Italian Handcrafts: Macerata Textiles

Jul 14, 2017 1448

A technique characteristic of the Marche region, “liccetti” weaving required a traditional loom arranged according to the ancient textile-making process that, in the thirteenth and fourteenth centuries, made it possible to create stylised, patterned borders on fabric. The existence of this procedure in Italian textiles is widely documented in the paintings of artists of the 14th and 15th centuries, for example in the frescoes inside the Basilica of San Nicola in Tolentino and in the rustic materials of central Italy and is kept alive today thanks to the spirit and the passion of women in Marche.

“Liccetti” weaving was used in the past to enrich the trousseau of young brides with blankets, sheets, towels, tablecloths, tapestries, curtains and carpets.

Two substantial differences between the production of local “liccetti” textiles and and those of the rest of Italy were soon defined: the first was the choice of the yarn, more modest and simple in the first instance (cotton and linen), ostentatious in the second instance (silk and gold thread).

Even the weaving techniques, based on the same principles, exhibit differences. Although it is uncertain or difficult to confirm the origins of ancient “liccetti” weaving (certainly also practised in other Italian regions), archival documents and pictorial evidence confirm the practice and textile production in the Marche, where even today it is still practiced by passionate craftsmen in the province of Macerata.

The Stages

Warping is the operation which prepares the warp (vertical threads) in order to obtain the necessary number of threads for the required width of the fabric, each of the same length and arranged in a certain order that allows the weft of the heddles and comb to be interwoven without obstructing them.

The production stages and “liccetti” processing technique start with the manual preparation of the weft of the heddles and ends with the weaving that must ensure the finished product remains true to the characteristics laid out by the product specifications of the Marche Region.

The first step is making a pattern: a geometric figure, such as a diamond, is drawn on graph paper, making sure to darken by hatching the squares that show the diamond and leave white the squares that indicate the background. Once the design is made, the liccetti that will order the alternating dark and white squares are prepared.

More elaborate designs require a few dozen liccetti. The weaving operation requires that the weaver is assisted by an experienced helper, who creates an alternative warp step by lowering the liccetti and inserting a board into the warp to flatten then twist it.

The Product

The Marche Region wanted to enhance, promote and protect the tradition of the ancient crafts of the artisans with the new brand Marche Eccellenza Artigiana.

The liccetti fabrics must respect the tradition and formal technique that has been consolidated over the centuries in the historical and cultural context in the Marche Region and specifically in the Macerata hinterland, with reference to the application of the production techniques, raw materials used and also the textile iconography.

The yarns are to be composed exclusively of natural animal or plant fibres. The dyes must be produced with natural colours of animal or vegetable origin and fabrics must be made using a traditional horizontal loom.

Iconography of Decorations

Historically, the decorations were simple geometric shapes: Greek fret, squares, diamonds repeated. The development of the decorative motifs takes a single module that is repeated in mirror-image over the length of the fabric. Stylised drawings of animals such as birds, eagles and dogs were also used, the height of the figures being limited, so as to constitute only border bands.

When the design was higher, that is it was produced using a greater number of liccetti, the figure became symbolic and consistent with the use for which the item was intended. Figures of lions, dragons, eagles, griffins peacocks, birds were frequently usede; followed by unicorns, deer, centaurs, harpies but these were much less frequently seen. One allegorical figure represented in multiple versions is the tree of life: an inverted cone, stylised tree bearing ritual fruit (flowers or bunches of grapes, vine leaves) thats symbolises the cycle of life.

The Region

The liccetti technique is regulated by the adoption of the product specifications of hand weaving by the Marche Region in the Province of Macerata and in the Region of GAL Sibilla.

In the Umbria-Marche Apennines, the technique was developed for centuries used within convents for the production of table linens whose iconography had elements of naturalistic inspiration.Important weaving workshops were also found in Pievebovigliana and Santangelo in Pontano.

By Camera di Commercio di Macerata

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