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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 In the past, coloured puncetto was worked with silk threads, but silk has largely been replaced by perle cotton, which is more readily available.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 »

Puncetto Valsesiano: Part 6 – Squares and Bars

Posted by Avital Pinnick on December 9, 2010

It’s taken an unconscionable length of time to write this post. I had to figure out how to do squares and bars again. I also decided that it would be useful to devise a way to diagram the stitches because it’s very hard to see stitches in a photograph.

This tutorial is about the squares and bars (both vertical and horizontal) that form the foundation of Puncetto lace. I will cover diamonds and webs (spiders) in a later tutorial! The diagram below is a fairly typical simple Puncetto design. I used it as the basis of my tiny motif a couple years ago.

Puncetto Pattern

Puncetto needle lace

Puncetto Valsesiano designs are based on a grid of squares that can vary in size from 2 knots to 4 knots (for the sake of clarity, I am going to use the word “knots” instead of “stitches”). A grid of 3 knots is the most common variation and that is the size that I am using throughout these tutorials.

My sample is based on a ladder foundation of 12 knots. Count very carefully! If you make a mistake in the number of knots, you will have to start over.

Squares and Bars

The photos of this tutorial are followed by drawings. Please excuse the messiness. My main computer is getting repaired and upgraded, so I don’t have access to fancy drawing tools on this loaner laptop.

1. Starting from the left end of your ladder foundation, work 3 knots in the first three loops. You will be working from left to right. Without turning your work, work 3 knots in the 3 spaces you have just made, working from right to left. Repeat these two rows. Work another left-to-right row, so that your thread is at the right side of the block you have just made.

Puncetto 5.1

2. To form an empty space, skip 3 knots (= 2 loops) and work a knot in the third loop, leaving enough thread for the top and side of the empty space.

Puncetto 5.2

3. To make a vertical bar, work 3 knots on the thread loop you have just made. Remember: If you are working on a 3×3 knot grid, vertical and horizontal bars will have 3 knots on them.

Puncetto 5.3

4. Skip 3 knots (= 2 loops) and work a knot in the third loop, again leaving enough thread for the top and side of the empty square. This photo also shows how to join a new thread, which is described below. Work 2 knots in the next two loops.

Puncetto 5.4

5. This part is a little tricky because it seems counter-intuitive, but this is how you make a square after an empty space. Working from right to left, make a knot in each of the 2 loops and a knot on the thread forming the left side of the square (= 3 knots, working right to left).

Puncetto 5.4a

6. Working from left to right, make 2 knots in the 2 loops. This seems odd to be working 3 knots/2 knots/3 knots/2 knots, but trust me. Squares surrounded by empty spaces are worked this way.

7. Now you’re ready to work the final right-to-left row over the entire sample. Make a knot in the 2 loops of the square, make 3 knots in the first horizontal bar, make 3 knots in the second horizontal bar, and make 3 knots in the last 3 loops. Including the starting point of your thread (= knot) and the 11 knots you just worked, you will have 12 knots total in this row.

Puncetto 5.5


The drawings below show the working of the same sample. There is one mistake: I actually drew 11 knots and didn’t realise it until I had to draw the final square. That shows you how important it is to count your knots!

1. Start with a ladder foundation of 12 knots.

Puncetto 6.1

2. The arrow indicates where you start the first square. Work 3 knots in 3 spaces. Repeat 5 times. Skip 3 knots (2 loops) and work a knot.

Puncetto 6.2

3. The vertical bar has 3 knots. Skip another 3 knots and work a knot.

Puncetto 6.3

4. Work 2 knots in the next 2 loops to form the first row of the square. Working from right to left, work 2 knots in 2 loops and the third knot on the vertical thread that forms the left side of the square. Working from left to right, work 2 knots in the 2 loops (remember — only 2 knots!).

Puncetto 6.4

5. When the square is complete, work the final right-to-left row (“2” in the drawing): 2 knots in 2 spaces, 3 knots on horizontal bar, 3 knots on horizontal bar, and 3 knots on 3 loops.

Puncetto 6.5

This diagram shows that upright bars have 3 knots on them, whether they are vertical bars or sides of squares. Horizontal bars also have 3 knots.

Puncetto 6.6

Square over Empty Space

This diagram shows how to place a square over an empty space. Your instincts will tell you to start in the loop spanning the square and space in the row below, but if you do that, the square will not be aligned properly over the space! The arrow marked “HERE” points to the correct loop for beginning a square over a space.

Puncetto 6.7

Square over Square

A square over a square is more straightforward. There should be 3 loops over the square. Work 3 knots in the 3 loops.

