7 January 2016

Burning the Befana and an Issey Miyake Coat

Christmas is Officially Over; The Old Befana has been Burnt

Umberto at the Burning of the Befana in Rivoli this evening
The Befana in Piazza Brà, in the heart of Verona
Camilla & Umberto in Piazza Brà
There's so much I'd like to say about the Italian tradition of burning the Befana on the evening of January 6th, but I'd also LOVE to press "publish" before midnight, and actually get a post out in perfect time for once :)

The tradition is a mix of ancient rural culture, folklore, superstition, and the Christian Feast of the Epiphany celebrating the arrival of the Three Wise Men. In modern Italy the 6th January is the last day of the Christmas holiday period. By 7th , the children are back at school and everything returns to "normal" - or normal enough, at least until Carnival.  So Cami, Umbi and I went into Verona this evening to see the preparations for this evening's bonfire, when an efigy of The Befana (which symbolizes the "old" year which finishes tonight) is burnt in the main square, Piazza Brà; also the site of the Roman Arena

Camilla was wearing the winter coat I'd made for her in October. She leaves home at 06.20 to be at school by 07.50, six mornings a week, and it can be very VERY cold here in winter, so it had to be incredibly warm.

The famous Clock sits high above the double archways which lead into the Piazza
The Roman Arena in the background
The iconic Stella Cometa is erected every Christmas season.  It "shoots" out of the centre of the arena to "land" in the Piazza

I'm wearing my good old Armani coat. Going strong since 1992

The Befana sits atop her bonfire - ready for someone to strike a match
Another perspective of the Befana, with the Arena in the background

Earlier on our way into Verona, we stopped in Rivoli village to catch the fading light for some photos of Cami's coat

The coat is out of print Vogue V1320, by Issey Miyake. 

I'd offered to take Cami shopping for fabric, but my thrifty little honey had said she wanted her coat made of this fabric from my stash. It's a double-face, very thick wool coating. She wanted it made with only the checked side showing. 

My very rudimentary pad-stitching.

My very rudimentary machine was a 21st birthday present. It's clunky, but it does the job.

I interlined the yoke and hem-line, and interfaced and interlined the centre fronts. This stabilized the borders of the coat, but the main fabric was so heavy it pulled the coat down and it bagged where it had been left "unfettered" by stabilizing. You can see how the hem hangs lower at the sides and back, than at the centre front. I would never have foreseen this problem given the sturdiness of the fabric, but in retrospect this would have been avoided if I had fused interfacing to all the main fabric pieces. Ah well ... you live and learn!

And the all over puckering of the fabric is sadly due to its great age. The adhesive joining the two layers of the double-face had deteriorated, and the thinner, checked layer had begun to lift away from the thicker dark-green wool layer. The fabric had been a gift from goodness knows where, and it had been in my stash for donkey's years. I've no idea exactly how old it was.  

Napoleon and his troops won the Battle of Rivoli here on January 14th 1797,  against the Austro-Hungarian empire. In the background is the Austro-Hungarian built, Fort Wohlgemuth. (I call it Voldemort as I have NO IDEA how to pronounce it)

I used a couple of beautiful ties from my HUGE collection to add some details

I added piping between the front facing and the lining (but my piping is flat ... without the "pipe". Wonder if it still passes as piping??) And covered jumbo snaps because I still have to master handmade buttonholes. My poor old machine wasn't up to tackling button-holes in all those layers.

I love the construction of this coat. The yoke and bias-cut upper sleeve are beautiful and comfortable to wear and I'll make it at least once more for myself; perhaps Cami would like another version too. But it was physically hard work to manage this particular fabric and, though it sounds unbelievable, heaving it around my work table, and through my machine actually tired me. So, I'll choose the next fabric carefully. I'm thinking scuba could work well for this!

Cami had kindly worn her hair in a ponytail, to better show off the hand sewn, swiss-roll style, rolled down collar.

But about here she asked if we could stop, as her ears were freezing off.

But Umberto didn't want to "stop"!  When we got back to the burning of the Befana in Rivoli, his ears were perfectly TOASTY!!!

Post Script
Darn it! I pressed "Publish" at exactly Midnight, so despite my efforts this didn't get published on January 6th after all  :(

This Blog is pro-autism,
Thank you, Sallyxx

Linked to Brilliant Blog Posts


  1. Sally, what a double mice story! The history of the Befana and Cami's nice green checkered winter coat. I'm learning so much! And right on time as we're back to 'normal' life today! When's your next post????

    1. Hiya Jen. Thanks for the compliments but there's nothing I can teach YOU about Veronese culture !!! :D
      I know - isn't it refreshing to be back in some kind of routine again? I might actually get something accomplished now Umbi and Cami are back at school.

  2. I love this tradition and the fact that you have buildings dating so far into history. It looks like a special and exciting evening. You got some great shots of you and Cami with Umberto.
    Now the coat - Cami looks fantastic in this custom-made piece. I especially like the detail you added inside. It can't have been easy managing all those layers. Well done!

    1. Thanks Melanie. Describing this tradition it can seem darkly superstitious, but you're right - it's really a very happy occasion. It's observed all over the land; both municipally in big cities, towns and villages; and privately too. As we drove home there were bonfires of all sizes dotted about the countryside.
      Umbi loves a fire almost as much as he loves water so he had fun. Our challenge was getting him to stand still to be photographed - and then not losing him as he leapt and skipped into the crowd :)

  3. That's such a lovely post today. A little bit of history, some fab fashionista photos, a bit of family stuff and then that amazing coat! Wow, what a construction that was. You've done such an amazing job to that. Lovely material and finishing touches. Wonderful x
    Anna's Island Style

  4. Hi Anna, you're very kind to pay my handiwork such compliments. You told me that you sew yourself, so you'll definitely be able to spot the results of my inadequacies; but I did have fun with the internal embellishments. Importantly, (and this was touch and go until it was almost complete) Cami loves it, (heaves sigh of relief) and it flatters her even more in "real life". I'm really looking forward to making this up again.
    Baci Sxx

  5. That coat looks so good on Camilla, and I love her boots!

  6. Hmm, I don't know if my comment has published or not! It was just to say your daughter looks so good in that coat, and I love her boots!

    1. Thanks Yvonne,
      She loves her Doc Martens; and they HAD to come from The British Boot Company in Camden Town ... she's "hard core" you see! :)
      And I got lucky with that coat. There was a point before I inserted the lining (and it was impossible to envisage the completed garment), that she told me candidly not to expect her to wear it if she hated it once it was finished!!!
      I've started following your blog! Have I understood correctly that you spend a couple of months each winter in Venice?
      Baci Sallyxx


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