Tuesday, June 19, 2018

Autopsy of the Montenegria Stitch

Many years ago, Amy Mitten did the very difficult thing of figuring out the Montenegria Stitch, a stitch popular on 17th century samplers, and how to work it around every type of direction change possible - and published a little book on it.  If you have ever come across this challenge - you know what a dilemma it is.

Montenegria Stitch - challenging with that long leg
You may have come upon this stitch with its long leg that goes over two graph squares when working a sampler, any modern designer only includes it as a linear band - a straight line that divides an area.  But on 17th century pieces, it was used for bands as you would use cross stitch today - things like this graph:

A typical area where Montenegria Stitch issued in 17th century pieces
So just look at that pansy.  How would you approach that????  There are right angles, there are diagonals that to into a straight path, there are verticals that move into a diagonal.  This is a one-way street to the UFO pile because you can't figure out how to do it!

That is why Amy's little book was FANTASTIC.  At first it is hard to imagine a book that only covers one stitch - but when you realize that as you move from a downward diagonal to a vertical - you just look that up that case in the book and it shows you the stitch progression to do it.  And then as you approach the next transition, you look up that case - and there is it!  Figured out for you.  To be honest - if you like band samplers from the 17th century - it is a MUST in your library.  And yes, it takes 128 pages to diagram out all the conditions you come across.  This version also does the reversible method as well (OMG) so it has been expanded since the first edition that I use all the time.

The book on one of my whitework samplers for the course
This book is spiral bound to make it a work horse while stitching.  But it has been out of print for a VERY long time.  Amy has decided under popular protest to reprint it this summer.  But because it is on special paper (it holds up to constant use) and spiral bound, she isn't going to do it 'on risk' - meaning she is taking preorders and will hold only a small number of copies after printing (I asked) for a few late comers/mistakes in shipping.  So if you want it - YOU NEED TO ORDER IT NOW.  It is going to print soon and will ship in mid July.

Why am I promoting this???  

Well, I am teaching the big whitework course, starting later this year.  It will be band samplers with the reticella and other cutwork on it.  There will be a design your own portion of the course.  So I can't anticipate every direction change that you might need for each stitch you decide to use.  And I am NOT going to plagiarize her book and republish all the information in it.  I considered including the book in the course but I have no idea how many people will be in it and how many years it will run - so ordering 100-500 books is just not feasible for me today - especially with the materials I am having manufactured.  So I am ENCOURAGING people who are thinking of the class who don't already have the book to get it.  One band stitched in montenegria stitch with this book and you will scream "WHY DOESN'T THIS EXIST FOR OTHER STITCHES???".

There are a handful of stitches that have these long arms where the stitch progression goes over more than one graph square.  They are, to coin a phrase "a bitch" to work on 17th century samplers.  And they never used cross stitch for those bands, I am sorry to tell you.  In one of the samplers I am including in the course, I used a different one that was original to the piece and it took me a full month to figure out the transitions and to graph them for the instructions.

So Amy's book - totally worth it.

Some of you might say - well, Darlene O'Stein's The Proper Stitch is the bible of these stitches.  Yes it is.  But she only diagrammed out 1-2 cases for each stitch.  While it is a wonderful book and is a fantastic resource, to have diagrammed out all the cases for these types of stitches it would have been 500 pages and thus they weren't and so it leaves the geometry yoga to you.  That's where Amy's book came in to do one of the most frequent stitches.  I have done about 40% of the cases of Alternating Double Backstitch for the Whitework course.  It takes FOREVER.  So save yourself the agony and just get Amy's book.


  1. Absolutely! Amy's book is a small, priceless treasure, for which I am eternally grateful. I attest to the value of the thing and I am delighted to see it available again. Without it I could not have done this:

  2. kbsalazar - that is amazing! I have had Amy's book forever and I'm mightily tempted to get this new one because of the reversible aspect, even though I don't see well enough to stitch anymore! 'nuff said!

  3. I would LOVE such a wonderful book for the detached buttonhole and trellis stitches. Always tangle me up :-)