Quilted Heirloom “Reticello” Linen

Customer Quilts | November 18, 2015 | By

I was completely intimidated by this 100+ year old linen! Probably because it was a commission piece by another fabulous long arm quilter, Nancy Fishpaw, at Sew Easy To Quilt.  Created by her Italian great, great, grandmother over one hundred years ago, this piece is very well done! To find out more about Reticello needlework, I contacted Jeanine in Canada, Italian Needlework expert! Now, let’s get this process started. I will warn you this is a long post, with as many steps as I could remember to photograph.


I quilt on a Handi Quilter Fusion long arm. At times I use the Prostitcher computer, but this linen was completely free motion quilted, which means I drive it myself. I start with my backing, then layer two battings, Hobbs 80/20 on the bottom and Hobbs 100% wool on top. On top of the batting is a layer of satin, right side up, which will be my background fabric. The dimension of the linen is 22″ x 33″. As you might notice, the piece is slightly out of square and not very flat. I don’t get too concerned about the squareness of a piece this old, it is what it is, embrace it!


These close up pictures show the delicacy of this needlework. The satin backing will give it a shiny pop when the work is completed. I also found a Reticello tutorial on YouTube that will really blow you away!


Once I have the linen centered, I run a stitch across and down the inside drawn thread work, using the horizontal and vertical channelocks, so I can get it as square as possible.


I also outline all of the needlework so there is no movement. When I have this all squared and outline stitched, the fun begins! This is where I can really see the canvas and the designs start to swirl in my mind.


This wide open space stumped me for awhile. It usually helps to break down the negative space or look to the embroidery or needlework for some design features. That’s exactly what I did! If you’ll notice the close up picture above, I decided to mimic those shapes as much as possible. I rarely mark my pieces, but this one needed to be exact, so I used a disappearing, purple pen. Sometimes I will choose the blue water erase pen, but frankly, they all scare me just a tad. What will happen 100 years from now? Will that ink decide to pop out again???

I always start stitching with what I know FOR SURE. I knew this would start with the center circle and work out from there.


You can see things start taking shape. I like to do most of the outline before I fill, but you can also see I couldn’t wait to see what it would look like. I had to stop myself and continue with the outline.




After so much geometric line work, I thought it needed some softness, so I started adding some circles and arcs.


It was also such a traditional piece that I had to add some feathers. I really didn’t know what to do in that arc area at this point. After studying the lines for a bit and taking a few pictures, I figured out what to do next. Sometimes it just takes squinting your eyes!


Cream on cream is NOT the best piece to photograph, but I think you can see the purple pen to know my plan!




I needed an eye “resting place” around the crazy inside, so I stitched piano keys around the inner border.


At this point I worked the rays in the satin background by lifting the outer border and stitching underneath. I did use the Prostitcher computer to do this work because I wanted it to be exact and honestly, it’s just easier to let the computer do the stitching sometimes!


After I had all the rays created, then I went back and stitched the outer edge of the linen and did an all around traditional feather border. This is one of those beautiful corners of the needlework. To bring down the incredible pouf that was created by the double batting, I added glass beads at each intersection.


Here is the fabulous finished piece! The best part of the whole thing, that makes it “human”, is the NOT square nature of the corners. The entire piece was relatively square and then I got to the outer edge. I wonder if great, great, grandmother would be upset that it really wasn’t completely square? Or would she be shaking her finger at Nancy and myself for doing this to her incredulous linen?


My granddaughter walked in as I was photographing the back and you can see she loved texture! I always enjoy watching her feel a quilt.

Nancy has talked about binding and framing this piece. I can hardly wait to see the end result! Thanks for allowing me to quilt this special heirloom, Nancy!!


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