For those of you familiar with canvas work and with counted thread embroidery stitches – especially variations on cross stitch – you are probably familiar with Montenegrin Stitch, or have at least heard of it. Montenegrin stitch is similar to long armed cross stitch, in that the stitches “interlock” and overlap, but it is different, in that it includes a vertical stitch in its stitch movement, and the resulting band of stitches tends to look more “braided” than long armed cross stitch.
Confusing? Yes, well – try working the stitch! It can be a real bear, especially when it comes to changing directions, moving on the diagonal, and merging lines that travel in different directions.
Several years ago, Amy Mitten published a book called Autopsy of the Montenegrin Stitch, which became the definitive guide to the stitch. By examining examples of Montenegrin stitch and working out all the possibilities of the stitch herself, Amy was able to compile clear diagram instructions for Montenegrin stitch. Recently, Amy updated and re-published her book, and now we have Autopsy of the Montenegrin Stitch: Exhumed!. (Yes, she’s a bit of a mystery buff.)
Autopsy of the Montenegrin Stitch: Exhumed is a chunky little book. It’s only about 4.5″ x 5.5″, but it’s a good inch thick, and it’s spiral bound at the top, to make for easy use while stitching.
See. The book flips open and lies flat, a feature that I like on instructional books. The pages of the book are a high-quality card stock, so it’s made to last.
In the back of the book, you’ll find a practice piece for Montenegrin stitch – a little double design that has all the possible movements and directions of the stitch incorporated in it, perfect for getting the hang of the stitch.
But the real meat of the book – the stuff that makes the book worthwhile for serious counted thread stitchers (especially for stitchers who like historical reproduction samplers) – can be found in the diagrams. In the book, the diagrams for working Montenegrin stitch are clearly numbered at each step, so you have but to follow the numbers to reproduce the stitch. Now, I know you’re thinking, “What’s so unusual about that? You see that in a lot of stitch dictionaries! Why would I want a whole book just to get a numbered step-by-step diagram of a stitch?!”
The complexity of Montenegrin stitch is not actually found in working a simple horizontal band. As with any stitch, once you get the rhythm of the stitch, working across a horizontal line can go very quickly with Montenegrin stitch, despite the fact that there are something like 8 or 10 movements of the needle in there, just to make the stitch. So the horizontal band is not “that” big of a deal, once you get the hang of it.
But meeting horizontal and vertical lines seamlessly, working the stitch on a diagonal, or meeting two diagonal lines into a point seamlessly – this takes some serious work. What Amy has done in the book is present a clear, numbered diagram for every possible contingency in working this stitch. Every direction is covered. There’s horizontal and vertical, and there’s diagonal in all directions, and then there’s every type of possible “corner” or merging of lines, all mapped out for you. A horizontal line merging with a vertical, to make a corner? No problem – you’ll get a diagram for each corner, working both clockwise and counter-clockwise. Two diagonals merging into a point? Not a problem – it’s there, with several variations, and all possible directions of movement. What about verticals merging into diagonals and then into horizontals? It’s there! Did you want to work double-sided Montenegrin stitch? You’ll find it, too. Really, when she says “autopsy,” she means it. She has taken this complex stitch apart in every possible combination, and put it back together into easy-to-read diagrams for the stitcher.
Amy’s book is available on her website, Amy Mitten Designs (along with her repro sampler designs, and her “fibers to dye for” hand-dyed threads). A warning: the book is pricey, at $36.00 (Canadian), plus shipping. But if you’ve struggled with Montenegrin stitch before (you know what I mean – skipping it and substituting long-armed cross stitch on your sampler, because you just wanted to pull your hair out in frustration!), or if you find yourself in love with historical samplers, you will find this book a handy companion and you’ll understand the value of it.
For surface embroiderers, you’ll find that the stitch makes a gorgeous edge on embroidered table linens and the like. It’s exceptionally pretty worked in threads with a good twist.
So what about you? Have you worked this stitch? Do you like it? Have you ever been frustrated with it? Do you have any projects worked with Montenegrin stitch that you’d like to point readers to? Have your say below!
(And look for a give-away tomorrow!)