Puncetto 6.8

Joining a New Thread

1. When joining a new thread, work a couple knots over the new thread with the old thread.

2. Drop the old thread.

3. Work a couple knots over the old thread with the new thread. You will have some doubled thread loops. Treat these as ordinary loops, working knots in the loops.

4. Cut the thread ends close to the loop.

Posted in Crafts, needlework, Puncetto Valsesiano | Tagged: , , , | 18 Comments »

Lady with Unicorn Update

Posted by Avital Pinnick on December 9, 2010

Lady with Unicorn Update

I’ve finished the first page of the Lady with Unicorn: Sense of Hearing! I’ve worked just a little over 11,165 stitches, 8.5% of the total (130,380 stitches). I began this piece over a year ago, on Nov. 23, 2009. Pattern is by Scarlet Quince, based on the 15th century French tapestry.

Lady with Unicorn: Sense of Hearing

Progress has been very rapid since I gave up “parking” my threads. After a couple years of religiously parking, I asked a fellow cross-stitcher and much more experienced embroiderer, Karen (Where the Stitches Cross), whether I could stop parking my threads. Her sensible reply was, “Try it and see whether you like the results.” I couldn’t see any difference, probably because I’m working on 18-count Aida, so I gave up parking completely.

I’m not saying that parking is not a useful technique. If I were working on a piece with a very high thread count, I would recommend parking. But parking means that you’re constantly threading needles when working on a piece like this with 133 different colours. Karen is working the same piece on 20-count fabric. Her progress is very impressive! Here are her photos.

The Flickr set showing the progress of my piece is here.

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Tatted Etrog Bag Pattern

Posted by Avital Pinnick on September 27, 2010

Dried Etrog

I have the feeling that this pattern will be of little interest to anyone but me! This week we are in the middle of Sukkot, the Jewish Feast of Booths or Tabernacles.  My husband has been saving etrogs (the fruit that is held and waved with the other Four Species) for years, since he came to Israel and long before I met him. He hangs them in the sukkah for decorations. At first, he used to tie heavy thread to the stem end of the etrog but sometimes the stem breaks off. So a few years ago he started asking me to make bags for the dried etrogs from the previous year. Fortunately, I only have to make two bags a year, for my husband’s and my son’s etrogs, but every year I have to remember how I did it.

I’ve knitted, crocheted, netted, knotted, and tatted bags. Tatting is by far the easiest and fastest method. If anyone is interested in a crocheted version, let me know and I’ll post a pattern. But I’m not expecting a huge clamour for the pattern because hanging dried etrogs in little bags isn’t a very widespread practice!

If you don’t have a bunch of dried etrogs crying out for little bags, you can use this bag to hang other decorations, like fresh fruit, satin balls that have lost their hooks, coloured eggs, whatever is roundish and strikes your fancy.

Tatted etrog net

Tatted Etrog Bag

One shuttle
Perle cotton 8

1. Large ring: R1-3-3-3-3-3-2. Close. The base ring has 6 picots separated by three stitches. You don’t have to make such a large ring if you are enclosing an object with a rounded bottom. I make a large ring to accommodate the sharp point at the bottom of the etrog.

2. Small ring: Leave 1″ thread. R2+2, joining the picot of the small ring to one of the picots of the large ring. Close.  Repeat 6 times so that 6 small rings are joined to the large ring, each small ring separated by 1″ of thread.

3. Small ring: Leave 1″ thread. R2+2, joining the picot of the small ring to the thread loop of the previous round. Work in spiral fashion around and around until your bag is about 3 inches long. I find that 5 rounds is sufficient to cover the etrog.

4. To close the bag, cut the thread from the shuttle, leaving a tail of about 12″ from the last ring. Run the tail through the loops. Insert the etrog and pull the tail end like a drawstring.

Chag sameach! (and thanks to Penelope for pointing out to me that I’d forgotten #4.)

Fresh etrogs for sale at work:

Etrogs for Sukkot

Neighbour reading at night in his sukkah, which is much more elaborate than ours. In case you’re wondering, the sukkah is constructed in a public courtyard and I was walking along a public path, so this isn’t the same as photographing someone in his house.

Sukkah at night

Posted in Crafts, Israel, Judaism, needlework | Tagged: , , , | 10 Comments »

Puncetto Valsesiano, Part 2 – The Stitch

Posted by Avital Pinnick on August 1, 2010

In my last posting on the subject, I gave a short introduction to Puncetto Valsesiano.

In this posting I will show you how to make the basic stitch.

Puncetto Valsesiano is worked back and forth in rows (or rounds, if you are making a circular doily or working around the outside of a square piece). The work is never turned over and the same side always faces you. The needle is held pointing away from you.

