“Folk” Shirring (Puntu Vanu)

Updated 1/4/2022

I’ve been obsessively working on a new to me (quite old) pleating style. Here is some of the info on my success so far. I will be updating this article some more over the next several months.

I primarily focus on German clothing styles from the early 16th century in my art, particularly pleated shirts. I look at a lot of paintings and images from he time and region. It’s not always obvious what is going style wise with collars of early 16th c German hemden (and partlets).

There is a bit of mystery on what techniques were used; it doesn’t always look like topstitch or back stitched pleats, or darned pleats, or smocking (modern styles), or shirring. There are a limited number of extant examples and limited documentation and images. A lot of styles likely were used and occurring at the same time in this time and region. I’ve experimented with a lot of pleating and smocking, and examined various styles (see Was it Honeycomb Smocking on 16th c. German Clothing – Or something else… for more discussion).

In my research “Italian Shirring” has come up several times, Jenny Tiramani examined an extant example of a shirt with what sounds like chevron patterned shirring in The First Book of Fashion (2015), and Thimble and Plume mentions it in their smocking videos.

Hans Brösamer (1523) Portrait of Sebolt Schwartz, Oil on panel, Germany.
Hans Brösamer (1521) Portrait of Hans Dürr, Oil on panel, Germany.

Looking around the internet I found some awesome modern and older examples of shirring in “folk” shirts and aprons from Europe, e.g., Sardinian Puntu Vanu, Romanian a type of încreț, Ukraine, etc. I have linked my Pinterest board for it below, of particular interest is the work by “puntu vanu ricamo sardo” board belonging to Patricia Pela’ on Pinterest and Polonets Olga soulful handmade.

The words “folk shirring” do not adequately capture the various regional styles, I will use puntu vanu from here out since I was able to find an actual book related to the Sardinian styles and techniques (thanks to Marion McNealy for making sure it made its way to my hands).

As I looked at the shirring works by these glorious artisans I became convinced that this is probably the style showing up in some of the paintings and woodcuts from this time and region, deemed “Italian Shirring”. Which does make sense, Southern German Lands style had strong influences from the northern Italian region in the early 16th century period. I went on an adventure to translate this to a style seen in some German paintings.

The Swatches

I set out on a sewing adventure to translate this style into something seen on collars of some early 16th c. German hemden styles, and possibly aprons. A lot of the Sardinian puntu vanu work is done on a fine cotton and approximately 3 centimeters (little over an inch) or so wide and a length appropriate for a cuff or sleeve cap or front section of a shirt. I knew I would ultimately need to translate this technique into something a little bigger (2 inches in width and well over 14 inches in length) on linen or cotton/linen blend. There are examples on linen and wide sections, like that of an apron, in the book. However, the focus of the tutorials and “recipes” were on on smaller sections and fine cotton. Another consideration is I don’t speak or read Italian, so there was a bit of a language barrier there. Then to add to the fun the author indicates there is a bit of a secret recipe quality to the techniques.

A early attempt, using a loose weave linen and cotton embroidery thread, I was trying to create diamonds. My spacing and distance was off still, but the pattern was cool none the less.
Trying to come up with a chevron pattern a miss, but still informative. I used color thread to increase the contrast.
Another chevron attempt, close little wide spacing still.
This pattern is very small, about 3 cm wide. The thread was a bit big and my spacing is off.
First attempt at my own diamond pattern design.
Most recent successful attempt. I think this one looks very much like the Hans Brösamer (1521) Portrait of Hans Dürr.

Finished Hemd with Puntu Vanu Collar

Yay, I did it. I was able to take the information from these swatches and turn it into a finished project. I have documented this experience 16th Century German Men’s Shirt with Shirred Pleat-work Collar.

Swatches Part II

After completing the 16th c. shirred collar men’s hemd I decided to work on another pattern. Below are some photos of these efforts. My hope is to create a diamond row pattern that looks like some of the paintings. These current efforts are a bit smaller than planned, however it’s coming along. The blue thread is a guide frame and will be cut away in the finished version.


Rublack, U., Hayward, M., & Tiramani, J. (Eds.). (2015). The First Book of Fashion: The Book of Clothes of Matthäus and Veit Konrad Schwarz of Augsburg. Bloomsbury Academic. Print

Marion McNealy 
Patreon – https://www.patreon.com/marionmcnealy 
Website – https://www.marionmcnealy.com/ or http://www.curiousfrau.com/ 
Youtube – https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCottAiHUgOCGsbJ79N2sgsA 

Rowan Perigrynne
Links coming soon…

Lee Ann Posavad
Website – https://medievalhandwork.wordpress.com 

Thimble and Plume  
Youtube – https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCR2kA4KdLKQAvzSt3rZLX5g 

Polonets Olga soulful handmade
Facebook – https://www.facebook.com/P.O.S.H.andmade/?ref=page_internal

Patrizia Pela’s Pintrest board

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