Weaving-atelier in an ex-Franciscan church? To touch an Italian weaving loom from the XVII. century, what is more, to actually work with it? Sounds like a dream? Yes, it is a dream. Especially when it comes true.

I had a wonderful experience thanks to Marta Cucchia, leader of the Museo Laboratorio Giuditta Brozzetti in Perugia. Marta’s mother is the granddaughter of Guiditta Brozzetti, who established the weaving workshop which functions today as a museum. Here various fabrics – wall carpets, curtains, tablecloths, bedspreads, other household textiles – are woven even today on weaving looms dating from the XVII-XVIII. centuries, using original Medieval and Renaissance patterns typical of the Umbria region.

The San Francesco delle Donne church, which was built in 1212, soon lost its original function as it became a convent for Benedictine nuns 50 years later. It was abandoned several times during the centuries, then it was rebuilt as a poor girls’ home in the 1800s. The church and its related buildings were purchased by Marta’s father.

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The museum-workshop’s motto is: Laboremus Jusunde. It is the hymn of joy, of activity, of a belief in the future.

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This is the renovated four-pedal weaving loom from the XVII. century I could work with. The weaving girls and women of those days must have been a lot shorter than I am. I had to figure out a special technique for my legs to fit into the space and to be able to use the pedals, sometimes pushing two at the same time. The warp and in my case, the weft too was a particularly glossy cotton thread, but the workshop uses linen and silk threads as well.

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The patterns I wove as a trial were all traditional decorations from Perugia (from the bottom to the top):

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The Perugia style weaving always begins with the wavy BELIGE, representing water, to honour the Almighty (the word’s origin is possibly “bilico”, which means a moving scale and which can be connected to the rhythmic, tilting movement of the pedals, too – bilico = billegő (bɪllɛgøː – hung.) It’s funny, isn’t it?….). The OCCHIETTO eye-shaped pattern is also related to the divine connections. The rhombus-shaped GRATTICCIA represents San Lorenzo’s – one of the guardian saints of Perugia – symbol, a grate resembling a harrow, together with FIAMMA, which means flame. The tiny hexagons pattern is MADONNINA, which copies the decoration of a picture frame in the town’s cathedral – the painting depicts Madonna delle Grazie, the guardian of young girls.

The medieval, decorated weaves, the Tovaglia Perugina (Perugia Tablecloths) were largely made for the Church, and were used to highlight the altar with their white base and blue, rarely rusty red decorative stripes. The blue colour was gained from the Isatis tinctoria, dyer’s woad or guado (it.) – „festőcsülleng” (hung.)., which is the same plant Hungarian blue-dyed fabric makers use.

The small tablecloth I have woven also follows the Umbria traditions. The light base fabric and the rhythm of its blue decorative pattern is an interpretation of a tablecloth found on a fresco depicting the death of the Celano knight, which can be seen in the Assisi cathedral, as part of the Giotto-series of frescos about Saint Francis’ life.

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These tablecloths have traditionally a non- twisted finish, instead, each of the threads is fixed separately and so together they give a dense fringed finish. I chose a classic Italian lace-like stitch to do that.

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I hope very much that this strange time-travel can be repeated and I can soon learn further small new techniques and patterns from Marta…

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…and some other workshop’s pictures….

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Bibliography:

Umbria delle mie Trame – Tessuti, merletti e ricami: gli itinerari dell’alto artigianato artistico – Camera di Commercio Perugia