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Mountmellick

Mountmellick embroidery

What is Mountmellick embroidery?

Mountmellick embroidery featuring blackberry fruit and leaves
Mountmellick embroidery is a highly texured form of whitework embroidery, originating from the town of Mountmellick in Ireland, around 1825.

While it is sometimes referred to as Montmellick, Mt Mellick, Mountmellic, or even Montmellic, Mountmellick is the correct spelling as it is taken from the name of the town in County Laois (pronounced leash) in Ireland.

Mountmellick embroidery uses floral motifs and heavily knotted and padded stitches. The plants featured are traditionally those that grew in the township of Mountmellick itself, such as oak, blackberry, dog rose, and ivy.

The following features are regarded as being characteristic of Mountmellick work:

  • it is worked in white matt (no shine) thread on white cotton satin jean fabric
  • the shapes are big and bold and usually floral - the leaves and flowers are usually at least life-size, if not larger
  • it has a buttonholed edge, usually with a knitted fringe attached. Lace is not used
  • it is highly textured with many knotted and padded stitches employed
  • there is no openwork, such as eyelets

The stitches of Mountmellick embroidery

Mountmellick embroidery is highly textured with many knotted and padded stitches used. Part of the fun of working Mountmellick embroidery is playing around with the stitches and working variations of them. On some historical examples of Mountmellick, there were only a limited number of stitches used. However, due to all their variations, the effect produced was highly patterned and varied. There are a number of stitches that are regarded as unique to Mountmellick embroidery:

  • Mountmellick stitch. This odd lopsided stitch probably first originated as a mistaken version of Palestrina knot stitch, known as double knot stitch to the stitchers in Mountmellick. Interestingly, while the stitch has become so strongly associated with Mountmellick that it bears its name, to date Mountmellick stitch has not been found on any historical examples.
  • Mountmellick thorn stitch. This stitch is a feather stitch with a french knot incorporated into it.
  • Cable plait stitch. This is a very intricate stitch that produces a lovely woven cord effect. It is closely related to cable chain stitch.

The Mountmellick knitted fringe

Mountmellick embroidery is traditionally edged in buttonhole stitch (often in scallops) to which a knitted fringe is attached. It is made using an ingenious method to create the fringe. Many times I have demonstrated the technique at needlework and craft shows, and the most common response is for people's jaws to drop open when they see how simple the fringing is!

The lace section of the knitting has thick ridges contrasting with lines of more open knitting. The ridges and open parts are created by increasing and decreasing stitches during the knitting process.

There are a number of different patterns that can be used to create the Mountmellick knitted lace/fringe. 3 or 4 strands of yarn are used together, which gives it its fullness.

We have created a video tutorial of how to create the Mountmellick knitted fringe - method No 2 as shown in "Mountmellick Embroidery: Inspired by Nature".

Mountmellick embroidery for today

Mountmellick embroidery is highly suitable for use in the contemporary home. Although it is white, it can be used on many items of daily household use, as it can easily be boiled white again. Because it is so sturdy, the embroidery holds up well to this treatment.

Mountmellick embroidery is suitable to be used on:

  • bedspreads or coverlets
  • table mats
  • runners
  • doilies
  • table cloths
  • curtains
  • lampshades
  • clothing
  • cushions and pillows
  • bags
  • designs to be framed
  • anything else you can think of!

It is because of the sturdiness of both the stitches and fabric, that there are so many surviving examples of Mountmellick embroidery. Those that have not survived to the present day are more likely to have fallen victim to changing fashions, rather than wear and tear or moths.

The present revival began in the 1960s when Sister Teresa Margaret McCarthy of the Mountmellick Presentation Convent began to investigate the style. Based on the historical examples that were shown to her, she taught herself the style and began to teach others. Sr Teresa is highly respected and is credited with being the driving force behind the revival.

Learning Mountmellick embroidery

Vetty Creations provides a number of ways to learn Mountmellick embroidery:

  • Mountmellick Embroidery: Inspired by Nature by Yvette Stanton and Prue Scott. 2nd, fully revised edition is now available. Our first edition was so popular that it went out of print very quickly, so we have fully revised it. The new edition is full colour, 104 pages, with heaps of additional information and photos.
  • Mountmellick embroidery classes with Yvette Stanton. Yvette regularly teaches Mountmellick at shops and guild groups around Australia. She is an accredited tutor with the NSW Embroiderers Guild.
  • Video Learn how to create the knitted fringe that is characteristic of Mountmellick embroidery with Yvette Stanton's video tutorial instructions.

