Gypsy by Deborah Love
3rd May 2019
The town of Mountmellick in Ireland was synonymous with textile production in the 18th and 19th Centuries, and hand in hand with industry went the growth of a rich tradition of embroidery. Developed in the mid-1820s by Johanna Carter, Mountmellick embroidery designs drew on the local flora, and were worked in a heavy white cotton thread on white cotton fabric.
The technique was closely associated with the Quaker movement, and one can see echoes of the movement’s ethos of living simply in the clean designs.
Mountmellick embroidery is strong, practical and understated without ostentation or excessive decoration, reflecting the values from which it arises.
Over the years, Mountmellick embroidery has been adopted by stitchers far beyond Ireland who were drawn to the crispness of the white on white designs and the delicious texture achieved by the varied combination of surface stitches. Satin stitch, French knots and chain stitch among others are used for the designs, with each piece traditionally bordered by a unique knotted edging stitch known as Mountmellick stitch.
Deborah Love, not heralding from County Dublin or County Laois, but from Queensland, Australia, is one of the masters of this technique. As well as having travelled to Mountmellick to view many historical pieces, Deborah was the winner of the inaugural Mountmellick Embroidery Competition in 2017 hosted by none other than the Mountmellick Development Association of Ireland.
And Deborah has succeeded in remaining true to the technique with Gypsy from Inspirations issue #102, a lovely octagonal tablecloth.
Gypsy is perfect for beginners and experienced stitchers alike, as there are no fine needles to thread or complicated stitches to master.
Perhaps the biggest challenge is Mountmellick stitch itself, although by following the clear, step by step instructions one soon develops a rhythm. There is something very soothing about the sound of the cotton thread pulling through the heavy cotton satin jean fabric and we defy you not to be lulled into pleasant meditation by the process.
Gypsy is finished with a characteristic knitted fringe. Even if you aren’t a regular knitter, the pattern repeat is only short and due to the length, you’ll feel very confident by the time you reach the end! For the next step, even confident knitters who understand exactly how stitches lock together may need a deep breath before unravelling the stitches to create the fringe. But as long as you’ve followed the pattern, like magic it all works out!
There is something wonderful about creating a piece in the same way it was made almost 200 years ago. The echoes of that needle pulling through the fabric should be audible as you carry on an Irish tradition that has survived generations.
Make Your Own Gypsy
Step 1 – Purchase Project Instructions
Gypsy by Deborah Love is an eight-sided tablecloth worked in textural Mountmellick embroidery with flower sprays surrounding flowing vines, edged with a knitted fringe.
Step 2 – Purchase Ready-To-Stitch Kit
The Inspirations Ready-To-Stitch kit for Gypsy includes everything you need to re-create this charming tablecloth: Fabric (unprinted), knitting cotton, embroidery threads and needles.