Italia Invita 8: Umbrian Embroidery

The first signs of autumn have arrived here in Canberra over the last week. There’s a chill in the morning air, the light’s changing from the brilliance of summer to the softer golden tones of autumn and the Gang Gang Cockatoos with their ‘squeaky door’ calls are everywhere – back from their summer sojourn in the mountains.

120px-Gang-Gang-male444                                                (Gang Gang photo from Wikipedia)

Italia Invita

There’s been so much creativity going on in the Guild that it’s been hard to find the time and opportunity to get back to writing about Italia Invita. This is the first of two new posts and then the series will be complete. This post needs to come with a warning – there’s a lot going on in Umbrian textiles so this post is a bit epic to say the least……..


As mentioned in earlier posts the region of Umbria in central Italy has a very rich textile history, especially the province of Perugia. We’ve already covered some of the textiles from this region: Orvieto lace, Punto Umbro and Ars Panicalensis. Here are some others:

Perugia & Punto Perugino

Perugia is a beautiful medieval city in Umbria. It has a famous chocolate festival and wonderful textiles – what’s not to love?! As the name suggests Punto Perugino is associated with Perugia and the history of this embroidery technique is interwoven with that of the city’s literature, art and agriculture.

It’s a counted satin stitch technique on even weave fabric. Designs can also use cutwork and eyelets, bullion knots and curl stitch. The patterns are geometric and larger scale designs can also have strong figurative elements such as birds, animals, flowers and mythological creatures. These come from the medieval art and literature of Perugia.

Most of the research on Punto Perugino has been done by the Punti d’Arte Workshop in the town of Pieve near Perugia. They had a stand at Italia Invita with wonderful examples of this embroidery style. As they’re in the process of writing a book they couldn’t allow photos but I did buy a couple of items and I can share these with you. Here’s a tiny needlebook with a simple but very characteristic motif in satin stitch:

Perugino Needlecase from Italia Invita 2013 and a closer look: Red Perugino detail on Needlecase from Italia Invita 2013 Now for a more elaborate square:

Perugino Square from Italia Invita 2013 And a closer look at a corner:

Corner Detail on Perugino Square from Italia Invita 2013

When I showed this piece to Guild members Meryl Fellows immediately spotted that the needlelace inserts are in fact the sunflower motif also used in Hardanger:

Sunflower Motif on Perugino Square from Italia Invita

Meryl is an amazingly talented stitcher across a whole range of embroidery styles and she’s been showing me how to do this motif. We just have to find some time to photograph the process and put it in the Tips and Techniques section.

As you can see from the square above the most characteristic pieces of this style of embroidery are done in a golden yellow coloured thread and materials. This dyeing tradition comes from the saffron growing industry around Perugia and the fibres are dyed using very old local recipes. Other traditional colours used are rust, red, light brown and blue. Here’s some dyed thread I bought from the Punti d’Arte stand at Italia Invita:

Saffron Dyed Thread from Italia Invita 2013

Until recently there wasn’t much detail known about the history of Perugino but then a conversation between researchers from the Punti d’Arte Workshop and a nun at the local convent of the Poor Clares led to the discovery of some historic pieces preserved by the nuns. These take the provenance of the technique back to at least the end of the 18th century.

In the Australian context I’d read some references to Punto Perugino having its origins in Sardinia but when I researched all the Italian material I couldn’t find any reference to Sardinia. This left me puzzled so I asked the representatives from the Punti d’Arte Workshop whether there was any connection between Perugino and Sardinia. They confirmed that there is no connection between this technique and Sardinia.

At the moment there’s only one book available on Perugino and this is Silvana Fontanelli’s Il Piacere del Ricamo:

Perugino book by Silvana Fontanelli It’s in Italian but the diagrams and instructions are excellent and easy to follow.

Punto Deruta

The town of Deruta in Umbria is famous for its ceramics and two lovely styles of embroidery developed there. These have medieval roots in the 13th century but like so many other Italian textiles faded and were then revitalised in the early 20th century as part of a more general arts and crafts movement.

The Deruta embroidery schools were started by nuns and two local sisters Aurelia and Luce Corcioni and their promotional efforts saw the embroideries exported worldwide. The Accademia Punto Deruta had a very popular stand at Italia Invita that showcased both embroidery techniques:

Accademia Punto Deruta Stall at Italia Invita 2013

The first style features the coloured Deruta embroideries stitched on a medium weight Umbrian linen with embroidery floss. These are typically homewares and the designs are based on a particular ceramic and are usually presented together with the ceramic. Here’s a wonderful example from Italia Invita:

Accademia Punto Deruta Ceramic Bowl and Wallhanging from Italia Invita and a closer look:

Accademia Punto Deruta 2 at Italia Invita 2013

Another characteristic of this Deruta style is the use of tassels that include a ceramic bead called a fuserole. You can see some colourful examples of these beads here on the Italian Needlework site.

