Monday, 4 February 2013

Winter Gardening With Threads

Dear readers,
Whilst gazing with pleasure the other day at Annie's February Floral Mood Board over at Knitsofacto I suddenly recalled with a whoop of joy that I have in my possession a painting my mother made of her garden flowers gathered in February a few years ago.  For those of you, like Green Rabbit Design's lady, Vivienne, who are impatiently awaiting the arrival of Lady Spring, my mother's work may gladden your weary hearts.  These flowers were flourishing in her garden in the last two weeks of February.  Surprising, don't you think?  Thankfully my mother painted similar mood boards for the ensuing months.  She has always been very good about bringing her garden into our childhood home; small posies often ornamented our meal times and there was a lot of artwork which expressed her passion for gardening and carried us through the winter months whilst the garden was slumbering.

Gardening inspires so many art forms.  In Cesare Ripa's Iconologia, a frequently reprinted and translated emblem book first published in 1531 - intended to assist the inspiration of poets, painters, and orators - there is an intriguing  portrayal of Art.

She is portrayed as a woman in a flowing green robe (according to the written description).  In her right hand she holds a hammer, a pencil, and a burin, three tools needed for the artist's imitation of nature. In her left hand she holds a stake supporting a climbing palnt.  The commentary explains that "the Stake supplies Nature's Defects, in holding up the tender plant".  The emblem expresses, therefore, a commonly held idea that art does not just copy nature but improves her.  A 'garden' (a plant guided and supported by a stake) symbolises this relationship.

I am no painter but, in a similar manner to my mother, perhaps, I do like to express my passion for horticulture but with threads and fabric.
A detail of this needlework bag.
Another trait I share with my mother is a love for detail.  Clearly I am not alone!  Renaissance gardeners and needleworkers liked nothing better than to cover the surface of their respective grounds with intricate patterns.  The ideal garden, like the ideal embroidery, wa a place where, as Thomas Campion put it in 1601, all was work and nowhere space:

And would you see my mistress' face
It is a flowery garden place
Where knots of beauties have such grace
That all is work and nowhere space

In gardening, as in decoration, the Renaissance objective was to improve nature or correct it: "t'excell the natural with made delights," as Edmund Spenser put it in 1579.  Embroiderers exaggerated the decorative qualities of plants by using gold or silver threads and even pearls and precious stones.  Elaborately embroidered costumes and decorative gardens were perfect complements for each other.  During open-air entertainments, silk, satin, and velvet costumes embroidered with a dazzling array of small flowers, leaves, birds, and insects must have shone as alluringly as the garden flowers themselves.
These cards, taken from a box set from the famous Parisian embroidery school Ecole Lesage, have detailed instructions on the back for each design.
Of course gardens have been brought into the home since Roman times - as wall paintings in Pompeii villas testify - until our present day.  Think eighteenth-century floral wallpaper or nineteenth-century William Moris textiles. It is a fascinating and extensive subject which I would be delighted to converse with you about for many hours!
I feel a little foolish to end this post with doll pictures but Angélique's third birthday (on Saint Angèle's Day, January 27th) brought a new friend to our home.  With the arrival of Violette (one of the famous French Corolle dolls) I found another of my childhood memories resurfacing alongside my mother's garden: a passion for making doll's clothes.  You may chuckle but this little lady, measuring 13" (33 cm), took France by storm when she became the famous Marie Claire Idées bimonthly magazine emblematic doll a few years ago.  She is the perfect model for doll's clothes!    
This little dress - a little garden inspired - was made with a French fabric which smacks of eighteenth-century textiles.  That little cap is so very Holly Hobbie, don't you think?
Of course this spring dress was made as part of Angélique's birthday present (she had a lovely birthday, thank you!) but, honestly speaking, it was just as much a gift for the child in me.  There will be more doll stitching too.  This outfit is only the beginning but I have visions of old-fashioned rather than modern clothes.

Now what about you?  How do you bring nature and gardens into your homes?  Do you prefer detail or simplicity? Both have their places, of course. And finally, please tell me, are there any more doll's clothes stitchers out there?

