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Before Sir Tim Berners-Lee invented the World Wide Web, I used to do embroidery for a hobby. If I had resumed my hobby after Windows 95 crashed the computer, I wouldn’t have seen this photograph yesterday on National Geographic‘s blog that reminded of my simple chain stitch and a plethora of color in embroidery yarns at the arts and crafts stores.

Portrait of a woman dressed in clothing typical of Lagartera in Toledo, Spain, August 1924

Lagartera is a municipality [with a population of not even 2,000 people] located in the province of Toledo, Castile-La Mancha, Spain. The village is renowned for its centuries-old tradition of embroidery, needlework and lace-making.

Jules Gervais Courtellemont, National Geographic

Jules Gervais Courtellemont, National Geographic

The Spanish Wiki page on Largartera isn’t translated very well but it seems to trace the village to Celtic origins in the Iron Age. After the fall of the Roman empire, Toledo served as the capital city of Visigothic Spain until the Moors conquered the Iberian peninsula in the early 8th-century. 

The earliest known documents Lagartera as people back to the early twelfth century when, once conquered Toledo by Alfonso VI , the Mozarabic began to repopulate the territory. Lagartera initially was thus a Moorish settlement.

Before I go too far off into the historic wilderness, commercialization of Lagartera’s handmade embroidery began in the early 20th-century. Nat Geo must have run a feature on the town in 1924, which is why this sultry Spaniard is so elaborately adorned.  

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NOTE: It turns out Jules Gervais-Courtellemont was a French photographer famous for taking color Autochromes during World War I. He took this photo around 1914. He eventually became a National Geographic photographer.

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