The other type of Deruta embroidery is very different. It’s called Punto Deruta and is a drawn thread technique usually done on Buratto – a fine open weave netting. Here are some examples from the Accademia Punto Deruta stand:

Accademia Punto Deruta at Italia Invita 2013 Punto Deruta Wallhangings at Italia Invita 2013 This swirly tree of life really caught my eye:

Accademia Punto Deruta 3 at Italia Invita 2013 Accademia Punto Deruta 4 at Italia Invita 2013

This delicate embroidery technique deserves to be better known…..what do you think?

 Punto Assisi

Assisi work is one of the best known Italian embroidery techniques. The Accademia Punto Assisi had a large stand at Italia Invita packed with exquisite work both in the traditional Assisi counted technique and in the Punto Madama or Caterina di Medici technique – more about the latter in the next Italia Invita post.

Here’s some eye candy for you:

Accademia Punto Assisi at Italia Invita 2013 Accademia Punto Assisi 2 at Italia Invita 2013 Accademia Punto Assisi 3 from Italia Invita 2013

You can get more information on the Associazione Punto Assisi here – they have an extensive classes program.

Tuoro di Trasimeno

This is a picturesque town about 25 km NW of Perugia on the northern shore of Lake Trasimeno. It has an embroidery and lace school run by the Associazione Culturale Femminile P.Es.Co who were also at Italia Invita.

Irish Crochet Lace

The lace style that has flourished in this area is Irish Crochet Lace. It was introduced here in the early 20th century by Elena Guglielmi, the daughter of the Marchese Giacinto. She thought it was a particularly appropriate technique for the daughters of the local fishermen who were already highly skilled at weaving fishing nets.

The school she started was very active until the 1930s when it closed. There was then a break until the 1960s and 70s when the embroidery and lace traditions were revived. Here are some photos of the Associazione Culturale Femminile P.Es.Co’s stand at Italia Invita:

Tuoro sul Trasimeno at Italia Invita 2013 Tuoro sul Trasimeno 2 at Italia Invita 2013 The Association has published a book on Irish crochet lace:

libro1 and you can purchase it from their website here

Punto Umbro

The embroidery style they specialise in is Punto Umbro Antico or Punto Umbro. I’ve already written about this style in Italia Invita 5. The Trasimeno Association have also published a book on this technique:

libro2 which you can buy here.

While at Italia Invita I bought a needlebook in the Punto Umbro technique from Giusy Federici and it has now been photographed. Here are some photos:

Punto Umbro Needlecase from Italia Invita 2013 Close up of Punto Umbro Needlecase from Italia Invita 2013 Corner Detail of Punto Umbro Needlecase from Italia Invita 2013

Here’s a fine detail of the Puncetto needlace edging:

Puncetto Detail on Punto Umbro Needlecase from Italia Invita

and a close-up of the punto ricciolino on the left of the photo:

Punto Ricciolino on Punto Umbro Needlecase from Italia Invita

I bought a number of needlebooks in different styles in Italy and what fascinates me is that it’s this one in Punto Umbro that everyone responds to and wants to keep. They love the richness of the surface stitches and the tactile quality they give to the piece.

Giudetta Brozzetti Workshop in Perugia 

There are two other wonderful embroidery and textile experiences in Perugia.

One is the Giudetta Brozzetti Workshop (Museo-Laboratorio di Tessitura a Mano Giudetta Brozzetti) in the city itself. It’s located in the deconsecrated Church of San Francesco delle Donne at Via Tiberio Berardi 5/6, Perugia. This is one of the oldest Franciscan churches in Italy and dates from 1212. This workshop specialises in handwoven textiles and their work is stunning. They also offer courses in weaving, embroidery and lace making.

This Workshop was founded by Giudetta Brozzetti in 1921. She researched and collected local medieval and Renaissance designs and then got local women to weave them into products for homes and churches. There’s important women’s history here too because she allowed women to work from home so that they could earn a living while caring for their families.

The Workshop is currently run by Marta Cucchia – the fourth generation of the family. She was at Italia Invita:

Giudetta Brozzetti Workshop at Italia Invita 2013 Giudetta Brozzetti Workshop 2 at Italia Invita 2013

You can get more information on their website and Facebook page.

Hand Embroidery and Weaving Exhibition in Valtopina 

The other wonderful textile experience is the above exhibition (Mostra del Ricamo e del Tessile di Valtopina) at Valtopina in the province of Perugia. This town is located about 47 km from Perugia and the show usually takes place over 3 days at the end of August – beginning of September. What’s great about this Exhibition is that it includes classes and attracts some of the best teachers from all over Italy.

Here’s some work that the Valtopina group were showing at Italia Invita:

ABC of Valtopina School at Italia Invita 2013

The dates for 2014 aren’t yet on their website or Facebook page but if you’re interested just keep an eye out here. The only information I’ve been able to find out is that the Canadian quilter and textile artist Sandra Redford will be co-curating an exhibit with Joe Lewis at Valtopina 2014.