A bientôt,


ps I really must update my Gallery of Hares with, for example, my Mademoiselle Valentine, and I think it only fair that the next Mademoiselle available for purchase be shown on this blog at the same time as on Madame Millefeuilles!

pps If you are interested in reading matter and references in relation to the connection  made between gardening and art I would be more than happy to supply you with a few book titles.

ppps  Hello Gail! If you are reading this have you noticed that Violette is sitting on the fabric for Lili's hare's dress?

pppps All this talk of flowers and gardens makes me think I must change my header for something more springlike!


  1. Hi Stephanie,

    I love the verse by Campion and I especially love the needlework bag. I came across your site via Julie Whitmore's blog and now I won't be a stranger here!

    I love your header of the two sweet mice. Is this your own design and is it available as a pattern? I'd love to do it for my husband for Valentine's Day, substituting a heart for the spring of holly.

    Diane in North Carolina

    1. Hello Diane and welcome!

      So you are a Romantic too? How wonderful! Allow me to get back to you here about those two little mice later on as I am rushing out at present. I'll leave you another comment here if I may.


    2. Thanks, Stephanie! Yes, I'm afraid I'm a hopeless Romantic, too. I'll look forward to receiving your comment.


    3. Hello Diane! I'm so sorry to have kept you waiting with my response; things got a bit busy here at home last night! Those little mice have been inspired by a German cross stitch pattern booklet which I am very happy to give you the reference to:

      "Wintertrâume" by Christiane Dahlbeck.

      Although my version is quite different I am sure you will be very happy with the original design.

      Warmest wishes to you and happy Wednesday.


    4. Thanks very much, Stephanie. I'm off to check it out right now!

      Have a great day!


  2. I love the spring flower painting, it has such charm. The embroidered cards are exquisite, so beautiful!

    I hope Angélique enjoyed her birthday.

  3. Hi Stephanie!
    Your mother's painting is really beautiful and so is the needlework bag! My mother too used to love gardens, especially roses because her name was Rose. I enjoy looking at gardens but unfortunately I have no time or land to create one (and personally, I am too afraid of caterpillars, worms and other bugs to dig into the earth!).

    Happy belated birthday to Angélique! The doll is so pretty! It must be fun to design her clothes and choose the fabric!

  4. How beautiful your mother's paining is, and the needlework bag.
    You have made me feel quite Spring like....
    Belated birthday wishes to Angelique.x

  5. What a brilliant post Stephanie, I loved it!
    I bring the garden in when I can, just wish there was a little more out there at the moment (Come on spring! On hold today, it's blowing s gale!)
    I can see where Heloise gets her talent from now, your Mother's painting is beautiful!
    It's a long time since I've made dolly clothes but I'm looking forward to seeing your creations! :
    Vivienne x

  6. Your Mother's painting is beautiful and so is the nedlework, beautiful detailed.

    Happy belated birthday to Angelique, her doll is lovely.

  7. Another delightful post Stephanie. I am a big William Morris fan and have always adored his work. At this time of the year I simply must have bursts of colour throughout the house with Spring blossoms to keep me/us cheery. I cannot help myself from picking flowers in the Summer time and having posies in most rooms (I never take from other peoples gardens or public property, just grow my own and then in the hedgerows etc).
    Your mum's painting is beautiful, such a talented family and I simply feel this is more than justified seeing your beautiful needle work!
    My mum always sewed and knitted clothes for mine and my Sister's dolls but alas I didn't for Alice. Maybe it will come back to me if i have a grand-daughter in the very far future :o) x P

  8. Some beautiful things here, I love the needlework, my Mum too was great with a needle and thread, think I need to get practising!!! :) x

  9. My daughter who is now 30 had several Corolle dolls which she loved playing with.
    Though she has moved thousands of miles away for work the dolls still gaze out from behind the glass of the cupboard they occupy.
    I do hope that your new addition will bring as much enjoyment to your daughter and you watching her as these ones did in out household.

  10. The doll is lovely and so is the dress. I wish I could sew like that but I know my limitations. Half the things I make for my two are really for my inner child. There, I've said it!

    I find that I really need greenery and flowers in the house at this time of year. Luckily daffodils and tulips are my favourite flowers so I am happy to indulge, funds allowing.

