Thursday, December 26, 2013

Needlework in Martina Franca, Puglia

In Martina Franca, Puglia while I was picking up some handmade pasta and local cheese to take to a friend in Ferrara I asked the shop owner if there were any handmade embroidery or lace shops in town. She told me that there was one shop with things of the 'certain quality' that I was looking for in the main square.

Simply called: Pizzi e Merletti di Nella Acquaviva [Nella Acquaviva's Laces] the shop indeed sits opposite the big fountain in Piazza Roma, no. 17. We had missed it on our way through the square because it wasn't open yet and the sign is on the inside of the big brown wooden door which covers the window when the shop is closed. We arrived breathless with excitement to find the owner of the little shop, Signora Acquaviva among a treasure trove of needlework.

Signora Acquaviva's specialty is hand-knotted netting Filet embroidery and she showed us a few sets of guest towels and curtains that she had made herself, including one towel set of pale blue linen with the most amazing padded embroidery done on ivory-coloured hand-knotted netting - it was a masterpiece!

There were also many sets of Tatted earrings done with various semi-precious stones, crystals and pearls including a lovely set with cameos made in Naples!

We discovered some exquisite Tatted sachets and Filet lace inserts which we really couldn't help ooohing and ahhhing over. The work was so fine and all done by the Signora herself.

In the shop window display was a particularly fine piece of bobbin lace done in the technique called Rosaline:

Rosaline bobbin lace in front with Filet lace on the table.
Signora Acquaviva does work on commission as well and showed us some lovely wedding favours and a breathtaking large oval Filet Lace insert ready to be attached to a floor-to-ceiling-sized curtain. If you find yourself in Martina Franca, do not miss this shop!

A huge thank you to Susan for the photos!

Saturday, December 7, 2013

Traditional Needlework of Locorotondo

When travelling through the Puglia region of Italy this past fall, I was always on the lookout for examples of local needlework. One morning while we were on a guided tour of Locorotondo which is a pretty little town in the province of Bari, I spotted an embellished curtain hanging in the window of a residence:

I took a quick snapshot but didn't have any time to study it as we were on the move with our guide. I thought it seemed to be some kind of needle lace but I really didn't get a good look and I resolved to study the photo later.

We ended our tour in the main square of Locorotondo and as the guide was wrapping up I glanced around and spied a small shop with embroideries hanging in the window. As we were being told we had 10 minutes for a bathroom pitstop before we would meet our bus to go on to an olive oil tasting, I was already backing slowly away from the group in the direction of the shop. As soon as the guide finished talking I pivoted and ran. I'm sure the proprietor of the shop (who was sweeping the pavement in front of the shop) wondered at the crazy tourist bearing down on her at speed!

Breathlessly I explained that I only had 10 minutes and could she please tell me of any local tradition of needlework? She dropped the broom and we rushed inside the shop - a woman who understood me! 

She showed me a shawl made out of wool in the unusual work that I had seen on the curtain pictured above. She also explained that it was a crochet technique called Margherita Stitch and that traditionally the shawls were made for wearing to church but that the technique had been adapted lately for different things like table runners, ornaments, earrings, wedding and other celebration favours, borders for curtains, towels, handkerchiefs and Christmas tree ornaments using different threads like embroidery and crochet cotton, silks and linen threads. 

I picked a small doily to take away with me and as she was ringing me up, the other ladies from my tour arrived breathlessly as they had discovered the textile museum next door and were looking for me because they knew I'd want to see it. Alas, our 10 minutes were up and I did not get to see the museum but I was told that there were some amazing pieces to see in the windows alone.

Signora Spalluto was lovely to come outside the shop and pose for a photo, if you look in the background you can see some ornaments and an amazing tablecloth done in Filet Lace hanging from the ceiling:

Signora Spalluto was able to tell me that she teaches embroidery and has a group of stitchers who make items for the shop and work on commission for trousseaux, weddings, christenings and the like. Her group is well versed in traditional embroidery, tatting, crochet, filet lace and many other techniques as well as the restoration and cleaning of antique pieces.

She has a website which has pages in English as well as Italian where you can look through the galleries of photos of works done in Margherita Stitch as well as other techniques.

We were sorry to leave without taking a good look at what was in the shop, but you can bet if any of us is ever in Locorotondo again, we will be back to the shop and explore the museum right away! I'd love to hear from you if you've been through the museum.

Thanks to Susan for taking the photo of the front of the shop!