My 2010 Florence, Italy Vacation: Needlework Shops and Fabric Stores

23 04 2010

Here is my list of shops and stores to visit.

The keywords to look for are “ricami”, ” filati” and “tessuti”. There are so many fabric and haberdashery stores but I am just enlisting the stores which cater primarily to embroiderers and needleworkers (including patchwork, which I will soon explore too!).

1. The best needlework store that I have visited  is the Agomago in Via Arnolfo 3-red. They mostly sell patchwork and quilting articles, japanese needlework products and books. They have embroidery products and books in a small room. I bought products which inspired me and which I can´t find in Berlin. The store ladies are helpful and kind. The store is owned by 4 ladies, including a japanese lady. They can speak english too. They have helped me with the colors, because I am color-blind. I bought a couple of japanese books on patchwork which I will blog about in my library blog. They also display their finished patchwork projects, which are so inspiring, that I decided to try patchwork, appliqué, quilting and ribbon embroidery soon!  I really like the japanese fabrics. But they are starting to be a favorite among needleworkers so I hope these japanese fabrics will soon be widely available. The street is off the center but it is not far. It is still walking distance from the dome. Find the location in google maps.

2. The next store that I also like is the Mirko Filati di Campi Antonella e Barbara, which is located in Piazza San Lorenzo 35-red. Though the entrance is small, it is actually a large store. The store lady has been very patient that I am colorblind. She can speak good english. At this store, you can start paying with credit card if your purchase is 20€ up, so be sure to bring cash. I bought products I have not seen before, which inspired me in my projects, like the raffia and a knitting yarn which can be used to creat interesting textures. Here I find rare DMC products like the cord, the satin (like rayon, but different) and scented threads. There are no DMC products in Berlin stores, so I bought what I think I needed.

3. Then there is the Campolmi Roberto Filati, which is located at Via Folco Portinari 19/21-red. I have tried to come there 3 times but I seem to visit during the long lunch-breaks . They are also closed Saturday. But this store has the largest collection of knitting yarns, including hand-dyed, which are my favorites. I only bought the variegated Madeira cotton threads, which are very affordable.  But if I have more luggage space for the bulky yarns, I would have bought the hand-dyed yarns (both cotton and wool), which are not available in Berlin. Their prices are generally cheaper than in most stores, I think. And they have lots of yarns to choose from. If you are also a needlepoint kit lover, there are some which are affordable, including a stamped Aida design of Florence itself. I wanted to buy it, but I have no more luggage space.

4. Then there is the shop Ricamo and Cucito at Piazz dell`Olio, no. 20. This store has an attractive window display of finished needlepoints and cross stitched embroideries. There are kits, like those from Dimensions and Permin of Copenhagen, including hard-to-find designs. I started to like and collect these kits when I was making lots of cross stitched designs years ago. They have hundreds of patterns, mostly from the US. What I really find inspiring, are the displayed embroideries. You get to see how some of the kits are finished. I really like the very fine Boticelli Madonna needlepoint (faces and skin are in petitpoint) and the very large Klimt needlepoint which also uses gold threads, just like Klimt used gold in his paintings.

5.  Ceruti is not an embroidery store, rather it is an ecclesiastical store, that happens to sell finished goldwork embroidered articles, like those that are used to cover the priest´s cup during the mass. And guess what, they also sell silver and gold threads. Because I have not found any gold threads in Berlin, I bought 4 kinds of non-sewable threads (has to be couched or used as beads). There is a swatch of samples to choose from. I want to buy the finer sewable gold threads, but I am just sticking to my affordable metal threads at the moment. Ceruti is located at Via del Proconsolo 16.

6. Then during my walks off the center, I found this small yarn shop at Via Capo di Mondo 24 r.  Lane is owned by a small old lady who does not speak english. She had hundreds of yarns, but I find the vintage (“out-of-print”) yarns interesting, because I have not seen them before. It was difficult with the language. That is when I decided to learn at least the names of the colors: red-rosso, pink-rosa, blue-blu, violet-violetta, black-nero, yellow-giallo, orange-aranzio, green-verdi, brown-marrone, grey-grigio, silver-argento, gold-oro.

You might find other stores, that has machine-embroidered linens and clothings, like Busatti in Lungarno torrigiani 11 (on the way to Piazza di Michelangelo) and Loretta Caponi in Via della Belle Donne 28-r (the main door is on another Street, I forgot to write it down). These two stores sell high quality machine-embroidered home textiles (pillow cases, aprons, etc) and clothing. I just happened to be more interested in products I can use in my needlework or products that inspire me. There are also lots of Textile (tessuti) shops, which only sell fabrics, but I will not blog about them.  I did take the time to look at the fabrics, but most of the linen and silks I can also find in Berlin.