    Gillian x

  11. Hello Stephanie
    Where do a start, such a lovely post, yes I adore flowers and was also influenced from my mother, she encouraged me to tend my own little garden, so I grew my own flowers from a very early age..and we always had garden flowers in ou home too.
    Your mothers painting is lovely its like keeping a garden journal in pictures..
    The dolls clothes are so very pretty..so talented
    Happy Week
    Thea x

  12. Good morning Stephanie,
    what a wonderful painting of all those springflowers!
    Youe embroidery is wonderful and this old Doll is such a beautiful one! With her lovely dress she looks so nice!
    Have a lovely week,

  13. oh my goodness, so much to love here, your mom's painting is a treasure. and your bag! i really love your cross stitching stephanie, making a panel for your knitting bag is brilliant. darling doll clothes too, your little one must be thrilled. i made closets full with two daughters too. i used to love sewing (and knitting) up tiny things! happy birthday mama and daughter!

  14. Hello Stephanie,
    Your mother´s painting and your needlework are beautiful, you are both very talented. Lucky you to have such a creative and garden loving mum! Like your mother I love to bring garden and nature by means of watercolours into my home (although I neglect painting a lot in favour of knitting nowadays...).

    I enjoyed reading your post very much!

    Liebe Grüße, Bärbel

    PS: I love the floral patterns by William Morris. I have a book of gift wrapping paper with his floral prints but never use it because I think it´s far to good for just wrapping gifts (and to be thrown away afterwards...)

  15. This post is just lovelz, lovely and more lovely!!! :-)
    I love the garden stitchery - a cleaner, cosier, warmer alternative to ACTUAL gardening!!!

  16. Beautiful ... your mother's painting is so lovely and your needlework on the bag ... so sweet ... I love the doll and her dress ... I am guessing she will be a much loved companion ... Bee xx

  17. oh how pretty your mother's painting is.
    i love the needlework bag, especially the details and beautiful colors :)
    growing up in france, i too had a corolle doll.you did a wonderful job on her clothes :)

  18. Ma chère amie,

    I am thrilled. You have the gift my mum shared with me as a child. Her embroidery AND tatting, sewing, knitting and crocheting inspired me to follow my own arts, and she learned all of her skills from her Mexican grandmother who as well was an artisan with lace.

    Those CARDS with the embroidery remind me of a photo of a lovely French book that I found that has cloth pages, each one embroidered as such. I have never seen anything like it, and one day, I would love to make one of my own.

    You showcase the most lovely things my dear; that garden scene with the little child, OH how your gifts abound, like a garden in spring! I hope you received my email response to you kind gesture the other day; I await AVEC IMPATIENCE, your lovely book.

    BISOUS, Anita

  19. I always love to read your posts Stephanie!! The dress you've made for Angelique's doll is divine, I adore the beautiful fabric you've used. And the doll herself is gorgeous, I love the freckles :) Angelique must be over the moon with happiness :)
    I love to bring nature into my home in all sorts of ways but my favourite is making mniature gardens for my dollhouses :) I really love that painting by your mother, what a talented family you are!!
    Hugs ♥ Vicky ♥

  20. The doll reminds me of American Girl Dolls over here. My daughter had to have one as a child. I love the outfit you created for your special doll, happy birthday to your dear daughter!!!

  21. I love detail! I used to do a lot of embroidery when I was a teenager, making up my own designs. I haven't done any for years but I can see now why I love to draw certain subjects, they are so similar to then. When I was a child my mother would make clothes for my dolls and when I was old enough to use a needle, I would make my own too! I often think one day I might make some again, although my youngest daughter is now 15, it'll have to be for myself! ;)
    Beautiful, inspiring post Stephanie!
    Jess xx

  22. Charmante poupée! j'ai la même! et quand j'étais petite c'était la poupée de modes& travaux! vous aussi?a bientôt!

  23. Another beautiful and evocative post, packed with delights. And yes, I love to make dolls clothes too, in fact I used to make the dolls as well. That said it is a few years since I did either but just now I am knitting some little doll size shawls (there'll be more about why on knitsofacto soon).

