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Lacemaking in Sansepolcro


Two sisters changed the course of the Valtiberina

Sansepolcro is a little town with a strong connection to the tradition of lacemaking and the wonderful story that comes with it. Adele and Ginna Marcelli are the protagonists: two sisters who at the start of the twentieth century created a bobbin lace; or as they called it, "trina a spilli" (thumbtack lace). The sisters learned the art from Amelia Gelli Pagliai (1858-1942), who in turn had learned it in prison from a Flemish nun.

Early on, the sisters studied different methods of crocheting, Italian and French, or rather, Flemish. Little by little, thanks also to the help of their father, who helped make a wooden support on which to rest the bobbin wheel typical of Sansepolcro, they came to create a new type of lace.

A school was opened in 1900, which was initially aimed at children well-to-do families; but before long it had 30 workers, then more than 100 women on site and a thousand home workers across the entire upper Tiber valley. The job of design was entrusted to Ginna's husband, Domenico Petri, who left two albums of sketches.

The project soon became a success, achieving fame across Europe and eventually in America. The work of the Marcelli sisters prompted the foundation of new schools in Sansepolcro and its surroundings, schools that trained people with the skills for the crocheting sector. In 1955 a bobbin lace section was set up at Sansepolcro's state Institute of Art, and Ginna was elected to chair it.

In 1996 the Lace Association was founded, with the aim of promoting and diffusing the art of bobbin lace via crocheting and embroidery courses. That same year, the municipality of Sansepolcro set up a dedicated space where documentation and examples of work from the award-winning school are displayed.

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