Special thanks to Jeanine (Italian Needlework) for the information about Florence in her blog!

My 2010 Florence, Italy Vacation Part 2: Antique Textiles in Museums

23 04 2010

There are quite a few very important antique textiles in Florence museums, which are considered very important in the history of embroidery. It is not strange to find that the designers and embroiderers of these works are males. (Quoted from Davanzati Museum): “Embroidery from the Middle Ages to the end of the 18th century was a highly qualified male profession, although 16th century documents attest to the activity of highly qualified female workers who, during the course of the 19th century – with the end of the Corporations – completely substituted the male embroiderer.

1. I will first start with the Davanzati Museum. It houses the largest collection of antique laces (both bobbin lace and needlelace) and embroideries (mostly samplers) in the highest quality, despite the small rooms. Most of the laces and embroideries are hidden from light in drawers so take time to inspect these drawers.  Also don´t forget to read the descriptions of the exhibit. Groups of needleworkers around Florence, like the cross stitch group, hold events at the Museum every now and then, so be sure to ask for information. About antique embroidery techniques in florence, they have 3 types: the stitch (ricamo a punti passati), the appliquéd (ricamo in applicazione) and the drawn or pulledwork ( ricamo sfilato e tagliato) embroideries.

Entrance to Palazzo Davanzati

2. Next important place to visit is the Museo dell´Opera del Duomo, whichis located at the back of the Duomo (Cathedral). Fee is 6€. It houses antiquities which are found in or made for the Dome, including Michaelangelo´s unfinished Pieta. The Museum used to be a workshop where masters like Donatello used to create masterworks.

Entrance to the Museo dell Opera del Duomo

Though largely damaged, the Life of San Giovanni series in Or nué (Silk shading and goldwork embroidery) are the most important textiles in the museum. It is designed in the later 15th century by Antonio del Pollaiolo for the Baptistery. The techniques used are extensive.

San Giovanni baptizing believers

3. The last piece of embroidery is the largest of the embroideries and is difficult to find. It is the piece called The Coronation of the Virgin Mother with 8 Angels and 14 Saints (Incoronazione della Vergine fra otto angeli e quattordici santi) and is located at the 2nd level of the Galleria dell´Accademia, where Michaelangelo´s David is also a resident. This embroidery is more than 4 meters wide and more than a meter high. The male master embroiderer was Jacopo Cambi. The embroidery is preserved very well,  considering it was finished in 1336, compared to the John the Baptist series! It has both gold and silver threads, and silk embroideries. This altar piece has interesting embroidery techniques in the ornamentic details on the borders, the clothes and jewelries (including the halos) of the figures. The silkshading of the leaf work on the borders are also impressive. Except for the Dome Museum, it is forbidden to take photos or videos. I can only share photos of the entrances.

Entrance to the Galleria dell´Accademia

4. Though the costumes at the Costume Gallery in Palazzo Pitti seem a lot, I do not find the collection to be important to hobbyist needleworker, unless you are interested in making costumes. Most of the collection are from the 19th century. I find the oldest pieces to be the most interesting, but they are heavily damaged. No photos as well.

Entrance to Palazzo Pitti

Mutya ng Telili (Lady of Mt. Telili) (2007)

12 04 2010

This design won 2nd place at the Fiesta Nationwide Needlecraft Competition 2007 organized by Anchor (Coats) and the Needlecraft Association of the Philippines. The winning entries will be exhibited on May 16 for a whole week. I will upload photos of the other winning entries later after the exhibit.

Finished after 215 Hours. Size: 38cm x 47cm on 28ct natural linen. Fertility Belt is over one thread. I used Anchor threads specifically for the contest. I used chalk beads and metallic gold thread for the accessories.

As I was starting to embroider, I changed the design of the necklace and added bracelets. I also added anklets to both feet. I used cut sequins as glass mirrors on the headdress. On the lower right side is my signature. This was my first finished project in 2007.

I grew up watching dances of this ethnic tribe during festivals. Mount Telili is one of the higher grounds around Lake Sebu, the home of the T’bolis and the pineapple, represents Dole Philippines, which has started to operate about 15 years ago, causing the T’bolis to start leaving their ancestral homes. The T’bolis are the original inhabitants of the area. They are now being civilized (also evangelized into Christianity) and their culture is slowly disappearing.

Here is my work area now. I have actual costumes to inspire me.

These are just one of costumes which are in my collection. I have 3 of such beadwoven belts and a very heavy one made of brass. The malong (tubular cloth or sari) is just one of the many designs the tribe has. Part of the cross-stitched embroidered blouse is shown in the picture. Each blouse is unique.

