Tuesday, December 9, 2014

Costume and embroidery of Fobello and Val Mastallone, Valsesia, Piedmont, Italy

Hello all, 
Valsesia is the valley of the Sesia river. It is found in the north of the Italian Paese of Piedmont, east of Valle Aosta, and forms the northern lobe of the province of Vercelli. Here is a map of the general area.

 On this map Valsesia is in red.

The traditional language of this area is Piemont√®is, this being the northernmost extent of that  language. A couple of the villages in the area speak a Walser [Valais] dialect of Allemanic German.

Here is a map of Valsesia itself.

 The costume of this region is well preserved, and there are many variants. The image at the head of the article depicts the costume of Val Mastallone, the valley of one of the main tributaries, found in the notheast of this region. Found in the communites of Sabbia, Cravagliana and Cervatto, it is best preserved in the village of Fobello. The costume of Rimella, a Walser village, is similar but distinct.
All of the variants are based on a chemise, traditionally of linen, sometimes today of cotton. The sleeves are attached at at right angle to the body, as is traditional in most places.

 Here you see one version of the chemise. You can see that the square neck opening, a strip down the shoulders which is inserted between the front and back panels, and another one between the sleeve and the body, are made of 'lace', in this case in an off white color. The sleeve ends in a narrow band, with a narrow scalloped piece of the same type of 'lace'. Often  there is another piece of fabric attached to the inner part of the lace around the neck, and an actual collar and much of the cuff are also made of this 'lace'. Here is an example where it is a golden yellow color.

Here are some other examples done in white.

This type of openwork is called Puncetto [poon-chet-toe], and is indigenous to Valsesia. The only tools used are needle and thread. It is worked in journeys back and forth to the right and then to the left. Knots are made, and some portions are left open, and thus the pattern is built up. The knots to the right are mirror images of the knots going to the left. Here  is a photo of the technique.

 All puncetto work is made up of only these two, the right-traveling knot, and the left travelling knot. If there is any interest, i will write more about this technique in a later article.

A bodice with an attached skirt is worn over the chemise. They are black, and there is a panel of red cloth attached to the hem, which varies in width from village to village. Here is E. Calderini's image of the Fobello costume. The hem length varies according to time period and taste.

Here is her drawing of the bodice, showing the ornamentation of the back. The neck and arm openings are bound with red, and there are many-colored silk pompoms attached to the back at the ends of applied ribbon.

The apron is similar over all of the Mastallone valley. The Walser inhabitants of the village of Rimella tie it around the waist, but the rest of the valley's inhabitants tie it under the armpits, as in Calderini's image above. Here is her image of the costume of Rimella.
For more  on the Walser, see this article.

 The wide ribbon has a woven design. Calderini shows it as floral, but today, the ribbon is usually woven in stripes. I am not certain whether this is attached to the apron, or is tied on over the waistband like a sash.

The sides of the apron are smock-gathered, and multicolored embroidery is worked over the folds. This is geometric counted  satin stitch.

Set into the middle of the apron is a wide panel of the same sort of puncetto as is used on the chemises, except this is done in the same colors as the embroidery on the apron. This colored puncetto is only native to Val Mastallone, but has  since spread.

 This panel only reaches to the  waist, as you can see here. Another panel is set into the bottom of the apron, with the middle left blank. Since the apron is always worn folded up, the blank part is not visible when worn. A narrow band of floral embroidery flank these central panels of puncetto in matching colors.

 The back corners of the apron have multicolored tassels attached to them, as you can see here.

In cold weather, wool leggings, ghette,  are worn under the  skirt. They are cuffed at the bottom and are ornamented with ribbon and pompoms. 

Slippers of wool with a colored bound edge and quilted soles are worn with this costume, while traditionally black, they are now made and sold in many colors. 

Either a kerchief or blue and green ribbons are worn on the head. 
For more formal occasions such as weddings and baptisms a short red jacket is worn, along with a richly decorated plastron which is tucked into the opening of the bodice, and has the top edge showing above the sash.

And this is the costume of Val Mastallone.

Here are some images which I have been able to assign to a particular village. There was evidently variation in the past.





 Thank you for reading. I hope that you have found this to be interesting and informative. 
Just a couple more images of this costume.


Here is a video showing displays in the village museum of Fobello.

For those who are interested in puncetto, there are good sources online in Italian,


and even Slovak

but little in English.

Roman K

Source Material:
Emma Calderini, 'Il Costume Popolare in Italia', Milan, 1934
Carla Rossetti et al, 'A Scuola di Puncetto Valsesiano', Varallo, Italy, 2009
Paola Scarrone et al, 'Manuale del Puncetto Colorato', Varallo, Italy, 2006


  1. Wonderful site. Is Brescia located in one of the areas you cover? I could not find it on the crowded maps.
    Thank you.

    1. Hello, and thank you.
      No, i have not covered Brescia as of yet.
      Brescia is in eastern Lombardy.
      If you look at the map above, you will see Brescia at the right edge of the map.
      I may get to that area in the future.
      Im glad you enjoyed it.

  2. Thank you for your work preserving these traditional costume techniques and making them available to others. There is a richness in them that inspires and brings people together across generations and cultures. This is my first visit to your site. Bless you. Liz from northwest Illinois. Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays!

  3. How interesting, I have come to your blog via a link from 'Needle and Thread'.

  4. Yes, please post more on puncetto when you have the chance. I took it for filet crochet at first. Very pretty effect.

    Beautiful folk costume

  5. Thank you for a very informative and well researched post. I have stumbled upon puncetto on the web a couple of years ago and have been hooked ever since, having produced quite a few nice pieces. It is fascinating what one can do with just a needle and a thread.
    Looking forward to more posts
    Merry Christmas

  6. Thanks a lot for the info about ' puncetto' alongwith photos.
    I would like to know where 'puncetto' cleasses will be held in paris?