Saturday, 21 January 2012

Winter Flowerbeds And Lace

Dearest dog lovers I am so grateful for the time you took to write down your thoughts on which breed we should take.  Every comment has been carefully read and we are still mulling over this big decision.  Thank you so very much! I never cease to be touched by the kindness and patience of those who stop by this space of mine.

The title-page of John Taylor's embroidery and lace design book, first published in 1624, depicts an elaborate garden with raised flowerbeds and ornamental flower pots and vases.  In the foreground of this garden scene three alegorical female figures are clad in high-fashion costume.  Wisdom, in a brocade gown and high ruff, reads a devotional or moralising manual while Industrie works on a cushion, having completed the undergarment to her right.  Follie is empty-handed. 
The Needle's Excellency, 3rd edition (London: James Boler, 1631)

If such embroidery books represented high-ranking women, whose virtue could be displayed in their artistic needlework, the great majority of gardening manuals targeted high-society men.  The visual impact of needlework and gardening is important but whereas men clothed their pleasure gardens outside, women clothed their households and garments. Male/female divide aside, there exist many similarities between gardening and needlework handbooks.  For example, whilst seventeenth-century writers of women's manuals recommended hand-worked clothing as a public sign of a woman's skill and virtue, contemporary horticultural publication claimed that to tend one's garden was good for one's soul.  On the other hand moralising handbooks frequently considered fashion and flower gardens to be both vehicles of vanity and ephemeral pleasures.  One thing is for sure; the aesthetic characteristics of gardens were thankfully well preserved over the centuries in the embroidery and lace design books which depicted many floral and garden parterre motifs - this distinctive genre of seventeenth-century French formal gardening which can be seen in the examples below - suitable for repeating as borders on the edge of various garments.
Théâtre d'Agriculture et Mesnage des Champs, Olivier de Serres, 2nd edition (Paris: 1616)

Gardeners sought similar effects to embroiderers in the colours and differing textures they used in their parterre designs.  Yellow hued sands, crushed red and brown stones, dark grey metals together with flowers, and plants were mixed to set off the vivid green of the frequently used box tree.  According to the Victoria & Albert exhibition on The Needle's Excellency the most popular colours for embroidery were various shades of green, yellow, orange, brown and red.
Lace was a ubiquitous part of both aristocratic men and women's clothing.  The title-page of the French version of Federico Vinciolo's pattern book, from which the lace patterns above and below are taken, depicts garlands of lace which reveal a close resemblance to sixteenth-century parterre designs.  
Les Singuliers et nouveaux pourtraicts du Seigneur Federic de Vincolio Venitien 
(Paris: Jean Le Clerc, 1606) 
Since gardening treatises frequently recommended that ornamental flowerbeds should be clearly visible from the house it is most natural that young women at court who embroidered would model their designs on the parterres they saw through the window. In winter, after a severe frost or a snowfall, in contrast with the dark earth beneath, these flowerbeds would have looked like the crisp white geometry of the laces which were so fashionable among the gentry and at the royal court.
Picture taken from William Christie's house in Thiré
Beautiful, don't you think?

For those of you who are interested in contemporary lace design pop over to Claire at Paint Drops Keep Falling to see details of her visit to the "Lost In Lace" exhibition at Birmingham.

Someone in this parts will be turning two on Friday so I will, hopefully, be posting before then on a truly insane challenge I have set myself AND a beautiful giveaway Angélique was offered by talented Lori over at Hippywitch Crafts.  My little girl will not be separated from her at all these days!

See you very soon and have a peaceful Sunday.



  1. What a gorgeous photo of the snowy garden it does look like lace or the traditional stitching designs!

    Happy birthday to Angelique this week, good to know she loves her new little friend :-)

    Lori x

  2. Such a beautiful post Stephanie. I'm sure you are familiar with the books The Embroiderers Flowers and The Embroiderers Garden, such beautiful volumes, your post made me think of them.

    I shall be knitting in the quiet times on my allotment. So the connection between needlecraft and cultivation continues at least in my little corner of the world. I wonder if plein air knitting will affect my colour choices!