Puncetto Valsesiano is not worked on the edge of a piece of fabric unless you are working an edging. Motifs and doilies usually are started with a loop of thread, but it is easier to show the back-and-forth movement of the stitches with a firm base, so I used a folded piece of fabric. (In the next lesson I will show you how to make a “ladder” base, which is used for starting square and rectangular motifs.)


  • Crochet thread. Any smooth, mercerized cotton thread suitable for crochet can be used. Perle 8 is fine for a beginner. Later you may want to try something finer like size 30 or 50.
  • Needle. I used a needle with a sharp point in the photos below because I was working through the edge of fabric, but I recommend a fine, blunt tapestry needle. Size 26 would work well. Just make sure that the size of the needle is proportionate to the weight of your thread. Don’t try to force a thick needle through fine stitches.

Working Left to Right

1. Thread a needle and hold the tail on the fabric, near the edge.

Puncetto Valsesiano 1

2. Insert the needle, point facing away from you, through the edge of the fabric. Note that the thread that you are holding with your left thumb passes in front of the needle.

Puncetto Valsesiano 2

3. Wrap the thread behind the needle, from right to left, forming a loop.

Puncetto Valsesiano 3

4. Grasp the needle with your right hand and draw it through the loop.

Puncetto Valsesiano 4

5. Carefully draw the needle through the loop and tighten the knot. This forms the first stitch or knot.

Puncetto Valsesiano 5

6. Insert the needle to the right of the first stitch.

Puncetto Valsesiano 6

7. Loop the thread around the needle again, left to right, then behind the needle and right to left.

Repeat until you have a row of stitches. Now look carefully at the stitches. You will see loops of thread between each knot. These loops are used for working the next row of knots.

Puncetto Valsesiano 7

Working Right to Left:

These instructions presume that you have already worked one row from left to right. Do not turn the work.

1. Insert the needle under the first loop.

Puncetto Valsesiano 8

2. Wrap the thread in front of the needle, from right to left, and then behind the needle, from left to right, so that it forms a loop.

Puncetto Valsesiano 9

3. Grasp the needle with the right hand, draw the needle through the loop, and tighten the knot.

Puncetto Valsesiano 10

4. Insert the needle under the next loop of the previous row, wrap the thread around the needle, and draw the needle through the loop to form the stitch.

Puncetto Valsesiano 11

That is how you work horizontal rows in Puncetto Valsesiano. This stitch is also used for filling in the solid squares and pyramids. Try not to work it too tightly or you will end up with a very stiff, dense lace.

Posted in Crafts, needlework, Puncetto Valsesiano | Tagged: , , | 25 Comments »

Puncetto Valsesiano, Part 1 – Introduction

Posted by Avital Pinnick on July 29, 2010

Call me a trend-setter. No, maybe not. I can’t see an obscure Italian needlelace muscling its way past knitting, crochet, and quilting. Recently someone posted a comment on one of my Flickr photos asking whether I knew of a source for instructions in Puncetto Valsesiano in English. To my surprise, there isn’t a lot available, apart from the 500 page Anchor Manual of Needlework, which costs a fortune to ship to a place like Israel.

Puncetto Valsesiano is a knotted needlelace from the Valsesia region of Italy, in the Piedmont. It is worked with only a needle and thread. Unlike many other forms of needlelace, the patterns tend to be strictly geometric.

If you’re wondering what Puncetto looks like, check out this video. I’m blown away by the yardage that this woman has produced with only a needle and thread.

If you’re a newcomer to needlelace, Puncetto is one of the less demanding forms for beginners because it doesn’t require as careful tensioning as the buttonhole stitch-based lace. (I also confess that I never have the patience to couch the tracing thread to a backing.) You can teach yourself from the video but it’s easier from pictures or diagrams. I’ve photographed the steps for making the stitch and will post them another day. This is just an introduction. One note: I’m not an expert! I taught myself from diagrams with advice from other needleworkers, like Marina, whom I met on the Internet.

Here’s my first Puncetto motif:

Puncetto needle lace

It was copied from one I saw in the video, in the screenshot below. I didn’t make the sketch clear enough, so I forgot to fill in some of the squares.

Screenshot from video

I later started a corrected version. Honestly, I’m not sure I ever finished this attempt!

Puncetto needle lace

Most of the information about this lace on the Web is aimed at tourists. Some lovely examples are shown on this lace blog, Con Nuestras Manos (“With Our Hands”). Very few people do this kind of work. Marina may be one of the only ones. Her work is exquisite. She gave me a lot of advice when I was struggling with the stitches, especially the tipped square or diamond shape.

