Reticella, Italian = little net or small grid. Originally, a form
of cutwork involving large-scale removal of squares of woven linen
or the withdrawal of threads, leaving very few threads, the resulting
appearance being like a giant mesh or network.
The original 16th C meaning referred to a technique.
Later meaning referred to a style or set of designs.
The original technique marked the transition between fabrics made
lacy by cutting out and withdrawing threads, and later, by creating
a lacy fabric stitch by stitch. Only insertion type laces were made
at first as no detached needlepoint or bobbin lace edgings had developed
to finish the edges.
Reticella is regarded as a forerunner of ‘punto-in-aria’.
With the fabric technique, (old reticella)
cut and drawn threads divided the areas of the remaining fabric into
squares and rectangles. Often so many threads were withdrawn, only
a sparse framework was left which necessitated extra threads, especially
diagonals, put in to support the needlework. Elaborate patterns were
stitched and woven over and under this framework with a natural tendency
to form repeated geometric designs. Later reticella,
(modern reticella) unrestrained by a grid of fabric
threads, needlepoint fillings took on a new dimension with
circles, curved lines, elaborate stars, stylized flower & leaf
These cutwork and reticella embroideries decorated
the wide cuffs, standing collars and associated cuffs, fashionable
particularly in Spain and Northern Europe in late 16th and early 17th
centuries. It was also used on household linen in conjunction with
bands of drawn or pulled thread work and with filet lace.
In Catholic Europe considerable quantities were made for church use.
From later 17th C, the technique appeared in English whitework samplers,
indicating it was used on manchester. By 18th C, reticella was outmoded
in northern Europe but continued in peasant communities, particularly
in the Greek Islands. [Hence technique referred to as Greek Lace.]
In the late 19th C in the Lake District in
Great Britain, a craft revival instigated by John Ruskin, one of the
leading members of the Arts and Crafts Movement, cloth was again being
woven by hand from hand spun linen thread and embroidered with reticella,
cutwork, drawnwork and needleweaving. The product was renamed ‘Ruskin
Work’. In late 19th C, Aemilia Ars of Bologna made well-executed
copies of the 16th & 17th C work. Later, bobbin lace produced
similar designs & this lace also was named ‘reticella’.
Hand made reticella was emulated by machines using the Chemical Lace
method in 1881.
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