Museum Collection Embroidery Clay Shop News
  History Types of Embroidery

“The lace-makers sit in three-legged stools, near the doors, dressed in traditional clothes – dark skirts with light-colored stripes, small cloth garments, an outlined scarf over the chest, and a small wrap on the head or the classic Nisa hat; decorated with collars and gold threads, in which Christ’s old habits, in enameled gold, preponderate. Some of them, with a moulder (pillow) placed on the knees, start embroidering the “Rebolo” laces, some of the trickier ones, bobbin laces, or needle laces, most of the times used in quilts, which take years to make and are stored in chests, generation after generation, only to be used at weddings and christenings. Nisa’s lace industry, limited to local use, shows promise in its lace-makers’ work, with many beaufitul models."

In Bordados e rendas de Portugal, Colecção Educativa – Série N – nº 10


Despite being impossible to place its origin in time, Nisa’s ancient embroidery tradition comes to us with its local people’s rooted traditionalism, whose main emphasis was the respect for wedding customary practices: the bride’s bed, called “solemn bed”, was usually adorned with quilts, blankets, sheets and towels, most of the times made by the bride herself. These were something to be proud of, a joy for anyone who visited, and stirred naive jealousy among marriageable young girls.

If until the second half of the twentieth century, it was in the Masters’ house (mostly elderly women and eminent embroiderers who taught this art while taking care of orders) that the girls learned this craft, right after leaving school. The change in their living habits, an increase in compulsory schooling and the possibility of extending studies, took time away from them, time usually spent making their own trousseau and climbing the long hard learning curve this secular process had in store.

Without apprentices, thus without helpers, the embroiderer’s art became unlucrative and was lost over time, as well as the ancestral quality of Nisa’s embroideries, which became filled with decorative elements of lesser care and thoroughness, many times made through mechanical processes. Add to that the fact the “outside” orders, brought by the women, were more and more based in drawings imported from fashion magazines, possibly foreign, and it becomes clear how Nisa’s embroidery lost some of the quality and authenticity that gave it the beauty and invaluable artistic richness of the past.

  Woman dressed in traditional Nisa clothing, embroidering a alinhavado.

  Caramelo: alinhavado in linen, oldest embroidery style.

  Detail of a traditional bed setting, with embroidered pillows, sheets and blanket.

  Rebolo – Instrument used to embroider with wooden bobbins.


© 2009 Câmara Municipal de Nisa