By now it almost seems a lost art: embroidery, spinning and weaving. Nevertheless, the passion and initiative of a group of people ensure this rich Sicilian tradition is not forgotten altogether. The Northern coast of the island, from Palermo to Messina, used to be the Sicily’s “silk road” and there’s evidence of embroidery dating back to Norman times.

Roger II of Sicily’s silk gown was made in the Royal Tiraz Workshops at the Royal Palace in 1133. This gown, now preserved in Vienna, is the most precious relic of the history of embroidery in Europe. Midway through the 1700s, Charles III of Spain also decreed that the needy of the city should carry out spinning and weaving in the Royal House of Poor. The strong colors of Sicilian embroidery make them unique and highly valued all over the world.

Between the 17th and 18th centuries, artists would supply sketchers with indications of which colors to use with the embroidery. You can see evidence of this all over the island today: in Palazzo Mirto in Palermo where entire walls are covered in enchanting embroidery work or the altar decorations that come out for celebrations and holy days.

It’s true that you can’t have embroidery without design. And embroidery design is a rare activity to find these days. Nevertheless it seems that this form of art is enjoying a revival in a land that contributed so much to its history, thanks to a group of young people that carry on this ancient decorative art with their families to protect it from oblivion.