December 7, 2012

Picado - Appliqué embroidery from the Northeast of Portugal

Olá! Today I'll talk about a very specific type of needlework technique: "appliqué". I really don't know if it is rigorous to consider this technique as a type of embroidery, but in Portugal we do it. As I've already talked about, we find these embroideries in Nisa - Bordado de Aplicações (Appliqué embroidery) - and as you'll see today we also find them in the North of Portugal. There, in the north, this technique is called Picado (the best translation I find is "punched").

Picado work,  from here
I couldn't find too much about the historical perspective, but I decided to publish it anyway once the images talk by themselves and I truly love this type of embroidery. At the same time, and continuing last week theme, I believe it would be fun to show more embroidered pieces wear by men.

All the embroideries I will show come from Tras-os-Montes (behind the hills), a region in the Northeastern corner of the country. Facing a very hard climate and isolation, people that live "behind the hills" maintained many folklore forms preserved up to our days among which are included these embroideries on wool cloth, really needful in cold winter days. Burel, saragoça and surrobeco are the fabrics used, but distinguish from each other is not easy, once they are all made of wool.

Picado work,  from here
I believe the origin of this type of embroideries was the Capa de Honras (Cloak of Honours). Many consider it the most luxurious Portuguese costume. Traditionally they come for Miranda do Douro and are brown male cloaks with a pendant on the shoulders, open in the back and decorated with appliqué embroidery, Picado. It was worn by cattle keepers and shepherds to be protected in coldest days and by the wealthy men. It's a work of great complexity, taking 20 days to get done. A long time ago they took more than 60 days once all the decorations were hand trimmed and then hand sewed to attach the apliques to the cloak. 

Beautiful photo of a Capa de Honras, by Ana Rojas
The "honor" in the name does not refer to the fact of being used by noble people but instead to the fact of being so elaborated. There are still some artisans that dedicate their lifes to this art. Follow the link and you'll find a video about one of those tallented tailors, check and don't worry about not understanding Portuguese once the images of his work speak for themselves.
Nowadays Capas de Honra are used in important cerimonies. Recently, a renowned Portuguese stylist, Nuno Gama, brought them to his 2010/2011 winter collection and fashion show.

Another application of Picado are the charmimg decorated vests from Pauliteiros de Miranda. I would say they are one of the most original piece of Portuguese traditional outfits. And they gain increased beauty when we see the whole costume. 

Vest decorated with Picado, from Pauliteiros de Miranda
"Pauliteiros are the dancers of a Portuguese folklore dance, the warrior dance of Terras de Miranda, called “dança dos paus” (“the stick dance”), which represents local historical moments. It uses bagpipes, a snare drum and a bass drum, and it’s traditionally danced by eight men that wear a skirt and a linen shirt, a brown vest, leather boots, whool socks, a hat that can be decorated with flowers and finally, a pair of sticks that they use in a diverse series of steps and coordenated movements that simulate a fight." (1
Check here and see the beatiful photos of Pauliteiros de Miranda and again here to watch a performance.

Beautfiully decorated vests with the Picado technique, photo from here
Recently some artisans begun using the same technique with different applications, in home decoration, accessories, handbags, clothing...

Home decoration using Picado, photo for here
Home decoration using Picado, photo for here
Would you say that the Picado technique is a type of embroidery? I promised myself that soon I'll learn how to do it, and then I'll tell you!! The first lesson is here, but I will need many more.


  1. Penso que há uma diferença entre este trabalho de Miranda e o de Nisa - a tia Maria esteve há, relativamente, pouco tempo em Miranda e lá explicaram-lhe a diferença, mas confesso que já não me lembro...

  2. This is beautiful. I do think it qualifies as embroidery; how does it work in Portugal - in Hungary (where I'm from), the similar type of applique is, these days, always made by the same women who make traditional embroidery. 100-150 years ago it was men, the mantle-makers who made the applique (and also the embroidery on traditional Hungarian shepherds' mantles). The style is similarly influenced by Middle-Eastern motifs, although in Hungary it's less geometric and more defined by rounded florals and spirals.