Quill embroidery

In the Val Sarentino valley the centuries-old handicraft of quill embroidery with peacock tail feathers is still practised today.

Originating in the Val Sarentino, the quill embroidery started to spread out to the other valleys and beyond borders - in ancient times it was a sideline for farmers. The handicraft has been known since the Middle Ages, but it gained increasing importance in the 19th century due to the decoration of traditional costumes. The costume, called “Tracht” in German, was considered a status symbol back then - a decorated belt could correspond to the value of a horse.

The shaft of a peacock tail feather is called “Federkiel” (quill) in German, so the handicraft is known as “Federkielstickerei” (quill embroidery). The above mentioned shaft is cut into splits and used as embroidery needle to work on calf or cow leather, or goatskin. The beautifully decorated belts - “Fatschn” in local dialect - which are an essential part of the traditional South Tyrolean costumes, are produced in this way. Hundreds and more hours of work are spent transferring the curved ornaments with the quills to the belts. Also other leather objects such as wallets, bags or shoes can be embroidered, as demonstrated, for example, by the extensive product range of the quill feather embroidery Xander in Brixen. Each piece is unique!

By the way: the original handicrafts of the Val Sarentino valley are supported by the European Commission in order to serve the rural development. This project, called “Sarner Gschick”, can also be admired in the Museum at the Rohrerhaus, housed in an ancient farmstead of the valley.

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