Botanical embroideries and inspirations…..

a selction of wild flowers and herbs from my vegetable bed


A little rainbow selection of flowers from our garden…not all really growing where they should (and certainly at least one growing where other things were planted…) this summer we have no end of little patches of dove’s foot crane’s bill scattered all over the garden….tiny little pink blossoms which are so pretty and dainty… we’ve also got herb robert growing up everywhere (even in amongst our strawberries so big fistfuls are pulled up almost everyday at the moment…some of our broccoli went over and has flowered…the yellow blossoms are a bit pungent to bring indoors but the bees love them and we think they look pretty so we’ve not dug those up quite yet… abundance of dandelions, I keep picking them before they become thistledown and fly away…..the forget me nots (and these are what I think of as a forget me not…not Veronia chamaerys which a lot of people seem to call forget me nots too but which I call bird’s eye speedwell) are fading fast but in a few weeks a second flurry of blossom will appear…and finally some chive flowers…..

I had to go to a funeral today….one of my oldest friends (he was almost ninety and I can’t really remember not knowing him) he was a gardener and used to grow all sorts of vegetables…trips to see him and his wife always seemed to end with me staggering back with bags full of beans, potatoes, courgettes and apples or plastic bags full of plants and cuttings….in my head I’m like a lady Monty Don…the reality is very different, anything that actually gives me a harvest is a wonder and has me very excited…in past years I’ve made him laugh at the size of my alpine strawberries (I don’t think he understood why I bothered to grow such piddly little things) but nod appreciatively at a punnet of home grown raspberries all the size of wild plums….this morning saw me wander around the garden, picking flowers and herbs for a small posy to take with me….roses and red verbena, lemon balm and rosemary, purple chive flowers, forget me nots and some yellow broccoli flowers……


wild flower books


One of my favourite little flower books is The Observer’s Book of Wild Flowers…my copy is all blackberry stained, and although it’s not the best in helping me to identify any floral finds, it does fit in my pocket and gives me an idea on some of the more common wild flowers where I live…. a much better book is Wild Flowers of The Wayside and Woodland….(I love the title so much)…’s by the same author and has many of the same illustrations (although somewhat smaller)…at the front it has a series of black and white illustrations divided into flower colour which makes identifying flowers a lot quicker and then there are eighty colour plates split throughout the rest of the book with four painted illustrations on each page……the illustrations themselves are really beautiful, and detailed enough to help identify which flowers I’m seeing when I’m out on a walk.


lavender embroideries


The illustrations in both books have been a big inspiration in working my botanical embroideries……soft shades and colours, repeated motifs and even the colour of the linen has been hand dyed in a nod to time faded pages…..


selection of botanical embroideries


Most of the embroidery silks I use are vintage, coming from elderly friends, antique shops and bric a brac sales…..I’ve probably got enough boxes of silks hoarded around my work room to embroider my very own Bayeux Tapestry, however when I spy a bag of gentle hued threads I find it almost impossible to resist the purchase, and friends and family know me far too well for me to pretend otherwise (they’ve also seen my face light up at opening a tin of silken treasures…)

Even though I try to be careful pulling the right end, inevitably my threads tangle (and occasionally the blame can be put on Bernard who will wander over to investigate what I’m doing) so over the last few years I’ve found myself prefering to wrap my silks around rolled pieces of paper…..I’m not fussy what I use, bank envelopes, shopping lists, scraps torn from the back of a sketchbook…..some of the silks I’ve bought have themselves been wrapped around rolled papers…some Gutterman threads came like this during the war years to save on timber, but some silks I’ve bought have been wrapped around old letters or packaging papers… doesn’t make for the most orderliest system in the world but as I’m rarely worried about matching up exact shades just storing them in tins works fine for me.


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