The Biancheria Corredo of My Grandmother

She stitched her hopes and dreams.

Brienne Joelle Quilici
Mar 11, 2024
2 min read
A flower embroidered on a pillowcase

Embroidery and needlework serve as powerful tools for storytelling within the realm of Italian women’s biancheria and biancheria corredo.

The word biancheria translates from Italian to English as “linen”, while corredo translates as “kit”. As a young maiden, a girl would work on her biancheria corredo, also known as her wedding trousseau, with painstaking detail. This practice would not only highlight her talents as a capable seamstress but to keep her story written in the form of embroidery when she left her family to marry into another.

Whether it was immigrating to a new country or immersing oneself into the husband’s family culture, these linens helped remind them of home and all that they left behind. Symbols or decorative stitches held these meanings in secrecy, often so as women who married or moved to new lands were made to assimilate.

The biancheria corredo of my grandmother has given me access to her existence when she did not have the English words to tell her story. She embroidered edelweiss flowers, native to the German Italian mountain area she was from as a reminder of home when she moved to a coastal region for marriage.

She embroidered Sonni Felici, which translated from Italian means Happy Sleep, on pillowcases for her wedding bed and new home.

Embroidery on a white pillowcase: Sonni Felici, translated, means Happy Sleep

I cannot imagine how scared she must have felt to leave her family, become a wife and begin life with a man she hardly knew. She stitched her hopes and dreams in the form of records to carry with her, no matter where she would put down roots and call home.

Many of our ancestors did not have access to traditional education and led oppressed lives. Using embroidery as a tool for recordkeeping and storytelling is a form of magic that allows those lives to be heard. We can keep the connection alive and carry on traditions of folk magic.

From knot and stitch magic to embroidering spell work, this serves as reminders of the places from which we have come as well as the roads ahead we must travel.

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Brienne-Joelle Quilici is a mom, wife, artist, and witch living in the Pacific Northwest following an independent path. She currently works with ancestors, seasonal living, and North Italy Ligurian mountain culture with American heritage in her magic practice. When she finds spare time, she makes wildcrafted wreaths and hand-tied brooms for her small business, Molten Hot Cosmic Witch.

Find her on instagram @the.ligurianwitch and @moltenhotcoasmicwitch

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