This and That

Random bits of my life

Archive for May, 2011

Book Review: Manuale del Puncetto Colorato

Posted by Avital Pinnick on May 29, 2011

Puncetto Colorato

Book review: Paola Scarrone, Angela Stefanutto, Manuale del Puncetto Colorato (Società Operaia di Mutuo Soccorso di Varallo, 2006), 72 pages. €23, available from Italian Needlecrafts.

Puncetto Valsesiano  needle lace is currently enjoying a revival. Its simplicity of construction — a single knot, created with a needle and thread — and its elegant designs have contributed to its popularity. The familiar all-white Puncetto is characteristic of the Valsesia region, located in Piedmont, northern Italy, near the borders of France and Switzerland.

Its lesser-known variation, coloured puncetto, is primarily from the Mastallone valley, an area north of the Valsesia river. Coloured Puncetto is a prominent feature of women’s costumes of Sabbia, Cravagliana, Fobello, Cervatto, and Rimella. A panel of needle lace runs vertically down the center of  the bodice and the stylized apron. On either side of the lace panel, the fabric is gathered with smocking worked in the same pattern and colours as the lace. Sometimes narrow embroidered floral designs are worked beside the lace panel.

Puncetto Colorato

According to the authors of this book, different colours were used for different occasions, such as work, wedding, baptism, mourning. Red is suitable for young women and for weddings, blue for older women, blue and purple for half-mourning, and black for full mourning. In the past, coloured puncetto was worked with silk threads, but silk has largely been replaced by perle cotton, which is more readily available.

Puncetto Colorato

This book builds on the basic tutorials and motifs provided in A Scuola di Puncetto Valsesiano although, interestingly, it was published three years before Scuola. Its format and diagrams are very similar. Most coloured puncetto designs are based on the stelle miste (mixed “star” or square) design, characterized by the corners being worked horizontally and the center, diagonally.

The book is written in Italian. Because it relies on the information provided in Scuola, I recommend that you use both books together. The diagrams are very clear, but you will need a good understanding of the structure of the motifs in order to follow the graphs.

The book is organized into two parts. The first part provides step-by-step diagrams of motifs (as in the photo above, with the four women), while the second half provides only finished diagrams (see the photo above with the close-up of the embroidery). If you are comfortable with the techniques described in the first book, you should have no difficulty following the patterns in the second book. The binding seems to be of better quality than Scuola; I haven’t had any problems with the cover coming loose. The photos are extremely sharp, which makes it easy to count stitches and to duplicate designs whose patterns are not included.

I have a few tips to offer:

  1. The diagonally worked sections tend to stretch more than you would expect, so make sure that your diagonal spiders (ragni) are quite dainty. It’s generally good practice to make a loop a little smaller than you think it should be. A too-short loop can be stretched into shape but a too-long loop looks sloppy and is impossible to cover with stitches.
  2. Use an extra needle for coloured puncetto. It won’t eliminate the tedium of threading/unthreading needles for the contrasting spider centers but it will reduce some of the the threading because you can keep a needle threaded with the main colour of the spider.
  3. When you join a new thread, do not cut the ends of the threads close to the work until you are well past that area, especially if you need to work stitches into that area later (for example, joining corners of the center to the stitches around the edge). It is very frustrating to have a loop suddenly come undone because you cut the thread ends. Tightening a knot puts a lot of pressure on the loop into which you are working the stitch, and if the ends are cut short, they will slip out of place.
  4. After every row, hold the motif in the air and let the needle dangle free to untwist the thread. Because you are working hundreds of single knots, the thread will become more tightly twisted with each stitch.
  5. Try to keep the tail threaded through the needle fairly short (no more than about 6 inches) if you are using thread that tends to snarl. While you will have to pull more thread through each stitch, it will cut down on the knots caused by the tail thread getting caught in the main thread. Those tend to be the hardest (for me) to unpick.
  6. Keep a sharp pin handy to unpick knots if you make a mistake.
  7. If you’ve made a big mistake, cut the section off with sharp embroidery scissors. You don’t need to start all over again constructing a new base. The new joined thread is easily hidden by working stitches over it, so try to salvage as much of your work as possible.
  8. If you finish and you discover a mistake, see whether you can fix it by working more stitches with a needle and thread. Puncetto is so dense that a few stitches added to a row will never be noticed in the finished piece.

The photo below is a typical example of a stelle miste design with DMC Cordonnet 30 and a size 26 tapestry needle.

Puncetto Valsesiano

Here are a couple examples of coloured puncetto squares that I worked from the book with perle 8 cotton and a size 26 tapestry needle.