Punto Antico

Just to let you know I’ve added some photos of a needlebook with an Aemelia Ars needlelace insert to the Italia Invita 4 post.

Bye for now



Looking over Shoulders 2

Well I’ve been at it again – this time looking over the shoulders of the Monday morning group.

Are you comfy? Because this is a bit of an epic post and it’s still only a tiny glimpse of what goes on in the morning group which is large, enthusiastic and incredibly productive.

All this stitching is done over lots of laughter and chatting with the occasional pause for concentration over a tricky stitch or complicated bit of a design.

If you’d like a closer look at any of the work just click on the image to enlarge it.

Fran’s Stumpwork and Goldwork

In the previous post on Looking over Shoulders you saw the meticulous work Fran was doing to prepare the elements of an Alison Cole design called A Siennese Treasure. Elizabeth Braun of the sew-in-love blog commented and expressed an interest in seeing how this work progressed.

So here’s where Fran’s got to now:

Fran Novitski detail of A Siennese Treasure

and a closer view….

Fran Novitski Close up A Siennese Treasure

What do you think? Isn’t this exquisite?

and yes Fran goes to both the morning and evening group sessions because she’s our President.


We have the most amazing group of people who do awesome hardanger. They’re enthusiastic, active and happy to share their skills and knowledge with everyone including people like me who are complete newbies to this technique.

Here’s some of their work:

Evelyn B had just begun her piece and you can see the geometry of the counted work emerging:

Hardanger in hoop Evelyn Bardara from Queanbeyan

Avis had combined her favourite hardanger designs to create a piece that skilfully balances elegance and precision. Here are some elements of her design:

Hardanger X by Avis Gesling

Hardanger diamond by Avis Gesling

Hardanger edge by Avis Gesling

Doreen McG was working on this piece with a lovely repeat pattern of a flower motif:

Hardanger in hoop by Doreen McG

Hardanger lacy detail by Doreen McG

She makes it look so easy….

while Meryl F was almost finished this beauty:

Hardanger rectangle in progress by Meryl Fellows


And if all that eye candy isn’t enough for you here’s a sample of the other stitching going on……


Sandra M was working on this delicate piece of Schwalm in a lovely soft palette of colours:

Schwalm work in progress Sandra Minns


Val W was adding a real pop of colour as she knitted this jacket in angora wool:

blue knitting Val Woodward

Hatice who’s visiting from Turkey was also knitting – a very pretty cardigan for a lucky little girl:

Pink childs  cardigan with grub roses by Hatice Canturk

Now and then she’d also pick up this cross stitch and make some more progress:

Geese x-stitch by Hatice


Cross Stitch

Talking of cross stitch Barbara B was working on this very striking flower pattern called Bloomtime:

Red flower x-stitch in progress Barbara Bailey

While Faye had finished this trio of birds (Goldcrests I think) designed by Valerie Pfeiffer. Her trick of adding beads for eyes really brought these little birds to life.

Three Goldcrests finished x-stitch by Faye Guy

And Helen N transformed this small bunch of flowers into a neat biscornu:

xstitch squares by Helen Nastopoulus

Flower biscornu stitched by Helen Nastopoulis



Hazel was almost finished this wonderful Celtic Knot design in Assisi work. It’s a kit from Mary Hickmott’s New Stitches magazine.

Assisi work in progress by Hazel Frances


Vintage Embroidery

Floriana had been rummaging in her stash and found this cool vintage embroidery of a gondola. While she liked the retro look of the design she decided to add a modern touch with the fresh colours.

Vintage Gondola in progress Floriana Basilisco

Diana was also taking a vintage pattern from a 1973 Coates publication called Mix and Match in Embroidery and giving it a contemporary look with her choice of colours:

Vintage cockerel stitchery by Diana Churchill


Jenny H was also using colours with a real pop in her stitchery:

small embroidery with DMC threads Jenny Hutchinson

while Louise W had begun a delicate traditional embroidery bought on one of her trips to Germany:

German Surface stitching in progress Louise Willey



Anne D was shading this Roseworks bloom in subtle tones of red and pink:

Reddy pink crewel flower by Anne Dowling beside her Barbara A was stitching away at this design in shades of blue:

Blue and pink crewel in progress Barbara Adams


Creative use of fabrics

and on the other side of her Irene B was cleverly creating these teddy bear ornaments from a fabric pattern:

Irene Burton 4 teddy bears

not far away on another table Dorothy R was sewing ric rac on this pretty butterfly block:

Butterfly block Rhonda

and Lynne B was working away at these hexies for a bed cover:

Hexies by Lyn Baldwin



Meanwhile Lesley E had just finished one of her cute babywear sets of bib and vest embroidered with bees and eucalypt flowers. Watching her creating bullion bees, animals and flowers is like watching magic!

Baby bib and singlet Lesley Edwards

Bye for now!