News Update

Just a quick note to say I’ve updated the following galleries. The new work is at the top of the each gallery:

Bags and Purses





Contemporary Embroidery

Crewel and Surface Stitchery

Cross Stitch






Looking Over Shoulders 4

It’s going to be 39C here today so if you’re looking to escape the heat (or the cold in the Northern Hemisphere) by staying inside here’s some eye candy from the evening meeting of the Guild last Monday:

Jenny Balderson was working on a large crewel design:

Crewel work in progress by Jenny Baldessin

At another table Prue Deacon was adding a border to one of her striking canvaswork designs:

Canvaswork in progress by Prue Deacon

While Jan Senti was cross-stitching a teddy bear in an interesting way – she was mixing the thread to create a ‘tweed’ effect:

Tweed style Teddy bear x-stitched by Jan Senti

And Margaret Callinan was also doing cross stitch – a very atmospheric scene of a waterfall and cherry blossom:

Cherry Blossom and Waterfall in progress x-stitched by Margaret Callinan

Sarah Kimmorley was stitching this footstool cover for her dollhouse – my eyes were protesting just looking at the tiny size of the stitches!

Miniature Footstool cover stitched by Sarah Kimmorley

At the next table Lee Scott was knitting this gorgeous green lace:

Green Knitted Lace Shawl 2 by Lee Scott

and a closer look:

Green Lace Knitted Shawl by Lee Scott

Sitting nearby was this crocheted bag that Lee was about to start blocking:

Crocheted Bag with Pearls by Lee Scott

Across the way Anne Eccleston was bringing another vintage Semco piece to life:

Semco Vintage Strawberry Cushion and Pattern x-stitched by Anne Eccleston

Semco Vintage Strawberry Cushion x-stitched by Anne Eccleston

It’s a cross stitch cushion with strawberries and matches the tablecloth she had in last year’s exhibition which you can see here.

Jillian Farrer was also into vintage and embroidering this softly delicate piece:

Vintage Embroidery with Blue Flowers stitched by Jillian Farrer

On a totally different note Monica Andrew was working on this contemporary textured piece:

Contemporary Textured Embroidery on Marrone fabric stitched by Monica Andrew

Next to her Jill Travis was adding stitches to her Stitch of the Month book cover:

Stitch of Month Bookcover by Jill Travis

While Mary Bowron was chatting to her and knitting this bright piece for one of her family:

Blue Knitted Childs Dress by Mary Bowron

Lel Whitbread was very excited about stitching these blackwork flowers from a new book which gives this traditional technique a modern twist:

Blackwork stitched by Lel Whitbread

Just then Catherine Fetherston arrived and pulled out these two works in progress – a striking Hardanger motif:

Hardanger on Red Fabric in Progress stitched by Catherine Fetherstone

and some contemporary Casalguidi which is a UFO she’s trying to finish:

Contemporary Calasguidi in Progress by Catherine Fetherstone

Speaking of Casalguidi Yvonne Kingsley had this lovely needlecase sitting on the table next to her embroidery stand:

Casalguidi Needlecase by Yvonne Kingsley

She had this date palm in her hoop:

Date Palm on Wool blanket stitched by Yvonne Kingsley

It’s part of a large wool blanket – here’s a camel that’s also in progress:

Camel in progress from Wool Blanket being stitched by Yvonne KingsleyIf you’re curious about the white material around the camel – it’s soluble interfacing onto which Yvonne has traced the design. A cool way to get a design onto a dark fabric.

Well that’s it for now – I’m off to get a mega dose of high wattage energy – the Young Stitchers have their first meeting of the year this afternoon!


Italia Invita 7: Casalguidi Embroidery

Hi everyone

Before I went to Italia Invita earlier this year I had a clear picture in my mind of Casalguidi embroidery. The experience of Italia Invita made me rethink my understanding of the technique.

First a bit of history

Casalguidi embroidery is a technique that’s associated with the district of Serravalle Pistoise near the city of Pistoia in northern Tuscany. It takes its name from the town of Casalguidi in this area.

The history and provenance of this technique is not clearcut. There are a few ecclesiastical pieces with elements of this style of embroidery that date back to the 12th century. They were worked on tessuti poveri which means coarser fabrics. It’s thought that because this technique didn’t use fine fabrics it wasn’t used in the furnishings and household linens of the nobility.

