Friday, 16 May 2014

The Year In Books: A Violet Season

Dear readers,

Before leaving for Paris this weekend to spend time with my family I am squeezing in a post after almost a month's silence.
Although the season for wild violets came to a close early April in our corner of France I have been cultivating my love for these tiny blooms with hand-dyed threads and a beautifully-penned book. 

In a recent post of mine, also dedicated to violets, the author Kathy Leonard Czepiel wrote a comment gently suggesting I read her debut novel  A Violet Season (published in 2012).  It took me two minutes to order it and two evenings to devour its two hundred and fifty odd pages.
I recall my primary school master decades ago urging us not to judge a book by its cover but his cautionary words flew out of my head when I set eyes on this pretty cover.  Fortunately, in this case, this book is both beautiful without and within.  It is also hard and frank; a dark tale of a hardscrabble life set in 1898 on a violet farm Upstate New York.  Leonard Czepiel's carefully researched and constructed novel carried me back to the turn of the twentieth century and kept my senses alive with every page I turned.  It is a finely-written tribute to late nineteenth-century women's endurance which has put in check my daily and trivial grumbles.  The booming violet industry provides a sensual backdrop to the dashed hopes and drudgery of most women who must endure the sometimes heartless decisions and subterfuge of their menfolk and teaches the reader how hardy both violets and women can be.  It is also a book delightfully stuffed with details of the everyday life of over a century ago.  Glimpses of city life provide a counterpoint to the Fletcher family's rural existence.  Household chores, Christmas traditions - violets were grown over winter, not spring - and one of the early sewing machines makes an appearance too!

I will not share the storyline of A Violet Season with you but I will say that a woman's relationship with her daughter is damaged (beyond repair?) as they both make dreadful sacrifices for their family's survival.

And the violets in the first picture above?  They are a work in progress from Blackbird Designs (I purchased the sampler chart, linen, and threads from here ) and the perfect complement to my recent reading.  The violets are stitched on Iced Cappuccino hand-dyed linen from R & R Reproductions with Weeks Dye Works floss in River Rock, Stepping Stone, and Stone colourways.
Finally, in a desire to feed Angélique's overwhelming enthusiasm for Nursery Rhymes two years ago I stumbled across Salley Mavor's stunning textile artwork through this book.  I recall showing it to my mother on one of her visits to our home and she too was in awe of this amazing artist's attention to detail and the rich colours she uses.
A few weeks ago I purchased a signed copy of Salley Mavor's Self Portrait: A Personal History of Fashion.  I was touched to receive a second copy, also autographed, which I decided with the artist's approval, to send as a gift to one of you.  This fabric relief sculpture incorporates miniature dolls which represent each year of the artist's life; each one is hand-stitched and displays a wealth of details of fashion over the past fifty years.
If you are interested in receiving a copy of this work of art together with a poster of Mavor's beautiful Blossom Fairies please leave me a comment below.  I will announce the winner in just over a week.

I hope you are all well and happy.  I dedicate this post to my American friends who are finally enjoying violets after a long winter.

I have the pleasure of joining in with Laura's May version of The Year In Books.

Stephanie xx

ps BE WARNED!  To celebrate (almost) three full years of this small blog of mine there will be a Spring Hare Giveaway on my next post.  She is blooming, kitsch and cheery in equal measures!


  1. I absolutely love the scent of violets - my favourite ever. They were my maternal grandmamma's favourites, and I have violet plants in my garden that were given to me by my paternal grandmamma - so the scent is particularly special and evocative for me. And I adore your embroidery!

  2. I too adore violets, I wear welsh violet perfume :)
    I am hopeless at cross stitch, I just don't have the patience for it, but i do love it. How exciting to be able to join in the giveaway <3 have a wonderful time en Paris, i'm deeply envious, I wish i could go with you to one of my favourite cities in the world xx

  3. I spied some wild violets growing in the shared path between our terraced houses. They were so beautiful that I had to stop and admire them. I am hoping that they might seed in my garden too!
    Best wishes

  4. That sounds like an excellent read. We always have wild violets on our front lawn in the Spring. The Sally Mavor book looks amazing - all that detail in those adorable little dolls.Have a wonderful weekend in Paris.

  5. oh dear stephanie, your stitching, your words! i love the cross stitched violets, beautiful thread and linen, gorgeous! i loved your book review (you have such a way with words, so eloquent and sincere, i need this book now too!) and the book by salley mavor, oh my good ness. LOVE times ten. i've hand stitched many dolls for my girls and then to sell in later years, her detailed dolls brought back so many memories. perhaps it might be time to pick up a needle and thread again (if i could only put down my knitting needles!). thank you for offering this book as a giveaway, thanking salley too, it would be THRILLING to win!
    have a wonderful time in paris! xoxo

    p.s. i saw the photo madelief took in the shawl, she and it are stunning. well done.

  6. Violets are so pretty, your book looks very skillful and interesting, I would love a closer look... beautiful..

  7. Your post sings out to me! You know how I adore violets, and I'm going to look up that violet cross stitch straight away...and the book, too! I'm halfway through the mysterious and magical 'Night Circus', so I shall have this new book ready when I finish. I have been a fan of Sally Mavor's for a while - I have her 'Felt Wee Folk' book with the intention of making my own little people for my children. She certainly works magic with her fabrics and threads! Enjoy Paris! Chrissie xxx

  8. Hello Stephanie, what a lovely post - both the stitches and the words, and such a generous giveaway! I too have enjoyed sharing Sally Mavor's books with my children years ago, but if I'm honest I still dip into them now and again, just for the sheer enjoyment of her creations :) Hope you enjoy your time away with your family, ali.x.

