Tessuti d’Arte


In 1857, Luigi Spezzotti[1] “by working about a hundred hand looms and pullers [2] gathered in different workshops …” [3], started in Cividale del Friuli (Udine) a production of cotton and linen fabrics that stood out since the its debut. In 1876, the company moved to Udine – Cusignacco [4] in the Casali Paparotti area, the former site of an ancient Stack of rice with relative water pump for the production of energy. The first completely mechanical looms and the dyeing plant were then introduced. The trade in Spezzotti cottons, destined for mass consumption, developed in Italy and abroad [5].   Since then, the teleria [6] had a constant growth, determined in the fifties and sixties by the favorable general economic situation. The company continued its activity until the end of the seventies, but in the following period controversial circumstances led it gradually to reduce and limit production and to close definitively in 1982.

In 1999, thanks to the availability of Mrs. Bianca Bittolo Bon Spezzotti, the interest of Gina Morandini and the sensitivity of Marta Mauro, then Conservator of the Museum of Farming History of Fontanabona di Pagnacco (Udine), the Spezzotti heirs donated to the Municipality of Pagnacco ten Samples (19,957 samples) [7] and thirteen Cartolari (1959 Production Cards) [8] together with other important documents of the Spezzotti Cotton Mill to be kept at the Museum and made available to scholars and the public:  a fundamental documentation for the knowledge of the history of cotton mill.

These materials were studied and cataloged by Marta Mauro with the help of her precious collaborator Chiara Braidot. Furthermore, in 2006, the Production Cards were scrupulously studied from a technical point of view by Gina Morandini and Carmen Romeo, the experience was very engaging because it directly referred to work in the factory, to fatigue, but also to satisfaction. on the part of everyone, masters and workers, to “be” in each of those small fragments of fabric.

The materials of the Spezzotti donation are preserved at the Pagnacco Museum, but the collection, the only one of its kind in Friuli, is now not visible since the small museum has been closed for renovation since 2018.

Spezzotti mainly produced cotton (flannel, poplin) and hemp canvases, striped and squared, damask (drapery works) and small works: technical and decorative types attributable to the ancient textile tradition of Carnia and Friuli. The trellises used to cover mattresses, produced by the cotton mill until the end of the seventies, are striped fabrics full of history, since they are found similar, both technically and in the chromatic play always repeated (white alternating with gray or blue or brown) in the samples of Friulian weavers of the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries.

In the 1930s, models and fabrics had to be national and wearing Italian style was a patriotic gesture. In short, emerging artificial fibers that simulated silk (rayon, staple) and synthetic fibers (terital) were introduced into weaving. Some samples defined as Radiant silk are made from artificial silk: an inexpensive item, but with a precious appearance, suitable for making women’s dresses and proposed as an alternative to the modest and common housewives of the Friulian tradition for ladies who wanted to look elegant. The names of the articles promoted the Italian territory: Furlana, Flanella Carnia, Trieste shirt, Isonzo pants, Lignano tablecloth, Bolzano towels, Venice tea towel.

The color variations were innumerable, different every year and guaranteed by the excellent Spezzotti [9] dyehouse. The factory produced large quantities of fabrics for work overalls (blue for metalworkers, brown for carpenters), indigo blue jeans cotton [10], and also, in times closer to us, fine corduroy cotton velvets for trousers and sailcloths.

Towards the end of the 1950s, the names assigned to the fabrics evoked movie stars such as Marilina and Gilda [11]. In the approximately 5300 meters of fine squared canvases of the Zephir Brennero type, woven in 1958 for the Rinascente in the colors white / pink, white / light blue, white / yellow [12], we read the fashion of the moment: a style that was very imitated especially after Brigitte Bardot, for her wedding in 1959, wanted a white / pink checkered wedding dress, a model that was later replicated in thousands of copies. In the early 1960s, the company also supplied fabrics for the manufacture of car covers [13].

The employees, almost entirely women, had a strong sense of belonging and were often from the area where the factory stood, where their mothers had also worked. The atmosphere at Spezzotti was very positive and familiar, as testified by the ex-workers[14] who still proudly want to be called spezzottare!

The images come from Carmen Romeo’s photographic archive, excluding fig. 1 (1958 – La tessitura Spezzotti, private collection).