Then there’s a gap until the late 19th and early 20th centuries when the technique re-emerges. Like a lot of other traditional embroidery techniques from various regions of Italy there was a revival of embroidery at this time in this area of Tuscany.

Just who re-invented the technique is a matter of some dispute. Most researchers conclude that it was Carolina Amari but the evidence is circumstantial. What is certain is that the Morelli sisters founded a school in Casalguidi not long after the turn of the last century and taught the technique to local women. Jeanine Robertson gives a detailed history of the technique here in her blog Italian Needlework.

Characteristics of the Casalguidi technique

Today Casalguidi is generally worked on linen but there are also some wonderful examples worked on silk. If you mention Casalguidi embroidery what springs immediately to mind is the dimensional quality of the famous motifs such as the bastone or stick. These are done in casalguidi stitch which is a padded version of raised stem stitch. You can see it here in the tree trunk and the dragon on a teaching sample stitched by Pat Bootland for our Guild: OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA If you’d like to try casalguidi stitch it’s in the stitch dictionary here.

On Pat’s design you can also see that the main pattern is worked on a background of pulled thread work done in four-sided stitch. This is also very characteristic of Casalguidi – this technique opens up the background and gives depth to the main motifs.

Other characteristic stitches are curl stitch, buttonhole bars, needlelace and needleweaving. The motifs commonly used in Casalguidi embroidery are thought to come from nature or the decorative elements in local churches. A rather lovely motif is the six petalled rosette in needlelace. Pat has used the three petalled bud in her design above.

Casalguidi Lion

We have a stunning example of the Casalguidi embroidery in the Guild’s heritage Collection: Casalguidi in Guilds Collection It was donated by an ex-President of the Guild the late Loma Ruddock and the notes on provenance state that the work was made in the town of Casalguidi in 1980. It features another famous motif – the Casalguidi lion. I was intrigued by this motif as it’s so reminiscent of the lion of St Mark the symbol of Venice:


so I googled in Italian for information about the history of Pistoia and the Lion of St Mark…….and up popped an Italian history site which explains that Pistoia was once divided into four districts one of which was Borgo San Marco. The heraldic symbol for this district was the Lion of St Mark.

A closer look at this beautiful piece of Casalguidi

Are you ready for some eye candy? Here are some close-ups of the piece in our Collection: Detail 2 Casalguidi in Guilds Collection and closer still for a look at the needlework for the lions:

Detail 6 Casalguidi Guilds Collection …..the four sided stitch background:

Detail 4 Casalguidi Guilds Collection and the top edge:

Detail 5 Casalguidi Guilds Collection

and finally the nappine or tassels that are also characteristic of the Casalguidi technique:

Detail 7 Casalguidi Guilds Collection

Italia Invita

 Now to Italia Invita and a different take on Casalguidi work.

The cultural association il Club del Ricamo di Casale had a stall at Italia Invita:

Club del Ricamo di Casale at Italia Invita

This group was founded in 1998 and is based in Casalguidi. Its mission is to preserve and promote the embroidery techniques of the Pistoia region especially Casalguidi work. It’s very active in teaching a range of local needlework techniques and attending major fiere or exhibitions to showcase these techniques.

The Club is also one of the hosts of the fiera in Casalguidi which is usually held in September and includes displays of heritage and contemporary pieces of the local embroidery styles.

Punto Antico or Punto Toscano

Before going to Italia Invita I knew that the Casalguidi  technique was also referred to as punto antico/antique stitch or punto toscano/tuscan stitch. This had always puzzled me as the dimensional version of Casalguidi doesn’t have much in common with the traditional punto antico technique (I wrote about the punto antico technique earlier in this series of posts on Italia Invita).

Then I saw this piece on display by the Club del Ricamo di Casale:

Diamond Casalguidi square Italia Invita

and this exquisite sampler…

Casalguidi Sampler from Italia Invita

If you click on the photo to enlarge it you’ll see the traditional elements of dimensional Casalguidi stitched in much finer threads to create a delicate blend with punto antico stitches and needlelace. Just awesome!

What do you think?