Il Fazzoletto (The Handkerchief)

Ah, the handkerchief. Such a useful little scrap of fabric, and so under-used in modern society. Beyond usefulness it has a lot of history during which it was not only an object of utility, but also an object of great beauty.

I am working open-work embroidery onto a linen handkerchief at the moment, a favorite pastime of mine. I thought it would be a lovely time to show some of the process pictures and do a little dip into the history of il fazzoletto.

Handkerchiefs, not under that name, have roots in Ancient Egypt and in West Africa. It is believed that they were adapted in the late 14th century not necessarily for utility, but for decoration and to hold the fragrances that helped keep society civilized. We can trace their use in this manner at this time to all of centers of power in Europe. Their more utilitarian uses are attributed to King Richard II but I think there roots could easily be found in more common ground. After all, scraps of fabric and noses have been around a long time.

Sample design from a completed handkerchief

I like to decorate mine with drawn thread embroidery. Drawn thread is thought to be the oldest form of openwork embroidery. There is some evidence that it may have originated in the 13th century but there is more solid proof for a 16th century inception. Whichever the case, it is worked by drawing out threads from the fabric. These threads can be drawn completely in the fabric or a small section of threads can be cut and drawn. One then creates patterns in the remaining threads with a needle and working thread (sometimes the very thread you have just drawn). It was used on housewares and other linens notably coifs, undergarments, and handkerchiefs. In Italy, during my period of interest, it was called Punto Tirado.

Handkerchief with threads drawn

This handkerchief is a gift for someone. I have made these on commission to donate to the SCA auction and like to have an extra around to give to people who are awesome. They take me anywhere from 35-50 hours depending on the number of rows of stitches and how intricate they are.

First row of stitching hems the handkerchief
Two completed handkerchiefs ready to be delivered

I’ll get into some more details in a Precisione post on the fazzoletto when I have completed my current project and it has been delivered.

Ciao, Fiore

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