On Colcha Embroidery and Portugal

Méri kindly posted a very informative comment on my post about colcha embroidery. It turns out that “colcha” means bedspread in both Spanish and Portuguese. Furthermore, there is a traditional Portuguese style of embroidery which uses a similar stitch to embroider bedspreads (although in linen and silk instead of wool from New Mexican sheep). This style is called Castelo Branco (White Castle) embroidery/stitch, named after a region in Portugal, or sometimes frouxo (loose) embroidery/stitch.

Like the colcha stitch, the frouxo stitch only covers the front of the fabric and barely shows on the back. I am still working on finding a stitch diagram, though Méri tells me it is not identical to colcha stitch. But below is a video of three ladies stitching while being interviewed by a TV show (all in Portuguese. I can’t follow what they’re saying, but the embroidery is beautiful).  I think the strange “old lady” towards the end is for comic relief? It’s hard to tell when you don’t understand the language!

This closeup is from Luísa Silva’s Portuguese/English blog, where she posted twice on Castelo Branco: a post with some lovely old black and white photos of her mother-in-law working Castelo Branco embroidery as a child and another with color photos of the work.

Here is a closeup (of a lily and carnation, symbols of a man and a woman) from the website of M. Fátima Paixão (english translation) about Castelo Branco embroidery:

The designs are extremely symbolic, but the websites don’t entirely agree on which symbol means what.  Here is a sample set of definitions:

  • two-headed bird – two souls in one body, married couple
  • carnation – man, rose – woman
  • lilies – virtue, virginity
  • ivy – strong affection
  • rooster – virility
  • pomegranates and pinecones –  the unity of the family
  • jasmine – chastity,
  • linked chain – indestructible marriage
  • tendrils – friendship.

I found a few other sources of information and photos of Castelo Branco embroidery, which you can take a look at if you are still curious:

This entry was posted in Castelo Branco, Colcha embroidery, Embroidery around the world, Surface embroidery and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

4 Responses to On Colcha Embroidery and Portugal

  1. Mary Corbet says:

    Don’t you love the Castelo Branco embroidery?? One of these days, I want to work one of the projects in the book Meri sent me. I just think it’s gorgeous embroidery!

    The two-handed stitching in the video is great – I love seeing that! Admittedly, I stopped watching after the screechy lady was carrying on for a while. I think she is not quite an old lady, though – looks like make-up and a wig!

    Thanks, Hannah, for the reminder. I think I’ll dig that book out and give it another look. Maybe I should make that a goal for this year – to actually work one of the projects in it!


    • Hannah says:

      Well, I’d love to see you work through one of those projects. Especially if you did one of your stitch tutorial videos so I could do it too. Maybe I’d stitch along!

  2. Pingback: Gifts from Portugal: Castelo Branco embroidery | enbrouderie

  3. Pingback: Castelo Branco Bird | enbrouderie

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