    Angélique's doll is so pretty, and what a lucky girl she is to have a mother who can kit her new friend out so wonderfully :D

    Your mother's painting really is a blast of spring! So glad you liked the floral mood board, there will definitely be more to come :)

  24. I could read your for hours... intertwined gardens and embroideries are just magical. And your mother's garden looks as magical.
    I could dream for hours looking at your embroideries. So inspiring, I wish I had time to try myself.
    This is for sure the most charming and elegant Corolle doll ever. Happy birthday Angelique. Elsa will turn 8 next saturday. The only three snowdrops of our little garden will be ready.
    I'm looking forward you next Mademoiselle and springlike heading!
    Have a nice time.

    1. Bonsoir Amélie! Quelle joie de te voir ici ce soir! Je penserai à Elsa samedi avec les pierce neiges. Je lui souhaite un merveilleux anniversaire. Mon fils aura neuf ans le 15 février!

      A bientôt,


  25. What lightness fills this post, Stephanie!

    On a dark and cold New York City afternoon, I've so enjoyed seeing beautiful creations by your mother and yourself. I am definitely a fan of details and so admire all that you create.

    When I was a child, I made lots of clothes for my dolls, and think that I made up my own designs, using all sorts of scraps of available fabrics. It was fun to stretch my imagination. Thank you for taking me down that particular memory lane.


    1. Dear Frances,

      I cannot tell you how much your carefully worded comments touch me each and every time. Thank you for your presence here.


  26. Such a lovely post! Gardens, flowers, stitching and a beautiful doll! My granddaughters both have Corolle dolls and I may just have found a use for some of the fabric stash.

  27. It's lovely that you and your mother both have a love of detail and nature. The painting of flowers is lovely, it makes me want to experiment with water colours myself. I have my doll Tiny tears! you probably remember her, not quite so refined! but she still has many clothes made by neighbours and friends. Although these tend to be baby clothes! I can see this little doll will have only the best! Heather x

  28. What an interesting post to read! I don't bring nature into our home I'm afraid. I never really thought I had a green thumb until I received this Trader Joe orchid plant about 10 years ago. It's been flourishing well here.
    Your daughter's doll outfit is marvelous! You are so talented.

  29. Hello Stephanie:
    What a delightful post this is in so very many ways. Your mother's painting is absolutely charming as is your own work of the wonderful needlework bag. We love the connections which you make here with times past which does give a marvellous feeling of continuity through the ages and gives a very real sense that things do not necessarily change that much.

    We no longer have any garden whatsoever but we do have a small collection of tapestry pictures of a floral nature completed by parents and grandparents years ago.

    1. Dear Jane and Lance,

      What a wonderful surprise to see you both here this morning! I am scuttling off to ensure you are included in my blog list so that I may keep tabs on your posts from now on!

      Happy Thursday to you!


  30. After reading your post I feel that spring may on it's way.Your Mothers's picture is a beautiful record of the flowers in her garden in February and those cards are so exquisite! I wish I could make something so beautiful. For me I bring the garden into the house with simple bunches of flowers or capture it through my photography.
    The dolls bonnet did remind me of Holly Hobbie,it sounds as if Angelique's door will have a fantastic wardrobe.
    Sarah x

  31. Such beautiful artwork by your mother and such a wonderful idea too.

    I love to bring in a little posy of flowers from the garden, very tiny ones right now but before long we will be spoilt for choice.

    Happy belated birthday to your darling Angélique x
    My friend had Holly Hobbie curtains, i was green with envy!

    love jooles xxx

  32. I love your Mother's picture, it's surprising how much colour there is in the garden in winter if you look closely. You obviously share her artistic talent! xx

  33. hello stephanie! lovely post as usual...i adored your mom's floral painting at the top...very pretty and tranquil, and as for your cross-stitching, it's so lovely. i have a cross-stitch on the go, but i find my eyes get so tired after a short amount of time, it will take an age to finish...

    Angelique is a lucky girl to have such a talented mommy. Those clothes are beautiful! To answer your question about how I bring nature/gardens into our home, I am shamefully realizing that there is precious little brought in during these long winter months. I think here where it is so cold and white for so long, we have to embrace the stark season. Although, having said that, I do have several paintings around the house that are of fields and grass and hay and look like late summer/fall, and they do bring a little bit of warmth to the eye. Have a great weekend. C

  34. Dear Stephanie,

    Happy birthday to Angelique. What a beautiful present she was given. Violette looks absolutely beautiful! Your mother's painting made my heart sing too and I like your beautiful work of embroidery. Is it your own design? It looks so cheerful!

