This large sheet of paper, 1.5 m long, is called a pitch sheet. Pitch sheets – or carta prova as they are called in Italian – are a medium of communication between the textile designer and textile manufacturer. The sheet will show the full repeat of a textile design and capture all the colours that are used in a particular pattern.
This piece was made in 1988 by the textile designers at Ratti. Ratti were based in Guanzate near Como. The Ratti company was founded in 1945 by Antonio Ratti and is today managed by his daughter Donatella. Ratti are producers of luxury textiles – predominantly printed silk – for accessories, man’s and woman’s fashion, as well as home textiles. Their textiles have been used by designers such as Gucci, Prada, Valentino, and Ferragamo to name just a few.
In this particular case this fabric design was destined to be used for the reverse of a skirt by Gianfranco Ferré, which will is on show in the The Glamour of Italian Fashion 1945-2014. The ensemble from the 1988 Ferré collection features a sleeveless, turtleneck top, a jacket, and the skirt all showing variations of the Ratti pitch sheet pattern in a predominantly red colour scheme.
Textile designers and textile manufacturers use pitch sheets as working documents. After a design has been manufactured, they are then stored for future reference and archiving purposes. Due to constrictions of space these sheets are folded up, instead of being stored flat – as museum objects of that size and material would be. In order to show the pitch sheet in its original state in the exhibition, V&A Paper Conservator, Richard Mulholland started work on removing the visible folds.
First Richard introduced vapour to the piece of paper, and then pressed the sheet between felt blankets in an attempt to remove all the creases. Before mounting the pitch sheet onto museum board, he undertook some tear repair and filled in any lacking pigment. Fully de-creased and flattened, this beautiful pattern design could be displayed in the exhibition. The object will also feature as part of a digital map of Italy presenting the different fashion districts of the country.