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Decorations and symbols in Sardinian textile art

di Elisabetta Roncati
sardinia textile tradition

As announced we continue our journey discovering the traditions of this magnificent Island

Sardinia textile tradition


You must know that the traditional Sardinian loom mounts 2 or 4 heddles. When it is fitted with 4, compared to the loom in other Italian areas, it has no pulleys or rockers.

In Sardinia, two types of looms are historically used: the vertical one (including the oblique variant) and the horizontal one. The vertical has an older origin deriving from its extremely simple structure. However, it cannot be excluded that historically on the Island, with the vertical one, there were horizontal looms much more elementary than the traditional ones still in use, which have a pedal board and a group of heddles.

The horizontal loom is present throughout Sardinia and many families used it until the early decades of the twentieth century. The vertical, widespread in the center of the territory, disappears already at the end of the nineteenth century, although in some centers of Barbagia and Goceano (historical subregion of central-northern Sardinia) it remained in use until the early decades of the last century.

Sardinia textile tradition

Decorations and symbols in Sardinian textile art

Thanks to the fact that Sardinian is a neo-Latin language (such as Italian, French, Romanian, Spanish, Portuguese), born from the fusion of the Latin of the Roman conquerors with the local languages, the weaving tradition has developed a whole series of specific terms to indicate materials, finished products and above all the processing phases.

Think that, at times, these words differ depending on the raw material used. For example, the wool processing cycle adopts different words from that of the other fibers. The terms also have subtle differences depending on the geographical areas of use within the Island itself.

A proof?!

Carding of wool, an operation that precedes the spinning process, is indicated with karminare (local variants: kraminare, graminare, ipgraminare, laminare, barminare, arminare). In short, an entire specific publication would be needed dedicated only to the lexicon ?.


 textile tradition
Decorations and symbols in Sardinian textile art

From the lexicon we move on to symbols and this is why Sardinian weaving becomes a real language.


As for any other geographical area, the iconographic apparatuses of Sardinian textiles depend on the historical, political, economic and environmental events that have taken place over the centuries. The autochthonous decorative and chromatic elements were superimposed on others imported from even very distant places, modified in order to fit in without excessive contrasts.

In short, a real cultural syncretism.

It is thus possible to identify various decorative categories that can be grouped into: geometric, naturalistic (phyto-zoomorphic), anthropomorphic, religious and heraldic motifs.

The former are the oldest and simplest, present in all cultures and in all periods of human history. Some of them carry particular symbolic messages: the square and the circle radiate harmony; the undulating represents the sea, the indented the mountains, the lozenge the navel or the eye.

In the wool blankets, the so-called fressadas or burras woven mainly in the Nuorese area, we find a lot of the elements described above.

Sardinia textile tradition

Decorations and symbols in Sardinian textile art

We now speak about the so-called “naturalistic patterns” which are certainly the most widespread in Sardinian fabrics and embroideries, still present in 19th-20th century artefacts and handed down to the present day.

Above all, the symbol of the “tree of life” is highly represented, with the meanings of cyclicality of human existence and perpetual regeneration. The depictions of the peony and the lotus flower, of clear oriental derivation, are very ancient. The latter is an emblem of purity and wisdom.

sardinia textile tradition

sardinia textile
Decorations and symbols in Sardinian textile art

On many of the Island’s textile artifacts, we find the vine branch with bunches of grapes, auspicious as regards fertility and abundance, a bit like the ear of corn.

The thistle flower also has great success: a plant that grows spontaneously, edible, also used to card wool once dried, it represents austerity and longevity. Very represented is the carnation together with the tulips.

At this point we can say that Sardinia has in some way developed contacts with the East, not only for the innumerable phytomorphic symbologies that can be combined, but also for the zoomorphic ones. By far, the animal most present in the Island’s textiles is the eagle, followed by the peacock. Equally popular are the deer, the bull and the horse with or without a rider in tow.


We look forward to seeing you next week to discover together the materials used in weaving.

Thanks to @visitsardinia and @cagliariairportofficial

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