    I can't wait for the spring to begin too. I long to do some work in the garden, enjoy the flowers and my little feathered friends :-) We will probably have to wait a little while longer. It's still cold in Holland!

    Happy weekend!

    Madelief x

  35. Your inner child has been nurtured in making pretty clothes for Angelique's doll. These things give pleasure in many ways. What wonderful memories you are creating for your beautiful girl. Lovely post.

  36. Such a beautiful post. I am so behind in catching up with you! Your mother is a very talented artist. I am sure she inspired you in many ways. I love the detail on the needlework bag. I like detailed and I like simplicity too! I also like delicate. The dolly's garden dress is so pretty and such a lovely soft shade. x

  37. Good morning Stephanie...Ah, such a lovely post for my Saturday morning read. It's lovely that your mum has passed on her love of all things floral...I've always been the same and spent many hours using my soft pastels as a student painting floral collages and our house is full of flowers today in one way or another!
    I was thinking of you yesterday evening Stephanie...Are you watching Monty Don's French Gardens? I love his little blue Citroën too!
    How pretty is Violette?...It will be so much fun to create new outfits for her using all your exquisite fabrics and lace (I have a feeling that she may secretly belong to you Stephanie...)
    Happy Weekend,
    Susan x
    P.S You paint with your beautiful threads...

  38. Hello, Stephanie! What a lovely drawing of your mother :0) I do love gardening and drawing as well :0) These flowers look so sweet. I've just ordered some seeds for our new balcony.
    Love your doll's outfit. So cute! Beautiful fabrics and beautiful needlework you've made and lucky person who get that amazing bag in your giveaway :o) Just visit Ecole Lesage, thanks for sharing it with us.
    Have a nice evening
    Lot of love from cold Russia

  39. Oh how I love this post, Stephanie. To come here again is like taking a walk in a garden.

    My precious one, I hope that you got my email with my address, as you requested a while back. I look forward to the POST!

    Ahhhhh.....the Zola book of which you speak! I have NOT read that one YET. I do remember however, reading FLAUBERT and his extremely detailed descriptions of WOMENS' ATTIRE, especially the shoes and feet. My French prof had said that at that time, womens' feet were an attraction to men!

    I enjoy any French novel, for I love to examine the language, the nuances and the culture in general. Thank you for your visit today, for your kind comments and suggestion. I will curl up with a copy of this Zola classic and think of you. I have to have it in my little French library upstairs in my home. You should see this sweet library; equipped with a fireplace, bookshelves and leaded windows to enchant!

    Have a splendid day dear one, Anita

  40. Dear Stephanie,

    I can see you get your artistic talent from your Mother.
    I love the pretty flowers from her garden painting and your exquisite and beautiful cross stitch.
    Also adore the sweet doll and the clothes you made her - Angelique must have been so happy.
    I too enjoy making clothes for my bears - always fun to work out patterns and use lovely fabric and lace.

    Happy weekend

  41. Dear Stephanie....Thank you so much for visiting me and leaving kind words.
    It is always wonderful to find a new blog friends on here, almost like finding a delightful new book to delve into! ~ I loved your Mums beautiful work and can see you must have inherited this also.....Ooh I cannot wait for the Spring time and seeing the Snow drops peeping through is the first signs of natures promise of her beauty to come .....I have followed your lovely blog also Stephanie and will pop in again...~ Take time to dream ~ With kind thoughts, Maria x

  42. I can see how you came by your artistic flair; the medium may be different from your mother's, but the sense of creativity needing expression is there!


  43. Your embroidery is beautiful! Hope all is well with you and yours.

    Pomona x

  44. Dear Stephanie...A lovely post, accompanied by creations ever so splendid! Such delicate drawings by your dear mother, and magnificent stitches from your enchanted needle! Angélique's dolly stirred pleasant memories of my own childhood...Mama humming, whilst quietly sewing with the most beautiful fabrics and trims. Thank you for rekindling cherished times.
    Happy week darling ...