  3. Oh yes, yes, YES! I have tried to pattern my boxwood garden after these magnificent European gardens so full of symmetrical poetry. And the lace and beautiful old pages are just as much of a maze of intricate work that helps me SLOW DOWN this moment to remember that things of beauty take time. So I hope that in DUE TIME, my writing will be something that I can actually be proud of. But for now, living is required in order to have something to write about!!!!!!

    Thank you dear heart for commenting on my blog today. It means so much to me!!! Anita

    OH, how is your thesis going?

  4. What beautiful images of the snowy lacy garden and embroidery designs, lovely post.
    Wishing you a peaceful Sunday,too and good luck with your challenge and birthday preparations! xo K

  5. Yes Stephanie very beautiful and so lace-like!
    How true about gardening being good for the soul. :)
    Nothing I like better than to knit in the garden on a sunny day, so I think the two go hand in hand together.
    Vivienne x

  6. what BEAUTIFUL lace designs...so intricate.
    your photos are stunning, just love the snowy garden.
    Oooooh happy birthday to the little one x hope you have a wonderful day.
    love jooles x

  7. Beautiful indeed...
    Good luck with the challenge you have set yourself.
    Much love

  8. awBeautiful indeed...
    Good luck with the challenge you have set yourself.
    Much love

  9. Such an interesting post. I love embroidery and so all the information in your post about it's connection with gardening has set me thinking.

  10. This is such a beautiful post, as always :)
    I have been away and am catching up on your last posts, not sure if it has been suggested, but labradors are beautiful child friendly breeds, good luck deciding

  11. Beautiful and interesting! Gardening and lace, I wouldn't have connected one with the other but it's so obvious when you you read your post. I learned something today! Thank you for that.
    And a very happy birthday for the birthday girl!!!

  12. Point lace is so very beautiful, and how nice to think of it as inspired by garden parterres. The first thing I thought when I saw those garden plans was "Ooh, those would make lovely quilt blocks or lace patterns." I can envision them as delicate whitework on handkerchief linen or voile.

    Enjoy the birthday planning. And to la petite Angélique, best wishes for un joyeux anniversaire.

  13. I love this post: all the history and beauty combined.

    Boxwood gardens always fascinate me. What a lovely and logical connection between them and intricate lace!

    Happiest of birthdays to your little one!


  14. Hello, another beautiful post. I will pop back for a reread, so much loveliness to take in.
    Angelique, what a gorgeous name! Birthday kisses for her.
    It would be great to make a doll for you. You could send me a theme or some ideas. If it is for little Angelique, it needs to not have toomany bitty bits that can come off of course.
    I know exactly what you mean about the bitter sweet thing. I would love the familiarity of the things I love, like vintage clothes, tea sets and just that thing, you probably know what I mean. I am actually thinking of starting some English themed tea parties, which could also create an opportunity for people to practise their English. Hmmm.
    Love to you all. xxx

  15. Such a breathtaking post Stephanie! Hands thrust into the soil, or "gardening" with needle and thread, both are heaven surely!
    Truth be told, your post inches me toward an unfinished bit of Torchon lace, a project that I abandoned long ago. I shall certainly think of you as my bobbins dance upon the pillow.
    Best wishes with the joyful festivities!
    Judy x

  16. these are all so pretty~i miss seeing these beautiful french gardens in person :) they're so intricate sometimes...

  17. Hi Stephanie,

    I enjoyed reading about the connection between embroidery and gardening. Never really thought about it, but it is there and I can see the patterns.

    Good luck with the prepartions for your daughters 2nd birthday party!

    Have a lovely Sunday!

    Madelief x

  18. Your lovely photo of the snow covered garden certainly shows the inspiration for lacework and stitching...so exquisite.

    I always smile when seeing any reference to John Taylor - the same name my husband has and his father too - both strong military men. Must say though that my husband's Australian grandmother taught him how to knit!

  19. Beautiful patterns and ornaments! Can't choose weather I appreciate more the gardening skill or the lace! When thinking about it, both!!!

  20. I enjoyed your post, Stephanie !
    Happy Birthday to your little girl, wish you a great day !
    Nice evening,

  21. I think it is interesting that in the summer I garden, obsessively, night and day, and in the winter I knit. It appears that, after years working with my brain, I need now to work with my hands, and then my brain is stilled, for a while. Love the illustration. I am particularly taken by Industrie!

