Stoffa and stuff

StoffaboxblogEver since being dragged into Job Warehouse on Bourke Street in the late seventies I’ve had a thing for fabric merchants.  It would be hot pre-Christmas Melbourne and perhaps we would be meeting Dad at Pellegrini’s for a granita and Mum would always find some excuse for a quick look at the rolls of dusty fabric next door.   Job Warehouse has been closing down for more than 20 years and last time I checked it was still there, a treasure trove of old bolts of fabric, cottons and silks, shelf upon shelf of colors and textures.  In Italian fabric is tessuto or stoffa, like the stuff of an older more refined English when it was used to describe dress fabrics, upholstery material and the like.  Things being made of a good stuff.  Now the word stuff has such a cheap, throw away quality to it.  Linguistics aside I still love a good poke around in a fabric shop and with a vintage model Necchi ready for a good project any excuse will do for a trip to Longo & Figli and the other shops around Torre Argentina.  The dress fabrics department of the Longo & Figli emporium can be found in a beautiful corner store on the edge of Piazza dell’Enciclopedia Italiana and Via delle Bottege Oscure.  Delve into the first large doorway on the right of the piazza and you will find the standard fabric department with cottons, linen, cords, denim and more, as well as the quite lovely upholstery department where you can find incredible linen, furnishing materials and canvas in every hue.

a quick translation guide to shopping for fabric and haberdashery:

Merceria – small haberdashery store selling cotton, basic fabrics, bindings and buttons (as well as undies and socks)

Sbiechino – bias binding!  I always forget the name for this the moment I walk into the store

Mussola – Muslin or cheesecloth, as in very light open weave cotton suitable for draining stocks and bouquet garnis

Calicot – calico,   Lino – linen,  Seta – silk,  Feltro – felt

shopping for fabric and upholstery around the centre of Rome

Francesco Longo & Figli, Piazza dell’Enciclopopedia Italiana,50,

Merceria – End of Piazza dell’Enclipopedia Italiana.

Other stores around Largo Torre Argentina – Bassetti, Azienda Tessile Romana

Te La Cri, Piazza Farnese, 99/100, (foto left) wonderful upholstery and home furnishing fabrics, great canvas for the boat or deck chair (more likely the latter).

3 thoughts on “Stoffa and stuff

  1. OK, so this post is like 5 years old and I am just reading it.;) I was scrolling and saw the title and it reminded me so much of my grandfather, Giovanni Pergolini, un sarto di Montepagano, Abruzzo. He taught my siblings and I to sew. When my older sister and I were visiting Italy in 2010 we had that ‘Aha’ moment when a cousin said the word “stoffa”. See, in Pennsylvania we didn’t grow up speaking Italian and I have only learned to communicate well in the language since I moved to Australia and started to study Italian in earnest. Back when nonno was teaching us to sew he’d used the word ‘stoffa’ often and we assumed he meant ‘stuff’ and that it was just his ‘accento’. In the context of the discussion with our Italian cousin in Abruzzo, I knew he was talking about tessuto! I explained it in English to my big sis and we just cracked up laughing at our own ‘stupidaggine’. We wondered how many other words we’d inadvertently been taught… Thanks for the capsule vocab and the lovely memory. MLT

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