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 Often so many threads were withdrawn, only a sparse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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