Handarbeit / Stickerei in Berlin, Deutschland.

“Red Cat” (chinese silk embroidery kit)

2 04 2010

Started Nov. 15, 2009

Finished: April 2, 2010

Number of Hours: 21 hours

Diameter: 20cm.

Kit from (kit code: Chat02)

This is my first silk embroidery needlepainting project. I am so enthusiastic and I decided to document my progress.

1. Attach the pre-designed satin fabric in a frame or hoop. (I am using a small canvas frame and tacks from my silk painting materials, because I don´t have any free scroll frame at the moment. )

Stretching printed fabric on frame

Stretching printed fabric on frame

2. Prepare the silk threads and needles No. 12 necessary to complete the design.
A. Divide or separate the skein of silk threads in 3 equal sections (length about 30cm each). There is no need for longer lengths of threads since this is a very fine embroidery.

B. Braid  the threads loosely (makes drawing out of threads easier). Remember to braid loosely. You will not be able to draw threads if it is too tight.

Prepare the silk threads: (left-right) twisted, untwist, cut in equal lengths, braid loosely into plaits

Preparing the threads A

Untwist, cut into 3 equal parts (ca. 30cm each), braid for easy drawing

Find the knot and make the first cut there.

Finding the knot

The knot is on the right.

Use a paperweight when braiding.

Use a paperweight when braiding

I use the jar of salt from my silk painting materials as paperweight

Figuring out which colors go to which parts of the design, make a color plan:

Color plan

Color plan for Cat 02

From left to right: Red cat (white for highlights, yellow-browns, Red brown, brown and reddish gold for the eyes), Praying Mantis (old rose for the thorax, green for the body), brush painting bamboos (green-grey and black)

I made sketches of my plan (stitch directions, colors and order of stitching – which parts comes first)

Stitch Direction and Color Plan

Sketch boook

3. Divide the threads prior to embroidering:
Divide the threads so that you have 4 – 8 silk strands. I untwist a thread, then carefully divide the 2 parts into half again. Cut skin easily catch the fine silk strands, so be careful so as not to tangle the strands.

4. Embroidering

Choose a part of the design or a center of visual sensation to start with the embroidery.

I started with the Mantis, then the Bamboos. The body of the insect is in green. I made french knots for the eyes. I made the divisions on the abdomen using the old rose.


Praying Mantis

For the bamboos, I used the green in the lightest parts and black on the darkest parts. Make sure to vary the thicknesses of the stems. In some leaves I mixed green and black silks.

Bamboos Chinese brush painting

Bamboos Chinese brush painting

For the red cat, I started with the eyes and the nose, using 4-6 silk strands. Black for the outlines. Filled the pupil with dark reddish brown, the eye with gold and finally adding the highlights with white. Make sure to vary the black outlines of the eyes. The nose is with black and the flat snout with white.

Eyes and nose

Eyes and nose

Then I embroider the parts that are “behind”, like the tail, right ear and the paws.

For the striped tail, I first embroider the darkest reddish brown, then medium reddish brown. Then I added the darkest red gold and medium dark red gold. I did not follow the normal satin stitch. I just “paint-stitch” randomly, finally adding small highlights here and there. In the photo I was not able to capture the shine of the silk. But it is very nice needlepainting.



Making the Paws: First I add the black then the white. Then I add very light gold here and there. Finally, I finish with some more white on top.


Making the right ear: I first add the dark reddish brown and the medium reddish brown on the top of the ear and some dark hairs coming from inside the ears. Then gradually add in the dark to medium reddish gold shades. White and lightest red gold are added to the light hairs coming from the inside of the ears. The outline of the ear´s edge is made of black, medium reddish gold and lightest red gold for the highlighted areas.

Making the front legs: I begin with the darkest redbrowns and gradually add the shades.

front legs

Making the hind leg: Starting with the outer edges going inwards, carefully mix the shades.

Hind leg

Making the body: I went through the darks and lights then the medium shades.  Then add the standing hairs.


Making the head: Like always, I filled in the lightest and darkest areas, then the medium shades. Then added the standing hairs, whiskers and other fine details.


5. Optional Finishing: (I did not iron this embroidery. The instructions come with the kit. I mounted this project on a white foam board.)
A. Ironing: between your design and iron, do not forget to place a sheet of white paper.Set iron in the lowest temperature (silk setting).
B. put some liquid glue on the fabric around the embroidered part of your chart and paste it onto a wooden platform.
C. frame your embroidery.

Finished Red Cat, added the signature too:

Red Cat with signature

Click on the picture for detailed view of the stitches:

Red Cat close-up without signature

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