Coloured Puncetto

My First Coloured Puncetto Square

Posted in Crafts, needlework, Puncetto Valsesiano | Tagged: , , , | 6 Comments »

Olim Arts & Crafts Fair, Maale Adumim

Posted by Avital Pinnick on May 29, 2011

Olim Arts & Crafts Fair, Maale Adumim

Last Friday (May 27, 2011) I went to the Olim (Immigrants) Arts & Crafts fair at the Maale Adumim mall, despite the freakishly hot weather. The photo above is a panorama of 4 photos stitched together with Photoshop, handheld. I’m surprised it turned out because I’m usually terrible at holding my camera level when I take pictures quickly.

Most of the booths had the usual jewelry, crafts, food, pottery, that you see at these shows. Especially the jewelry. Everything looks like it came out of Bead&Button Magazine. ;-( There was also the usual Judaica, mainly paper cuts and little house blessings and pictures of Jerusalem.

Olim Arts & Crafts Fair, Maale Adumim

A table run by Russian immigrants had a pretty funky mix of stuff, from modular origami and stuffed animals to carved clocks (the back of the clock face appears to have been a sheet of stickers of Hebrew letters, the kind you buy at craft stores).

Olim Arts & Crafts Fair, Maale Adumim

Olim Arts & Crafts Fair, Maale Adumim

The only table that evoked more than a passing flicker of interest was the one with Ethiopian crafts. I bypassed the embroidered challah covers and anything in the colours of the Ethiopian flag, but I did buy this shawl for 25 NIS (about $7). It measures 26×70 inches and is woven of synthetic fibers. There’s a mistake in the warp threading, so that the twill chevrons get messed up a little, but I think that’s part of its charm. It was also very wrinkled.

When I showed it to my husband, he asked whether it was shatnez (mixture of wool and linen, forbidden for Jews to wear). I could have sent it to a shatnez lab, but they would have charged probably more than the shawl was worth, so I did a burn test at home. It’s certainly not shatnez. Neither is my hair. Note to self: it’s not a good idea to do burn testing when tired…. Maybe I’ll write up how to do shatnez testing on your own for simple things like a shawl (not for men’s clothing, which has to be taken apart). If you’re familiar with natural fibers, it’s a useful skill to have.


I bought the shawl from a lovely young woman named Mati, who let me take her photo:

Olim Arts & Crafts Fair, Maale Adumim

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Strange Fruit in Jerusalem

Posted by Avital Pinnick on May 24, 2011

Strange Fruit

The Israel Festival, a four-week season of dance, classical music, dance, and theater, opened last night (Israel Festival English site). Last night we watched one of the opening performances in Zion Square, Jerusalem. The Australian dance troupe, “Strange Fruit,” performed Three Belles, one of seven works in their repertoire. The performance was part dance, part circus — graceful, hypnotic, and sometimes humorous, movements set to music, performed on 5-meter flexible poles.

The dancers shinned up the poles in pantaloons, strapped their legs into the loops, hoisted hoop skirts on pulleys and fastened them around their waists. I love the costumes, especially the elaborate hats.

Strange Fruit

Strange Fruit

Video of Three Belles:

Posted in Israel, photography | Tagged: , , , , | 2 Comments »

Leftovers: Steak for Dinner, Date-Nut Loaf for Dessert

Posted by Avital Pinnick on May 18, 2011

Date-Nut Loaf

I had a lot of dates and walnuts left over from Passover, so this was the result. I combined a couple recipes because I wanted a loaf that was easy to make and not too sweet.

Date-Nut Loaf

8 ounces dates, chopped
1 cup boiling water
2 1/4 cups flour
2 tsp baking powder
1 tsp salt
1/2 cup brown sugar
1 large egg
2 tbs vegetable oil
1 cup walnuts, chopped

Preheat oven to 170C / 325F. Grease a 9x5x3 inch loaf pan. Put dates in a heatproof bowl and pour boiling water over them to soften. Set aside to cool.

Mix flour, baking powder, and salt thoroughly. In a separate bowl, mix sugar, egg, and vegetable oil. To the sugar mixture, add cooled dates with liquid and flour mixture alternatively. Do not overmix. Combine just until you no longer see large dry patches of flour. Stir in the chopped walnuts. Scrape the batter into the loaf pan.

Bake for 45-50 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean and top is firm and golden-brown.

