Mountmellick Development Association Ltd.
Mountmellick Development Association Ltd. (Mountmellick Embroidery)
The main focus of the Museum is to conserve and display original pieces of Mountmellick Work (Embroidery) and to protect the memory of Mountmellick’s rich Quaker industrial past. www.mountmellickdevelopment.com/page-craft-museum.html
Mountmellick Embroidery - The History
Mountmellick Embroidery is unique as it is the only form of white on white embroidery from the Nineteenth Century which can claim to be entirely Irish in origin and design.
The introduction of Mountmellick Work (Embroidery) is credited to a Johanna Carter in 1825 when there was a worldwide revival in the art of lace making. The materials used were being produced locally and the designs used symbolise the rich Quaker heritage of the town. The craft has a long association with the Quakers who fostered the tradition by teaching it and adapting it to their own designs. Girls in the Quaker school were instructed in the embroidery as a way to earn money for their books. Commercially the first known sale of Mountmellick Work took place in 1847 to the Earl of Dunraven of Limerick. This was a quilt which has survived to this day and is currently on loan to the Museum.
Circa 1880, a Mrs. Milner started an Industrial Association in Mountmellick to provide a livelihood for ‘distressed gentlewomen’. By 1890, there were fifty women employed in producing embroidery. This led to a major interest in the work. It was taken up by women throughout the country and as a consequence it ceased to be just a local craft. During the early 1900’s combined with the effects of the first world war and machine embroidery the number of embroiders declined and it died out until a Presentation Nun, Sister Teresa Margaret McCarthy of Mountmellick revitalised the craft in the early 1970’s. Her task was made possible by the generosity of the Pim family of Mountmellick, who made original patterns available. She sourced fabric and thread and began teaching the embroidery locally. It is thanks to her perseverance that Mountmellick embroidery is now known and appreciated worldwide again. Sr. Teresa Margaret donated her collection to the Museum before she retired.
The craft has a long association with the Quakers who fostered the tradition by teaching it and adapting it to their own designs. Girls at the Quaker School were instructed in the embroidery work as a way to earn money for their books. A Government report of 1858 tells us that the needlework was taught in the Mountmellick Quaker School both in fancy and plain design.