Sunday, 2 October 2011


  Cornelli were one of the most delightful discoveries I made in France.  They seem to be unknown in this country so I will try and describe them - they can still be found very occasionally with quality linen dealers in France.   They are long, elegant curtains, usually 8 - 9ft long, made with fine cotton muslin.  The muslin is embroidered with a machine (a Cornelli) that follows the design drawn with blue lines; I do not know how these were drawn or were they stencils or iron-on transfers?   The stitch is always chain stitch and is similar to the bed covers made with net and a crochet type tool  stretched over a circular drum, called tambour lace;  the patterns vary from the most dainty and elaborate floral designs often loosely joined with scrolls and curls, to others (probably later in period), in elaborate geometric patterns, greek key, borders in straight lines with boxes, angles and corners and have an Edwardian classic Adam revival look.     

see tiny pin holes at top near the flower

    Almost all had shell scalloped borders in a vandyke or scrolling edging, along the leading edge and base. They were usually to be found in pairs, occasionally in larger groups, and I have never seen the same pattern again.  It seems they were made in many small workshops and factories from 1860 or so until the turn of the century.   They were considered essential for shielding the furnishings in the best rooms, from light and sun, and helped to filter the dirt that came in through the windows from the dusty unmade roads and driveways as the horse-drawn traffic rumbled by.   The most common (new) use for the cornelli is to decorate four poster beds in a light feminine style which is elegant and pretty to look at, without stiffling the sleepers within - it can make a welcome change from all those yards of expensive chintz which festooned the bedrooms of the 80s and 90s, lining the pockets of the fabric firms and the decorators and causing some husbands to wince at the cost!   If you buy them (they are no longer cheap as the decorators have dug them out) you need to check them very carefully for small pin holes and wear half way down where they have been gripped by hands or tied back with 'embrasses' (tie-backs) and suffer damage.  Very few are quite perfect and slight damage is to be expected if they were used over 100 years ago.  Pairs usually cost about £200 or more, in good condition.  Only hand wash (can be risky if they are fragile!) and a very light bath of starch can help them if they are a bit floppy.

No comments:

Post a Comment