Puncetto Valsesiano


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Unusual Knitting Commission

Posted by Avital Pinnick on October 15, 2009

This is definitely one of the stranger things I’ve been asked to knit but I will be well paid for it. Someone wants me to knit a pair of pants (Brit: trousers) for an extremely overweight, docile cat. It’s intended to be a joke birthday present for the cat’s owner.

Watch this space…..


At least I don’t have to measure the cat myself! It will present some interesting shaping challenges.


Posted in knitting, needlework | Tagged: , | 1 Comment »

Orenburg Shawl Update

Posted by Avital Pinnick on October 14, 2009

It always takes me a little while to get back to the craft projects that have to be put aside for Sukkot and Passover. Washing the accumulated laundry and packing away sukkah decorations takes priority. I snapped a quick photo of my shawl in progress, from The Gossamer Webs Design Collection.

The main part of the shawl is about 3/4 finished. I haven’t decided how to attach the lace edging to the diagonal edge. The instructions specify Russian grafting, which always makes me nervous because it’s a long chain of linked stitches. If the yarn breaks at some point down the road, the whole edge will part company with the edging. Luc C. knitted the edging to the body as he went along, so I may try that method.

Orenburg shawl in progress

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Going to the Dogs

Posted by Avital Pinnick on September 29, 2009

My knitting, that is. I don’t own a dog and probably never will. I’m more of a cat and small rodent person because I’m lazy and cats and rodents don’t have to be walked. But I do like dogs. Friends asked me to knit a dog sweater for their minpin (truthfully, she’s more mini-mutt than minpin) because it’s so hard to find dog sweaters in Israel.

Dog sweater in progress

I started the dog sweater just before Yom Kippur, using the Magic Loop techique, which allows you to use a long circular needle in place of double-pointed needles or a short circular. After the first couple rounds, handling the twisty loops becomes much easier, but I confess that I switched to 16″ circulars after about 6 inches. I would definitely use this technique if I had only long circulars (which tend to be the only circulars readily available in Israel) but I can knit much faster with small circulars and double-pointed needles. So it’s a useful technique and I’m glad to have learned it, but I will probably use my painstakingly gathered collection of small circulars and dpns in the future.

I knitted 3/4 of the dog sweater, loosely based a pattern posted by SpunKnit. In the end, I ripped it out and started over with a larger needle. The original size, with the doubled Sirdar Snuggly Double Knit, produced a very dense sweater. Laura said she wanted a cosy, warm dog sweater, not a bullet-proof vest.

On a different note, we’re well into the Jewish holidays. Yom Kippur was yesterday. I came through the fast without a headache, although I’m a caffeine addict and I don’t bother cutting down before fasts. Lucky physiology, I guess.

As I was getting my morning cup of espresso and frothed milk in the cafeteria, I took this picture:

Hodesh Elul

Where else but in Israel would you find a stack of pamphlets on the religious laws of Elul (last month, a month of repentance and introspection) beside the cutlery dispenser in a work cafeteria?

Gmar tov!

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Periodic Table Sweater Goes Viral

Posted by Avital Pinnick on September 15, 2009

My Periodic Table sweater has taken on a life of its own. It’s fascinating to see its lifecycle on the Web. By the way, not every one likes the sweater. I learned to ignore nasty comments.

As far as I can tell, this is the progress my sweater took:

1. Sister Diane of Craftypod tweeted it on August 10, 2009.

2. Rachel Hobson picked up the tweet and posted the sweater on Craftzine on August 11.

3. Neatorama picked it up on August 11 from Craftzine.

4. Cory Doctorow posted it to Boing Boing (even has its own verb, “boing-boinged”) on August 12.

From this point the chronology gets a little hazy…

4. German knitting forum on August 12.

5. Geekologie on August 13.

6. B3tq newsletter on August 14.

7. Friday Randomness on August 14.

8. Makezine on August 14.

9. Discover Magazine in September (not sure of date when the slideshow went live).

As of this morning that page had 15,900 hits and the Flickr photo, 382 hits.

Spawn of Periodic Table Sweater: The Shawl

I am truly grateful to Gilding the Silly for undertaking to complete the Periodic Table of the Elements on a shawl. I have to hang my head in shame and say that when I knitted the sweater years ago, in the days before Wikipedia, I had no idea that new elements had been discovered in the 1990s, so the last row of elements is incomplete. I had no desire to reknit the sweater, so I’m very glad that Gilding is doing just that, on a Bond knitting frame. She is working the plain stockinette fabric with stripes and duplicate-stitch embroidering the divider lines and letters. Also, she is working the Periodic Table sideways, which fits the dimensions much better. (That should make it easier to update IUPAC approves more elements!)

Periodic Table Shawl

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