  45. Hi Stephanie,

    I think the doll dress is gorgeous as are the embroidered french cards. While I'm not a stitcher of doll clothes I do make paper clothes but not the old fashioned kind like you do. You have inspired me to perhaps think about an old fashioned theme for my paper dresses. Thank you for a delightful post and for your recent visit to me. Wishing you a creative day.

    Cheers! =D

  46. Fascinating. I loved the picture from Iconologia. I might be odd in this but, although I am passionate about the garden in spring and summer, I don't really make any attempt to bring it inside in the winter. I find I disconnect from gardening around about November and turn inward by the fireside. I knit and crochet and sometimes, less frequently, sew. I read and write and cook. I only really notice the garden again when my snowdrops come out but it is probably the hellebores which make me begin to re-engage. I quite enjoy the break from thinking about outside. I don't even do too much planning about the garden although I know many people use the winter for that. Your post is as always lovely to look at and full of things to think about!

  47. Hello dear Stephanie, Happy birthday to Angelique! What a lovely emerging passion the dolls clothes. I am so aware that there is really a small window of time where such things make truly perfect gifts for little girls & then, quite suddenly, they can be off & looking to other things. Funnily enough, I have just returned home from my nieces 3rd birthday party..darling little girl in her white smocked dress..telling me how rowdy that the boys were & taking me to see her new dolly furniture. I passed on to her a handmade cloth doll (white & embroidered) that was made for my daughter (now 30). All was just perfect & I cherish these precious moments for they cannot be contained or held still.
    Most of all, I think I rather adore the tablecloth/fabric that Violette is sitting on.
    Sweet, simple blossoms on your header now. And to think that we are all feeling just a tad jaded in these days of a long & very hot summer!
    Much love Catherine x0x0x0x

  48. I guess you have already changed your header by now(had to take a quick look after reading your pppps ;-) ) It looks beautiful, very springlike!
    Happy Birthday to Angélique!!!! She must be over the moon with her gorgeous new doll Violette! Her clothes are so exquisite, I'm sure Violette felt right at home at you place.
    Love needlework but I need more time, much more time and would so much love to learn new techniques next to crossstitch. I ;ove Kazuko Aoki's work which is just gorgeous, do you know that? I just love her fields of wildflowers and her clubchairs or couches that look like fields of grass with little flowers scattered in it. How I would love to make something similar. Haven't found the time yet though and wouldn't quite honestly know how to start.

    1. Hello Marian!

      It's so lovely to read your comment this evening. Yes, I greatly admire Kazuko Aoki's work and have, infact, one of her books: The Wildlife Garden which, you may know, is purely cross stitch. Do you have it? Her designs in that book are simple and effective. Now I am off to research, thanks to you, her couches of grass... Sounds perfect to me; nature and art making friends again ;-)


  49. Your mother's lovely painting puts me in mind of "The Country Diary of an Edwardian Lady".

    Those cards are exquisite, and Violette so very humanly girlish looking. What lovely lace on her beautiful little dress, and yes, her bonnet is very Hollie Hobby-ish. It's funny that you should mention doll's clothes, for I was just thinking about some doll-sized crochet designs.

    How do I bring nature or gardens into the house? That's a rather difficult question to answer. I can't bear to cut flowers or twigs, so I try to enjoy them out-of-doors. We have several potted plants that give us great pleasure (especially in winter). My 2013 picture-a-day calendar features photos and images from the Metropolitan Museum of Art (NY), and the February page is devoted to "Gardens" - from Impressionist and Pre-Raphaelite paintings to mediaeval tapestries to a Durer engraving of Adam and Eve. And Morris textiles. All are lovely.

    P.S. I love the work of William Morris. So beautifully balanced and stylized. I don't think I'd want entire walls full of it - I do like things plain and simple. But some Morris cushions or curtains would be wonderful.

    P.P.S. Happy belated birthday to your dear little daughter. :)

  50. I am glad I found your blog post. I love the needlework. Here is my recent post with needlework.


  51. Blog are goods for every one where we get all information we needed nice job keep it up !


Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...