I was working on a sampler project recently, which made me consider how lucky we are to be able to buy beautiful fabrics at the click of a button. Some early sampler makers had to weave their own fabrics before they could contemplate a single stitch, which goes some way to explaining the unpredictable number of warp and weft threads that make up sone antique fabric weaves.
As I have mentioned before, my husband Bill and I love to travel, and we have been lucky enough to combine this with my passion for embroidery and textiles. Over the past 20 years or so we have combined business and pleasure and have taken parties of guests on special interest holidays.
A few years ago, whilst on a trip to Assisi with Arena Travel*, we were invited to meet Marta Cucchia, a fourth-generation weaver and one of the last in Italy to produce Umbrian textile art using traditional looms and materials.
Her workshop is in one of the oldest Franciscan churches of Italy, built in 1212 in the middle of Perugia. It was a revelation to see the ancient looms and in such a fabulous building and Marta was such an inspirational lady it was hard not to be carried away with her enthusiasm.
I will leave Marta to explain more about her passion for this fascinating type of weaving.
“My studio is one of the last weaving ateliers in Italy – and the only one that reproduces medieval Perugian Tableclothes using Jacquard looms from nineteenth century. Furthermore, with the pedal looms, typical of the Umbrian countryside, we create fabrics using millenary techniques passed down orally from generation to generation. My great-grandmother, Giuditta Brozzetti, founded this Laboratory in 1921. From then on, the passion for hand-weaving was passed down from mother to daughter, each woman bringing her own experience according to her personality and studies.”
Jacquard weaving is a very complicated form of textile construction where the pattern in the fabric is controlled by a series of punched cards and as you can see from the images the fabric has not only the warp and weft, but addition threads are added from the looms above.
When Joseph-Marie Jacquard, a French weaver and merchant, patented his invention in 1804, he revolutionised how patterned cloth could be woven. His Jacquard machine, which built on earlier developments by inventor Jacques de Vaucanson, made it possible for complex and detailed patterns to be manufactured by unskilled workers in a fraction of the time it took a master weaver and his assistant working manually.
I wanted to fill my house with these stunning textiles but thankfully my budget and luggage allowance prevented me doing too much damage.
* Bill and I will be setting sail with Arena Travel next spring to take in the Dutch Floriade floral event that only takes place every 10 years. It would be lovely if you could join us!