1 .The Spezzotti – originally Spessòt – were a family of farmers originally from Spessa di Cividale, who first moved to Farra and then Gradisca d’Isonzo where, in the 18th century, an Antonio Spezzotti together with his son Giuseppe was already dealing in the textile branch with a silk spinning, weaving and dyeing company. In the second half of the eighteenth century Giuseppe Spezzotti (1735-1822) moved to Udine to dye yarns and fabrics, bringing with him the secrets of dyeing with indigo and other recipes from the East. On his death he was registered as coming from Gradisca and a silk printer. His son Giovanni Battista (1774-1870) abandoned his father’s business to enlist in the Venetian gendarmerie on horseback: he had married a Cainero from Udine, a winder. His son Luigi (1814-1890) resumed his grandfather’s profession and began his activity at the Antivari and Foramitti Textile Companies in Cividale, where he later opened his own business by organizing a group of weavers and founding the Spezzotti company in 1857.

2.The looms equipped with pulling machines allowed to speed up the production of small hand-made items (clothing fabrics decorated with minute, mainly geometric motifs) and damask (tablecloths, checkerboard design furniture). 

3. P. Spezzotti, Spezzotti family, in: Historical Research, self-printed, Udine, 1962

4.See G. Falcioni, Industrie udinesi in particular, in Illustration of the Municipality of Udine, Società Alpina Friulana, Udine 1886, Reprint of the White Publisher, Udine 1983, p. 323; The homeland of Friuli, 19 September 1903.

 5.The industrial complex was located south of the outskirts of Udine, between V.le Palmanova and the municipal road of “Molini” in the locality of Paparotti. Nothing remains of the ancient industry but the chimney. Everything else has been the subject of a demolition and renovation to make way for new businesses. On the façade of the new buildings the “shed” structure of the old factory is recognizable (taken from: http://www.ipac.regione.fvg.it/ ERPAC – Friuli-Venezia Giulia).

6.The name drapery indicates the industry that mainly supplies an assortment of items generically defined as canvas, for clothing (men’s, women’s and children’s shirts) and furnishings (sheets and tablecloths) and light fabrics.

7.The large volumes that contain the various items were displayed in the Textile Industry Shows and were used by the sellers to collect customer orders.

8.Each production sheet, almost always dated, contains the data necessary for the identification and production of each specific product. The trade name assigned to the items (Vesti, Carnia Shirt, Isonzo Pants, Lignano Tablecloth, Tarvisio Flannel, Traliccio Monfalcone) often informs about the intended use.

9.The dry cleaner was closed in 1970, based on the Merli / 1970 law against water pollution.

10.Card No. 5, card dated 1970

11.Two legendary actresses, famous icons of beauty in the collective imagination well beyond the 1950s.

12.Card number 3, card dated 1958

13.Special Tagliamento card for car linings, dated 23-3-1965, and Cottelé Wolksvagen card, dated 1968.

14. The testimony of a group of former employees was recorded twenty years after the closure of the factory and concludes the essay Textile production, Marta Mauro, Gina Morandini, Carmen Romeo, in “Spezzotti”, a family and a company in Friuli between the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, edited by Liliana Cargnelutti, Edizioni Ribis, Udine 2010.

Carmen Romeo

English version Esperta di tessitura, arazzo, tappeto, saggista, docente e ricercatrice  – Tavagnacco (Udine). Dal 1976 mi occupo di ricerca nell’ambito del tessile tradizionale e di didattica. Ho pubblicato saggi, partecipato e coordinato progetti, mostre d’arte ed eventi a livello nazionale ed internazionale. Dal 1974 al 2011 ho insegnato nella Scuola Primaria e Secondaria Statale Italiana (Medie e Superiori). Ora sono Vicepresidente dell’Università delle Libertà del F. V. G. di UDINE dove insegno nei corsi TIESSI. Tradizione e Creatività-Laboratorio di Tessitura, promuovo e curo progetti sul tessile. Inoltre, presso il Laboratorio dell’Associazione Il Cavalîr – Ecomuseo della Gente di collina di Fagagna (Udine) sono docente di  Arte della Tessitura per la riscoperta dell’arte tessile tradizionale e curatore di Progetti culturali legati alla cultura tessile.