Valle d'Aosta

The sophisticated and highly prized Cogne lace, or “Dentelles de Cogne”, tell a story that spans four centuries, and according to tradition began in 1665, when several Benedictine nuns fleeing the Cluny monastery sought refuge in Valle d’Aosta. During their sojourn in the region, they taught local women the art of bobbin lace. Over the centuries, these skills were passed down from mother to daughter in the Cogne region, solely through direct experience and hands-on teaching, to the present day. In the early 1900s, women and young girls in every household in Cogne made bobbin lace, both to decorate their shirts and to make a small profit.  The only lace to be made without the help of a basic design, bobbin lace in Cogne is manufactured entirely from memory, in strips of a width of a few centimetres up to a maximum of 7/8 cm, using raw linen thread. Cogne bobbins include a support known as cavalot, a wooden stand that supports the coessein and the bobbins themselves, in a broad cylinder shape and stuffed with straw or wool; the set-up is completed by numerous spindles with their typical spherical handle. The threads were once made of hemp, and are now in raw or blanched linen. The skilful workers weaved the decorative motifs as the spindles moved rapidly, with the grid-like pattern of the bobbins as their only model. The weave, made with linen yarn, in made using the so-called “fili continui” technique and requires numerous spindles to be operated at the same time. The wonderful decorations include stylized animals, flowers, and evocatively-named objects in the town’s dialect. For Cogne’s women, these exceptionally beautiful laces were the ultimate adornment, a sophisticated and light-hearted note to embellish their austere traditional dress. Today lace is used to decorate linen, bedspreads, sheets, towels, and table covers, and still features in Cogne’s traditional costumes, which are now worn during local celebrations and cultural events. Visitors to Maison di Pits, in Cogne’s town centre, can admire the town’s forty lace workers as they create their bobbin lace masterpieces. Working together as a cooperative, they produce over 1500 meters of highly prized bobbin lace per year.