Punto Antico

There are only a couple weeks until our annual retreat. I have been putting finishing touches on the classes I am teaching, one of which is on Whitework. In researching the previous newsletter I came across several references to an Italian needlework called Punto Antico. Recently Nordic Needle has picked up a couple of designs that use these stitches. Not many people have heard of Punto Antico, so let me introduce you. There are a few articles written about the technique as well as some older books. The Italian-needlework.blogspot.com had some great information. Here is a photo from the blog.

The technique can be traced back to the late 15th century. Fortunately, many pieces survived and are on display in Italian museums. The names have changed over time with the common names being Punto Toscano, Punto Reale, and Punto Riccio, with the name Punto Antico being used beginning in the 1900’s. Punto Antico means antique stitch and the technique has evolved over time. At first it was an embroidery technique covering almost the entire cloth. However, now it has evolved to be a counted thread technique with a lot less stitching but a lot of open work.

Fabrics could have varied in the early stages of Punto Antico. When it evolved to a counted thread technique, evenweave linen became the fabric of choice. Because it is often combined with Punto Tagliato (intricate cutwork), fabrics with counts of 36 to 40 threads per inch are used. It is different from Hardanger embroidery as you will see. The threads are usually tone-on-tone with white or natural. Now stitchers are experimenting with bright colors and striking combinations and contrasts. This allows the beautiful stitches to be more prominent in the overall design.

We already know some of the stitches!

The designs contain drawn and pulled work for areas such as the hem. However, the cutwork differs from Hardanger embroidery because the fabric is actually cut away, trimmed, and then edged with an overcast stitch, Punto Cordoncino. This is sometimes called the cord stitch. Basically it is the union of a couching stitch and satin stitch. You may have seen it used to create the bodies of butterflies and dragonflies where it is stitched over one or more lengths of thread. The wrapping stitches are made close together to create the look of a cord. In this technique a running stitch is done around the area to be cut. Once cut, the fabric is trimmed a bit and folded under, then the overcast stitch is done around the cutwork edge, over the running stitches.

The satin stitch, Punto Reale or Punto Piatto, is used to create designs and outline areas of work. In some older references the satin stitch is also referred to as the Flat or Royal stitch.

The bullion stitch, Punto Vapore, has been used in some designs. However, it may be called the Mist Stitch.

Another familiar stitch is the pierced Eyelet, Pallino Traforato. This uses a stiletto or awl to open up a hole in the fabric. This is not a cut eyelet.

The four-sided stitch, Punto Quadro, is pulled to create open areas or to divide the design area.

Often used with the four-sided stitch is the Peahole Hemstitch, Punto Gigliuccio. This hemstitch has the four-sided boxes stitched along the inner edge. Threads are withdrawn for the hem edging. Then as you stitch the outer four-sided boxes, you go up into the withdrawn threads and gather them.

The one distinctive stitch to Punto Antico is the curl stitch, Punto Riccio. This stitch is created in three steps as shown on this stitch sample.

First create the design line with a series of running stitches. When you reach the end of the line, reverse and return with a series of running stitches which fill in the spaces between your first pass. Next do a whip stitch through each of the running stitches. Finish with the overcast or cording stitch. Most of the time, this stitch is used to create curlicues within the design.

You can read more about Punto Antico, see the stitch diagrams, and create your own pincushion in this article by Jeanine Robertson for Piecework Magazine.

We also have a couple of designs by Gingerbread Girl. II Giadino Antico (0814) is for the bullion lover, with over 600 bullions in this delightful design!! Just in, are Delizioso!, 4 ornamental cupcakes (2366) and Gelati (0815).

I hope you find it exciting to learn about an old needlework technique. I always am in awe of the wonderful work stitchers did throughout time. And it is fun to find out just how many stitches we still use today!


We hope this guide makes your stitching easier and more enjoyable!

For those interested in using this article or others published by Nordic Needle, Inc., please use this copy when referencing the information:

“The following article was written by Debi Feyh of Nordic Needle and published in their weekly e-mail newsletter. Permission was granted by Nordic Needle to share this article in (name of your publication). For information on subscribing to their weekly e-mail newsletter, visit www.nordicneedle.com. A free mail-order catalog is available to you upon request if you live in the USA or Canada.”

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