Notes: a) You can use white or whole-wheat flour or a combination. If you use whole-wheat flour, keep an eye on things during baking and lower the oven temperature if the loaf browns too quickly. b) Dates are easier to chop if you dip the knife in boiling water, which keeps them from sticking to the blade. c) If you don’t want to chop walnuts with a knife, put about a quarter cup in a plastic bag and bash it with something hard, like a rolling pin or a small pot. d) I used a longer, narrower cake pan called an “English” pan in Israel. The baking time is about the same. e) My recipe has a lot of walnuts because I’m nuts about nuts. The original quantity was 3/4 cup.

Steak and Vegetables

The sliced steak and vegetable dish below was also made from leftovers. I froze a few small pieces of entrecote that I’d barbecued on Yom Atzma’ut/Israel Independence Day. In the fridge I found one and a half roasted red peppers that I’d grilled with the steak. They weren’t being eaten and they had to be cooked with a meat dish, so this is the result.

Sliced entrecote, mushrooms, roasted peppers in wine sauce

Quantities aren’t given because this is more of a suggestion than a recipe. Sauté chopped onion and minced garlic in olive oil until tender. Add sliced fresh mushrooms and sliced roasted red pepper and cook over medium heat until tender. Add sliced steak and any red wine lurking in the fridge. Cook until the liquid is reduced. Serve with rice.

Posted in Food, recipes | Tagged: , | 1 Comment »

Castel Museum, Maale Adumim

Posted by Avital Pinnick on May 13, 2011

Castel Museum

On Yom Atzmaut (Israel Independence Day) we finally visited the Moshe Castel Museum. Although the museum has been open for a couple years, it’s one of those cases where we’ve been putting it off because it’s almost in our backyard. The museum is located in Maale Adumim with a spectacular view of Jerusalem and the Judaean hills. Because it faces west, I wasn’t able to get a good photo of the building during our morning visit. After our mandatory “mangal” (barbecue) I hiked back up the hill with a wide angle lens to photograph the building lit by the setting sun.

This photo of the view through the windows was taken from the upper floor in the atrium. Photography without flash is permitted in the museum. Hours and prices are posted on the Castel Museum site.

Castel Museum

Moshe Castel (1909-1991) was an Israeli painter and sculptor. Born in Jerusalem, he grew up in the Bukharim neighbourhood, studied at the Ecole de Louvre in Paris as a young man, and produced paintings and sculptures in a wide range of styles. The European influence is evident in his early paintings (1930s and 40s) of Sephardic Jews.

In the 1950s he began experimenting with a sculptural style in his paintings, by mixing ground basalt (apparently inspired by a visit to the ruined synagogue at Korazin) with sand and glue to form a relief. The museum’s atrium is dominated by a large piece, “Priests at the Wailing Wall” (1991) in this technique:

Castel Museum

Castel Museum

The museum is surprisingly large, built on a square floor plan. Most of the ground floor is an archive, not open to the public. A gift shop with reproductions  is located on the left side of the atrium. Cafe Castel, which is quite a good cafe, is on the right, with an entrance from the street. Note to Maale Adumim residents: the cafe is open all day and in the evening, serves decent food and is a lot quieter than Aroma in the mall. Prices are about the same. I have no idea how they manage to serve quiches and salads when they don’t appear to have any kitchen space.

On the second floor, the atrium and three large galleries surround an open courtyard, with two small study rooms in the front corners. The building was designed by Israeli architect David Reznik on the site chosen by Moshe and Bilhah Castel in 1981. (I saw Bilhah in the corridor; she was fed up with being photographed by a tour group, so I don’t have any photos of her.) The museum opened in 2009.

“Holy Ark at Sefat” (1943) shows the romantic European influence, combined with the rich saturated colours that are prominent in his later work:

Castel Museum

Study room with Castel’s drawings, largely studies of Mediterranean themes and symbols:

Castel Museum

Castel Museum

Castel Museum

Tours can be booked in advance in Hebrew, English, and Russian (extra 30 NIS, in addition to the 36 NIS entrance fee). An English language tour guide describes the “Eternal Menorah” painting. The building is wheelchair accessible and most pieces are hung at a low height, particularly the drawings.

Castel Museum

“Eternal Menorah” (1973), paint and basalt:

Castel Museum

“Flying Letters” displays Castel’s distinctive style, incorporating rich colours, archaic Hebrew and Sumerian letter forms, and mythological symbols:

Castel Museum

Two paintings from the 1940s, “Composition” (left) and “Ancient Figures” (right):

Castel Museum

Posted in Israel, photography | Tagged: , , | 3 Comments »

Meeting Another Blogger

Posted by Avital Pinnick on May 11, 2011


Today was a milestone, the first time I’ve ever met someone through this blog! Miriam Kresh (Israeli Kitchen), a Petach Tikvah-based freelance writer, suggested that we get together for coffee, so we met in Jerusalem this evening. She was toting her Nikon and I had my Canon, so we took a few photos in an alley near Bezalel.

