The bride prepares for her new home
As in previous centuries, the love for fine linen tablecloths and bed sheets embroidered or trimmed with lace continues in Italy. This youtube video provides a good overview of the range of modern biancheria (embroidered sheets, pillowcases and bed spreads) available for the bedroom.
While Nicola Muro was away in the United States during the early 1900s, Letizia Scotti was making preparations for their marriage. At the turn of the 20th century women throughout all of Italy prepared a chest filled with a beautiful array of linens and lacework pieces to be used in their new household. Most of the pieces were made by the future bride. Others were purchased or received as gifts.
Letizia’s daughter Josie was my beloved maternal Grandmother. She gave me a lace tablecloth that Uncle Sammy and I think dates back to the 1930s. Josie had an appreciation and preference for these kinds of things all her life. Such sensibility comes from living in a home where simple beauties like these are part of everyday life. Letizia’s sisters outlived her and were known as excellent homemakers. Not just for cooking and cleaning but for creating a sense of home as a place of beauty. In the kind of home Josie created, and such keepsakes as this lace tablecloth, we find a link to Letizia and the matriarchs who came before her. We can envision the kinds of hope chest and linens Letizia brought to her marriage.
The Lace Tablecloth
Grandma Josie’s lace tablecloth.
Grandma Josie gave me this lace tablecloth when I began discussing with her my plans to decorate an apartment of my own one day. This was in the spring of 1983.
“What are you waiting for?” she asked. “You should decorate your room right now!”
She went into her room. When she came back Grandma Josie handed me a box that was very yellow and old.
I took the lid off the box, unwrapped layers of tissue paper and carefully took out the exquisite lace table cloth shown in this photo. My Mom remembered seeing the tablecloth only a few times. Many first generation Italian immigrants had special table cloths, doilies and bed linens that would come out only on holidays or when relatives came to for an extended visit.
Close-up of the lace table cloth.
On subsequent visits to Grandma Josie’s house she told me how she had learned embroidery and sewing as a child because these skills were part of what a woman brought to the marriage. The works of her hands would beautify her home with lace doilies, embroidered tablecloths and even guest towels made of linen with a crocheted border.
Grandma Josie rarely spoke of her mother Letizia because she died quite young. The story of her passing varied depending on who I heard it from. She was the kind of person who was very open. There were a few questions my Mother told me never to ask and those concerned Letizia. The subject was a painful one for my Grandmother. This is why I accepted this gift without asking any questions since she gave it to me so purposefully and without any further comment.
With these thoughts in mind, I spent several evenings researching what the preparations for marriage were in an effort to draw closer to Letizia as a young woman. What follows are my notes taken during reading various online sources.
In my readings I learned that families also bought items to add to the Coredo (dowry). Uncle Sammy and I wonder if this lace tablecloth is older than the 1930s and if, perhaps, it was an item in Josie’s own hope chest. If any reader knows how this tablecloth can be dated please post in the comments. My Uncle and I do not know how old it is or what type of lace work it is.