Three techniques, one thread

Last year, when I was writing my pages on The Trellis Stitch Family, I mentioned that the same knotted stitch was used for a needle lace from the Italian Alps called Puncetto Valsesiano. I have recently been trying to learn the technique. My work is not yet good enough to please me: the tension is still uneven, the joins show too much and I make far too many mistakes. I am still only practising. But I now understand the mechanics of it, thanks to some excellent links on the web. I particularly want to mention Avital Pinnick’s blog, This and That, Jeanine in Canada’s Italian Needlework and a Czech-language blog by Brona B, Šitá Krajka, which has clear diagrams of simple patterns – they need no words once you have picked up the basics.

samples of crochet, macramé and puncetto lace

Top right: macramé, centre: puncetto; lower left: crochet. All worked with the same size and type of thread.

As I was pinning out the sample on my work cushion to be photographed, I thought about the macramé pieces I made on this old blue cushion some years ago, including the pink and white sample at the top of the photo. This one was made with the same thread as the puncetto, Coats Opera  20 (no longer produced, but their Freccia 16 seems to be the same type of thread and the same thickness). This is a smooth, round 3-ply crochet thread. Macramé tends to bring to mind chunky string creations, but with fine threads, it can be surprisingly  delicate. I find this macramé sample more attractive than the puncetto, even allowing for beginner’s workmanship. To give another comparison, at the bottom left of the picture is some crochet – again with the same thread. It comes up slightly larger in scale than the puncetto, but lighter and softer. (I worked that sample today, just to show the scale against the other two techniques.)

Now I’ve got past the ‘so that’s how it’s done’ stage with puncetto, I am not sure how much more of it I am likely to do. In its favour, it’s very portable and easy to pick up and put down – much of the gold-coloured sample in the photo was done on the bus or in odd moments. But I find the result rather heavy-looking, ‘flat’ and not particularly attractive. This is very disappointing. I expect needle lace to be more, well, lacy than this.

While macramé is not a very quick or portable craft, it is slightly kinder to the working thread than puncetto. This is because macramé, like detached buttonhole stitch lace and tatting, is made mainly of hitches, while puncetto is all overhand knots. (Crochet, like knitting, is even easier on the thread, as it is just loops.) The knots make the puncetto sturdy, but they are not elegant. I still want to do at least one more sample of puncetto before I give up on it. Next time I will use a cordonnet thread, Coats Chain Mercer 40, not a simple twist like Opera 20.  I hope that the firmer thread will give a crisper finish to the work and the smaller size will give a more delicate look. I am not sure if my eyesight and fat fingers will cope, though.

If nothing else, I have now learnt how to work detached trellis stitch in the hand, rather than on an edging, which will come in useful for embroidery in the future.  And I’ve reminded myself that it’s about time that I pinned some more thread on my blue work cushion and made some more macramé.

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7 Responses to “Three techniques, one thread”

  1. I never saw macrame like this before and I have to say it is very elegant! I really like that piece–although I can see where the puncetto may make something nice where sturdiness is needed.

    • suetortoise Says:

      DMC did a book on macramé which was reprinted in the 1970s. It has the macramé instructions from their Encyclopedia of Needlework followed by 32 pages of photographs – no further instructions, just the photos. The 187 patterns are not hard to copy from the pictures because they start simply and gradually get more complex. The sample in the photo is copied from one of these.

  2. I can see just what you mean. Horses for courses, I guess.
    “detached trellis in hand” ? *gulp*

    • suetortoise Says:

      I was wondering how to make the side edges of a piece of trellis (eg a detached petal) without having something like a chain stitch border to join on to between rows. Learning puncetto make it obvious exactly where the needle goes so that the rows don’t get progressively shorter.

  3. Pat Earnshaw’s book Needle-Made Laces shows some beautiful puncetto laces that (from a distance) look exactly like reticello. The Anchor Manual of Needlework has some nice examples too, including a piece very similar to yours but more open, with picots. The Anchor book states that thread sizes 40 and 60 are usually used for puncetto. It will be interesting to see what difference a finer thread makes to your puncetto. Your macramé is gorgeous! I have the DMC book but never tried my hand at it – it’s on the long, long list of things to do when the kids are older 🙂

    • suetortoise Says:

      I have the Anchor Manual, but never picked up puncetto from it. (Somehow I couldn’t ‘get’ the edge stitches.) If I can cope with the finer thread, I might try a more open piece. If I need too much magnification, that spoils it as a ‘carry around’ project. The 20s thread was manageable with my reading glasses. I should have learnt puncetto in my youth, obviously!

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