Bellissimo by Paola Matteucci
14th June 2019
Is it lace or is it embroidery? This is the question that can spring to mind when you first see the exquisite cushion topper designed by Paola Matteucci, entitled Bellissimo from Inspirations issue #102.
Worked in a technique known as Umbrian tulle embroidery, the gossamer like design is as redolent of handmade lace as it is of embroidery itself.
There is, of course, very good reason for this. This particular style of embroidery was adopted in the region to complement the hand worked ‘Tombolo’ (pillow) and ‘Fuselli’ (bobbin) laces which had been produced by women for centuries.
Tulle embroidery had become widespread across Europe after the English firm Heathcoat and Lurley developed a method of manufacturing strong yet delicately fine tulle in 1809. In Umbria, the nuns of the Collegio delle Vergini di Panicale taught the technique to the girls in their charge all the way up to 1872 when the college closed. So, by this time, the style had become a regional characteristic, which Paola has perpetuated and shared in Bellissimo.
Paola’s ethereal piece, worked on cotton tulle in No. 25 crochet thread is characteristic of the style, which had been revived after the 1872 lull by Anita Belleschi Grifoni. This indomitable lady recognised that Umbrian tulle embroidery could be improved and simplified, then taught to women in order to gain some measure of economic independence. This is not an unusual story, but that makes it no less impressive.
We are all grateful for women such as Anita who valued tradition and embroidery, but more importantly had the strength to champion members of her sex and the skills they possessed.
Paola has designed her piece using stitches such as punto uno (single darning stitch) and stelline medie (star stitch filling) as an introduction to the style.
Paola provides clear instructions on how to work this beautiful cushion front, appearing for all the world as if it had been created a hundred years ago as a family heirloom.
If you have always felt intimidated by the thought of working bobbin lace, Umbrian tulle embroidery is a wonderful way to cross the border between two historic art forms.
Working on tulle is very different to working on a solid ground fabric, as it has no structure beyond the ‘bobbinets’ or little hexagons which are produced during the manufacture. But if you back the tulle with paper to reinforce it, and watch your tension very carefully, you will be producing lace in no time.
When we saw it here at Inspirations, we thought immediately of honeycomb and bees. Like the bees, you step lightly on the comb, working carefully and methodically to achieve a most beautiful outcome.
There is something intensely satisfying about following in the footsteps of women of previous generations and other countries and cultures. Embroidery is one of the few things in the world which knows no boundaries, either temporal or geographical. Your stitches and those of the nuns of Panicale are the same stitches worked with the same love and care. If only there were more things in the world like that. Embroiderers have much to teach.
Make Your Own Bellissimo
Step 1 – Purchase Project Instructions
Bellissimo by Paola Matteucci is a beautiful cushion topper in Italian tulle embroidery with a flowing design of roses and leaves.
Step 2 – Purchase Ready-To-Stitch Kit
The Inspirations Ready-To-Stitch kit for Bellissimo includes everything you need to re-create this stunning cushion topper: Fabric (unprinted), embroidery thread and needle.