Miriam spotted this monster grape vine. It was growing on the right side of this tiny parking lot, up the side of the building and across the wires to this pool. From there it sprawled in all directions. She noticed that no one was picking the grapes. I’ll bet the birds love it more than the residents do.

Monster Grape Vine

Burning bush graffiti:

Burning Bush graffiti

We chatted over bowls of tomato and rice soup in Cafe Cafe, before sharing a taxi to Binyanei haUma to catch our respective buses. I really enjoyed meeting someone whose blog I’ve been following for over a year. Hope this time won’t be the last!

I tinkered a bit with the Illustrator file of the flag I created a few days ago and changed the blending mode of the text to overlay. Big improvement. Now the text has a more natural effect, as though it’s printed on the flag and affected by the light.

Flag with haTikvah text

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Yom Atzma’ut/Israel Independence Day 2011

Posted by Avital Pinnick on May 11, 2011

Yom Atzmaut 2011 in Maale Adumim

Fireworks display at 10:30 p.m. in Maale Adumim. OK, I have to confess that the fireworks didn’t really look like this! 🙂 It’s a composite. But it would have been nice if they had.

Here are a few real shots:




The rest of the fireworks photos are in my Flickr set.

And of course I have to include a few photos of flags:

Israel Independence Day/Yom Atzmaut 2011

When I was photographing the house in the photo above I noticed a puppy watching me at the gate. He disappeared after I took a couple shots. I tried calling him, hoping he would go to the same place. Instead he jumped through the fence, started licking my hands, and followed me for half a block. At least I got one of the photos with him at the gate.

Puppy and Flag - Israel Independence Day 2011

I was playing with Illustrator and decided to morph the text of HaTikvah as though it was on a flag (I should have used a blend mode like multiply or overlay). The flag is not in the traditional position for flags (staff on the left), but I left it this way because the Hebrew words run from right to left and look odd when the lines start at the loose end of the flag and end at the staff. The flag photo isn’t anything special. I photographed it at the traffic circle in Mitzpeh Nevo.

HaTikvah Flag

Posted in Israel, photography | Tagged: , , , | 2 Comments »

Tip for Counting Loops in Puncetto Base

Posted by Avital Pinnick on May 8, 2011

Puncetto base with stitch counter thread

My eyesight isn’t what it used to be, so I’m always trying to find short-cuts. I’ve started working some of the larger coloured Puncetto motifs from the book Manuale del Puncetto colorato. (One of these days I will write a review!) Because counting the loops on the side of the base is extremely tedious, I use a marker thread to mark every tenth loop. It takes no extra time to work the edge stitch around the thread and it makes counting a lot easier.

Posted in Crafts, Puncetto Valsesiano | Tagged: | 5 Comments »

City Limits: Time-Lapse Video

Posted by Avital Pinnick on May 8, 2011


City Limits is a beautiful time-lapse video by French Canadian motion photographer, Dominic Boudreault. You can see a larger version on his site, He made this video over a period of six months, with photographs taken in Montreal, Quebec City, Toronto, Manhattan, and Chicago. I can’t figure out how he was able to set up a tripod in some of these locations. The photos are so detailed that it’s best to watch this video in full-screen mode.

His time-lapse video of Quebec City is also worth a look — 2600 frames, shot over four months. Most of us just want to crawl under the covers when the temperatures get that low. To photograph all those frames in a Quebec winter takes real fortitude. Impressive!

Thanks to Mirj of Miryummy for the heads up.

Posted in videos | Tagged: , | 4 Comments »


Posted by Avital Pinnick on May 4, 2011



My first lightning photos!

Lightning storms are not common where I live, which means that I don’t get many opportunities to practice. Although I’ve read articles on photographing lightning, I couldn’t remember a thing, so I stood on my balcony and shot frame after frame, trying different exposures. The first exposures were much too long. Although most articles recommend very long exposures, that probably works best in an area with little light pollution. I ended up with weird, brown, halogen-lit skies instead of lightning.

The first photo was shot at 1/10 sec., f/3.5, 18mm, ISO 200. The second one was shot at 1/4 sec. I shot these in RAW, which made processing them a lot easier. Manual focus, no tripod.

At the time I was annoyed that there was a big cypress tree between me and the storm, but now I appreciate the importance of foreground interest in a lightning photo.

If you want to photograph lightning properly (instead of fumbling around in the dark like I did), check out the Digital Photography School article on photographing lightning.

Posted in photography | Tagged: , | 12 Comments »