Where to see Mountmellick embroidery

Visit Yvette's Mountmellick Embroidery Pinterest page for clickable, visual links about Mountmellick embroidery.

Around the world you can find examples of Mountmellick embroidery within museum and guild collections. It is always wonderful to see the real thing! You gain a real appreciation of the texture, feel and appearance of the work, that you just can't get from books or webpages. If there is any way you can visit some of these places, I would encourage you to - what you will learn from seeing the real thing is priceless.

At most, if not all of these institutions the Mountmellick articles are not on display. You should always contact the curator first, and if necessary make an appointment to view the work. It would be very disappointing to miss out because they simply did not know you were coming. You may need to make arrangements many months beforehand, so plan ahead!

It is unlikely that you will be able to touch the pieces, but the supervising curator may be able to show you what you would like to see.

If you know of other public or guild collections that include examples of historical Mountmellick embroidery, I would love to hear about them. More contemporary (i.e. worked after 1960) Mountmellick embroidery, while beautiful, is not the focus of these listings.

Australia

The Museum of Applied Arts and Sciences (Powerhouse Museum)
http://maas.museum/powerhouse-museum/
500 Harris Street Ultimo, PO Box K346 Haymarket, Sydney NSW 1238.
Ph: +61 2 9217 0111

The Embroiderer's Guild of Victoria
http://www.embroiderersguildvic.org/
170 Wattletree Road, Malvern VIC 3144.
Ph: + 61 3 9509 2222 Fax: + 61 3 9509 2109

The Embroiderer's Guild of Queensland
http://www.embroiderersguildqld.org.au/
PO Box 150, Fortitude Valley QLD 4006
149 Brunswick Street, Fortitude Valley QLD 4006
Ph: +61 7 3252 8629

"Meroogal" Historic Houses Trust
http://www.hht.net.au/visiting/museums/meroogal
Cnr West & Worrigee Streets, Nowra NSW 2541
Ph: +61 2 4421 8150 Fax: +61 2 4421 2747

Europe

The Victoria and Albert Museum
http://www.vam.ac.uk
Cromwell Road, South Kensington, London SW7 2RL, United Kingdom
Ph: +44 (0)20 7942 2000

The Ulster Folk and Transport Museum
http://www.nmni.com/uftm
153 Bangor Road, Cultra, Holywood, Co Down, BT18 0EU, Northern Ireland
Ph: +44 (0)28 9042 8428 Fax: +44 (0)28 9042 8728

The National Museum of Ireland
http://www.museum.ie
Decorative Arts & History, Collins Barracks, Benburb Street, Dublin 7, Ireland
Ph: +353 1 6777444 Fax: +353 1 6777450

The Religious Society of Friends (Quakers)
http://www.quakers-in-ireland.org/
Quaker House, Stocking Lane, Rathfarnham, Dublin 16, Ireland
Ph: +353-1-495-6888 Fax: +353-1-495-6889

An Grianan Adult Education College
http://www.edunet.ie/angrianan/
Termonfechin, Co. Louth, Ireland
Ph: +353 (41) 22119 / 22478 Fax: +353 (41) 22690

Mountmellick Development Association Museum
http://www.mountmellickdevelopment.com/museum-page.htmll
Irishtown, Mountmellick, Co. Laois, Ireland
Ph: +353 (0)502 24525 Fax: +353 (0)502 44343

Mountmellick embroidery supplies

Because Mountmellick embroidery is an historical style of embroidery, materials as close to the traditional ones should be used. Our page on Mountmellick embroidery supplies provides more detail on what to use and where to get it.

Vetty Creations has a full range of Mountmellick embroidery supplies, including thread, fabric, knitting cotton, needles and kits, available for purchase. Purchase Mountmellick embroidery supplies.

Further reading about Mountmellick embroidery

For further reading on the subject, we have provided a handy listing of Mountmellick embroidery books. While some are out of print, they may be available through public or needlework guild libraries, or from second-hand bookshops.

 


For more information on Mountmellick embroidery, purchase Yvette Stanton's step-by-step instruction manual "Mountmellick Embroidery: Inspired by Nature"

Mountmellick Embroidery: Inspired by Nature

Purchase your copy today!


This book is a delight, visually and technically. These fine Australian embroiderers have given us an inspiring book with well designed, varied projects using clear concise instructions. Their Mountmellick history section is informative, their stitch guide practical and accurate. It is with much pleasure that I recommend this creative book to all dedicated Mountmellick embroiderers and to those who, at last, have a book to lead them into the fascinating world of Mountmellick. --Deborah Love, Mountmellick Tutor, Embroiderers' Guild Queensland

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