  22. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

  23. Such beautiful designs. I love the picture of the garden covered in snow xxx

  24. On pourrait croire qu'il s'agit de vitraux de dentelle et l'oeuvre du jardinier est saisissante de beauté , soulignée par la poudre de neige ...

  25. Two of my favorite topics...needlework and gardening! Lovely informative post! (poor Follie, I do hope she gets the message soon!!!)

  26. A beautiful post Stephanie. It seems to be all there in the geometric patterns of the stunning lacework - that connection with gardening. Thank you for such an illuminating read. Parterre's are a particular love of mine and the frosty photo of William Christie's garden is truly lovely.

    I have to admit I rather feel like Follie at the moment! I have come to realise that I suffer seasonal depression and I must learn to deal with it better. The thought of a sunny sparkly day lifts my spirits so much.

    Happy birthday wishes to dear Angelique!


  27. What a beautiful post, Stephanie! I LOVE that winter garden photo! I dreaming of some snowy days (we haven't had ANY in Duesseldorf yet)! Although..... my garden will most definitely NOT look like THAT one! ;-)

  28. Dear Stephanie,
    your post is very interesting. I can see the connection between embroidery and formal gardening, it´s stunning!

    Lace knitting is not that difficult, just give it a try!

    Liebe Grüße, Bärbel

  29. wow, these are stunning!!I wish I could do/had time to learn embroidery. Too lovely.

    Thanks for letting me know that it's what 4 year olds do, and that it shall pass. I was getting worried. :)

    Much love from Finland.


  30. What a lovely, intellectual post! I love the photo of the snow, amazing what these gardeners have achieved. Hippy Happy Birthday for your little girl, good luck with the preparations!

    And sorry that I'm only getting round to this now but thank you for your kind comment on my blog, it was so lovely and thoughtful of you!

    Helen xx

  31. The lace designs are really lovely and it's interesting how similar they are to the garden designs. I agree that 'tending one's garden is god for the soul.' I also think that doing embroidery outside would be too! There's something very therapeutic about doing something out in the open air isn't there?

  32. Oh my, those lace designs are absolutely exquisite Stephanie! They have made my day. I can hardly stop peering at them.

  33. Beautiful!! I can see why the women would embroider the fantastic garden designs they saw through the windows.

  34. hiya- hope all is well with you.
    Sorry to hear you've been diagnosed asthmatic, my husband had always suffered with this so I can certainly empathise.
    We've always found that he's "safe" with Airedales, poodles and similar dogs that can be clipped instead of shedding hair, although unfortunatley in our house its the damp thats the biggest trigger!

  35. I adore old lace, sigh! I wasn't aware of the Birmigham exhibition which looks fascinating. It's always a joy to see subjects looked at afresh by talented craftspeople.

  36. Gardens, snow, stunning pictures and beautiful lace.... perfect!!!

    Lou xxx

  37. Great photos, as always, and really interesting to read! I'm going to the Lost in Lace conference next week... should be most excellent!

  38. Hello Stephanie,
    This is such a lovely blog and post! I have always admired the formal gardens and beautiful lace, but never put it together that one influenced another.
    Wishing you a wonderful day,

  39. This is so beautiful and so inspiring... thank you.


  40. Sometimes I wonder if I have it in me to be expert at anything. I look at what 'accomplished' used to mean and shudder at my lack of stick-to-it- ive-ness.

    Blessings, Debbie

  41. Hi Stephanie! Love the connection here between the needlework and gardens. Both are such beautiful art forms. Glad to see they are both still appreciated and practiced to this day. xx

  42. What a lovely post - it has got me thinking and spotting so much more when I am out and about. Juliex

  43. Wonderful photos, and I love the snow covered parterre, so crisp and lacy! Thank you for introducing yourself on my blog and bringing me here! And if you are still debating dog breeds, may I recommend a miniature dachshund? They don't all eat crocuses!
    Penny x

  44. Congratulations on your wonderful site! Congratulations and good luck!

    voyance mail gratuite

  45. Thanks for sharing such a useful information.Professional Logo Design I was just surfing on internet and found your blog after reading this i realize that i should come here often.
    voyance email

  46. Super blog, I love your articles and reports, good luck.

    consultation voyance gratuite en ligne


Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...