Carlo Rosetti, Paola Scarrone, and Angela Stefanutto, A Scuola di Puncetto Valsesiano (Società Operaia di Mutuo Soccorso, 2009). 112 pages. €30, available from www.italian-needlecrafts.com (excellent service! No affiliation, just a satisfied customer.)
Puncetto Valsesiano, an Italian needle lace, has captivated many with its elegant, austere designs and apparent simplicity. The only materials required are a needle and thread. The lace is created entirely with a simple overhand knot, made by looping the thread around the needle. Unfortunately, there is very little information about Puncetto in English, apart from the Anchor Manual of Needlework and Gentle Arts.
You are probably wondering whether this book be used by someone who doesn’t read Italian. The answer is “Yes,” as long as you are comfortable with schematic diagrams (like the charts in Burda crochet magazines) and enjoy solving puzzles. These diagrams are comprehensible without knowing Italian (I’m currently working on a short glossary to translate terms found in this book, which may make some things easier). Each small red square represents a single stitch, 2 rows. The blue square represents 2 stitches, 4 rows, and so on. When you skip a single stitch, the small vertical red line may look like a knot, but it is actually a loop; you are skipping one loop or two knots.
An important point to keep in mind is that the diagrams are a graphical shorthand for describing the Puncetto motifs. They are not exact depictions, in the way that filet crochet or cross-stitch charts are. Because successive rows of stitches are offset, like bricks in a wall, they cannot be shown on a grid. I recommend that you practice the simpler motifs, such as blocks, spiders, etc., before you tackle the more advanced design because if you do not have a good grasp of the structure of the basic motif, you will run into trouble (usually too many or not enough stitches when you finish a row).
This book provides a rich variety of motifs and edgings, far more than I’ve seen in any other source. There are “stars” (“stars” are actually the small square motifs that form the basis for strips and doilies), corners, edgings, scallops, picots, circular motifs, triangles, diagonally worked corners, and doily centers — even leaves, much like the leaves of bobbin lace. The basic knot is briefly described with photos. In theory, a beginner could use this book and develop a large repertoire of motifs. The only materials required are a needle and cotton thread, usually size 30, but sometimes size 80-100 is used, with correspondingly fine needles.
The sample page above contains a fairly typical lesson, with a motif on the left side and a gorgeous finished piece on the right. Before you get too excited, you should know that this is not a pattern book. For example, the wide edging with corner on the right page is not accompanied by an actual pattern. However, if the pattern is not too complicated, you should be able to duplicate it if you master the basic motifs. That’s the beauty of Puncetto — once you’ve mastered the basics, it’s fairly easy to copy patterns from photographs. The photos of Puncetto that appear on dark blue backgrounds (left page in the photo above) are the only ones accompanied by instructions.
I made one of the motifs, #12, “Ragni piccoli uniti,” and found the chart to be accurate. DMC Cebelia 30 with a size 26 tapestry needle worked very well.
I do have a few quibbles about this book. First, there are no page numbers. The numbers beside the titles refer to sections, usually dedicated to a type of motif. I often had trouble remembering where to find things in the book. It also means that the book cannot be indexed. There is a table of contents at the end of the book but the numbers refer to sections, not pages. If you need to refer to a motif, you will have to use say something like “Section #38, 52-stitch square.”
Sometimes the coloured squares appear to be out of sync with the grid. The reason for this is that the grid of grey lines is based on two stitches; a single, small square is two stitches wide and two stitches high. Patterns based on three stitches look strange when superimposed on the grey grid (for example, the two large squares of #20, Stelle con rosette piccole ed autin), but the stitch count seems to be accurate. Each square or stella has a label indicating the size of the base you need to work (for example, Punti 46).
The quality of the book is generally very high. The paper is heavy, the colour reproduction is good, the diagrams are clear, and the photos are beautifully styled, lit, and sharp enough to count the stitches. The weakest part of the book is the binding. I handled my book fairly gently but the cover is starting to fall off. It’s not a deal-breaker because the signatures are sewn and the cover can be glued later if necessary, but one expects a soft-cover book of this price to keep its cover longer than a week. It’s probably best to photocopy a working copy of a pattern rather than leaving the book open. Despite these shortcomings, I highly recommend this book.