years ago.

Maria Rita told me that she will have a booth at the Abilmente trade show in Vicenza, Italy this October. It's one of the fairs that I'd love to go to one day, I really need to plan to be in Italy one autumn. Her booth is under her association's name: Il Filo Che Conta and you can find it in the Embroidery Salon area. She will have her books and materials for Catherine de' Medici embroidery, Bobbin Lacemaking and of course Tassels! Maria Rita will be there for demonstrations and she has made new kits for the three tassels you see above plus this one:

And also this adorable little bunch of grapes:

Inside the kits are the instructions, needle and threads plus two sizes of tiny wooden sticks which help in the execution of the knots. I want them all! Maria Rita tells me that this fair Abilmente is the only one she exhibits at and what she earns during the show helps keep her cultural association afloat.

Here is a report from a previous Abilmente show in 2012 where you can see some of Maria Rita's beautiful tassels displayed absolutely marvellously:

Photo copyright Gabriela Trionfi of

If you are in Italy and go to Abilmente, please leave a comment below and tell us how it was. Drop by the Il Filo Che Conta booth and say hello to Maria Rita for me...

Sunday, August 2, 2015

Reproduction research - Tassel

For a few years I have been looking on and off for some idea of what kind of knots make up the tassels on my vintage Punto Umbro cushion that I talked about here.

The tassel is made up of a needle lace covered head with 20 little knots covering the top part and five legs which each have 18 of the same little knots on them.

I've been to thread stores in Italy and asked lots of people. Everyone who had an idea, I tried out with no real success. Always close but not exact.

Recently while looking up something else (as usually happens with research) I stumbled across a photo of something pretty close to my tassel in Rosalba Pepi & Maria Rita Faleri's lovely book on Tassels. Who knows why I didn't notice it before.

Anyway, I started looking seriously through knot books and online.

I made a few different types of knots in paracord first...

Then a few in cotone povero cotton yarn...

I like the Turk's Head knot but it was a bit too round and I also liked the Monkey Fist Knot but it didn't have enough facets.

This is a close up of the head of my tassel with all it's little knots:

Then I thought: am I making this too complicated? This tassel was made near the beginning of the 20th century - what was available to embroiderers then? There is one knot explained in the DMC Encyclopedia (scroll down to the bottom) and one in the Italian Book of Women's Work which I showed you here. I tried them both. They were the closest yet to mine.

Still, they took me some time to work and the thought of taking an hour to make each knot when I had 92 to make motivated me to investigate YouTube, now that I had the name "Chinese Knot" at least to reference. Well, I lost a few days watching YouTube videos but I finally settled on Suzen Millodot's Double Chinese Button Knot tied on a single cord because it's pretty close and because it's relatively easy. I won't know for sure until I get better at making the knot.

I added the French knots as picots in the four corners of the bottom like the ones on my tassel and I'd say that with some practise, I could be happy with these.

Here's a bottom view for comparison:

Double Chinese Button Knot

Now, I really liked the Monkey Fist knot with picots too but that will be for a tassel not related to this one. I show you a photo of a single and then a group of four knotted together just in case you might like to make some for yourself!

Monkey Fist Knot with French Knot picots

Four Monkey Fist Knots with Picots tied together.

If you know what knot it really is on my tassel, will you leave a comment below and let me know?

Friday, July 10, 2015

Printwork Embroidery or Ricamo a Chiaroscuro

Some fun news, I've starting writing a regular column for the new Italian embroidery magazine Giuliana Ricama that I told you about here. They have graciously permitted me to print an English translation of my column here on my blog when each issue that it appears in has come out. So, if you're in Italy and you'd like to read the article in Italian, you'll have to contact the magazine, but for those English speakers, it is below. Please note that the photos of the actual embroidery did not appear in the magazine due to technical issues and the photo of the original etching print does not appear here on my blog because the magazine purchased permission to use it and my blog did not.

One more thing: the photos of this embroidery were sent to me by a lady who contacted me trying to find out something about the piece that she had found at an antiques shop in the U.S. The photos are hers and are used here with permission.


Printwork Embroidery is a technique of embroidery that imitates engraving artwork prints and was very popular in the first half of the 1800s. It then experienced a great revival after the The Great Exposition of London in 1851 where a masterpiece of the technique which featured a young girl embroidering surrounded by the alpine countryside was exhibited by the Swiss embroiderer J.U. Tanner.

Great pains were taken to precisely imitate the marks of the engraver and in order to reproduce the effect of the prints, the embroidery was executed in silk thread in either black or tones of seppia brown. In some cases the work was realized entirely with stitches while in others the background was given washes of colour in order to produce tones similar to the original etching and to avoid endless detailed stitching to obtain a three-dimensional effect.

Catalogues of Italian expositions of the period attest to many prizes being awarded for excellence in this technique as we can deduce from this quote: "...printwork embroidery in silk (awarded) for accuracy and fineness of work and for the well-understood application of shading". (Provincial Exposition of Industry and Agriculture held in Parma, 1871.) In that catalogue there are a dozen prizes which were awarded to this technique alone.

The photos are of a piece that was found at an antiques shop in Crystal River, Florida in the U.S. about 20 years ago. It is a work that is executed with great skill by an embroiderer whose name we know: Luigia Muzio. Dimensions of the piece are 18cm x 12cm and everything is stitched except the date which is printed in ink with a stain around it. After it was purchased, it was reframed using archival materials to ensure it's protection. The ground fabric is silk while the thread is difficult to determine whether it is very fine silk or hair. The embroidery is in good condition with the exception of a bit of deterioration at the top corners. The dedication reads: "For M. Maria Elisabetta Simons in thanks Muzio Luigia stitched 1869".

Depicted is Felice Orsini (1819-1858) an Italian patriot who became famous for his attempt to assassinate Napoleon III on the 14th of January 1858 and for which he was later guillotined in Paris that same year.

The original artwork print is signed Masutti (which could be the artist Antonio Masutti, 1813-1895) and today is part of the collection of the Risorgimento Museum in Turin, Italy. The embroidered copy meanwhile, can be found with the American lady who found it at her home in North Carolina. It is unknown if the embroidery was executed in Italy or in America.


(The subject of the print is Felice Orsini making bombs of his own design in his room in England where he tested them before making the attempt on the life of the French Emperor in Paris.)

Thank so much to Susan for permission to use her photos and for the wonderful adventure of investigating this interesting piece!