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Assisi Embroidery

Assisi Embroidery
Assisi embroidery is a form of counted-thread embroidery based on an ancient Italian tradition where the background is filled with embroidery stitches and the main motifs are left void i.e. unstitched.


The name is derived from the Italian town of Assisi where the modern form of the craft originated


Description of the Technique

Simulated example of a stitched Assisi bird motifAssisi work uses a method known as voiding in which the background is filled in while the motif itself is left blank. Cross-stitch is used for the background and Blackwork Embroidery, i.e. Holbein stitch is then used to outline the motif and create the surrounding decorative scrollwork.

Traditionally, Assisi embroidery was rarely executed in cross-stitch, but most often in long-armed cross-stitch. Examples employing other stitches are also known, such as cross-stitch, Italian cross-stitch and Algerian plait stitch.

The colours of thread used were the traditional ones of red, blue, green or gold for the background, and black or brown for the outlines. Traditional motifs were largely heraldic, especially heraldic beasts, and typically featured symmetrically arranged pairs of animals and birds surrounded by ornate filigree borders.

In the oldest pieces, the figures were drawn on the fabric free-hand, surrounded with Holbein stitch and the background was filled as well as possible. For more modern pieces the pattern was constructed carefully on paper, in much the same way as cross-stitch patterns are created. Today Assisi embroidery is nearly always done this way.

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