  9. I hope you have a fun visit with your family, I am partial to violets that are sprinkled throughout our lawn :)

  10. Violets remind one of times gone by. The book looks interesting, would love to read it. So generous.


  11. Hello sweet Stephanie ..... I have missed you x
    Such a delightfully perfect post, I adore your stitching and I'm off to add a violet season to my wish list, sounds wonderful.
    I would love to be entered in the book giveaway, what a magnificent front cover, I could gaze at that for days on end!
    Wishing you a wonderful trip.
    Jooles x x x

  12. Bonjour Stephanie .............. You already know Violets are my favourite flowers and the book sounds right up my street :) I shall order a copy. What a wonderful giveaway ................ enjoy Paris you lucky thing. Much love, Sheila (aka Vi)

  13. Oh the little dolls are so beautiful Stephanie as is your wonderful stitching!! Thank you so much for the giveaway.
    I still have a little Violet blooming in a pot. :)
    Enjoy Paris!
    V xxx

  14. What a treat! A perfect post again. Where to begin? Your spring violet embroidy is a marvel. And I'll take two minutes to order the book!
    I can't wait for next week :)
    Much love,

  15. Dear Stephanie - I was so fascinated to see the work by Salley Mavor that I found her blog and read all about her. It was lovely to see her work on the blog and discover what a talented needle women she is, and the totally unique way she uses her skill.

  16. Dear, lovely Stephanie! Savouring every word of this beautiful post, as always. And who could resist such a generous give-away offer? Have a wonderful time in Paris, À bientôt! xx

  17. Your post just reminded me... I know a place where wild violets used to grow... Gonna check this weekend if that is stll the case.
    And the embroidery - absolutely beautiful, what a treasure!

  18. I'm not entering the giveaway but wanted to comment...
    That sounds like a solid good piece of historical fiction. Life was simpler in the olden days but how stalwart women and girls were during hardships. Most of us have silly first world problems.

  19. Thanks, Stephanie, for such a lovely review! The violets are, indeed, in bloom right now in my Connecticut garden. I'm glad you enjoyed the book, and I'm passing your blog along to friends whom I know will love it.

  20. Stephanie, I do not know where to begin my comments on this lovely blog.

    Grand to know that your trip was good, and also that family will be visiting you in France.

    Marvelous to see those embroidered violets, the chart is wonderful, your own choice of linen and threads those of a true lover of those tiny, but strong little violets. I'd not before heard of either author you've mentioned, but will surely attempt to find out more.

    Recently, our New York City weather has become more springlike, and lots of flowers are in bloom, including beautiful violets. I love spending time outdoors (when I can) but also am enjoying reading and knitting which I generally enjoy indoors. How on earth would I cope if I actually had a garden of my own?

    I would love to have my name entered into your giveaway. I so look forward to seeing your next post. More joy will surely be delivered. xo

  21. I cannot resist to this beauty : please, coin me in!!!!!
    Have a lovely time in Paris, Stephanie!!!
    xxxxxxx ale

  22. Thanks for another lovely post, Stephanie. I have been out and about involved in visits with dear friends and emotionally charged life choices. Visiting your post has invited me to enjoy peace and appreciate beauty ... your sweet violets.

    Reading your last violet post and the comments with it led me to purchase an e-book copy of the book you reviewed in this post. I lived for nearly 18 years in New York near the site of the setting of the book and was curious about the book's content. Unlike you, however, I have not read the book yet. Thanks for sharing some of your impressions of it.

    The art poster you are giving away is amazing! I want to explore her work more and am grateful for your introduction to it.

    Blessings to you and yours xx

  23. Dear Stephanie,

    Such a beautiful post and I adore the sweet fragrance of violets and love your needlework you are doing. The History book of Fashion looks wonderful and such a kind and generous giveaway.
    enjoy your special time away with your family.

  24. I was going to leave a comment here anyway after seeing your wonderful stitchery but what a wonderful bonus to be in with a chance to win this beautiful book!
    I love how your embroidery looks in that dark frame, as though it's from another era. :) How very inspiring it must feel to be working on linen named 'Iced Cappuccino' and all hand dyed too! So very beautiful.
    Jess xx

  25. My dear Stephanie, I missed you so much. To see your new post is a delight and yet I am very late here, the joy is fresh as a violet for me. I wish you the best trip to Paris, and ENJOY! The textile art here is stunning, and I also saw Madelief's blog and she mentioned she received a lovely stole from you! I hope to one day purchase one from you and I know I will enjoy it!

    To a lovely friend and lover of nature and all that is beautiful...grace and love to you, Anita

  26. We have wild violets growing here and there. I love them and love your embroidery too. I haven't embroidered since I was a teenager. Perhaps I should take it up again!

  27. Dear Stephanie, a month is always worth waiting for one of your delicious posts:-) The embroidery here is beautiful and the book - well that really has me intrigued...

    I love violets and still have a few here and there in the shady part of the garden.

    The following is a lovely poem by Robert Herrick (1591-1674) in praise of the delightful violet. I posted it on my blog in April 2012 when I was into all things Elizabethan:-)

    Welcome, maids of honour!
    You do bring
    In the spring;
    And wait upon her.

    She has virgins many,
    Fresh and fair;
    Yet you are
    More sweet than any.

    You're the maiden posies,
    And so graced,
    To be placed,
    'Fore damask roses.

    Yet though thus respected,
    By and by
    Ye do lie
    Poor girls, neglected.

    Have a wonderful time in Paris!


  28. What a lovely post.Beautiful work-so fine.I would love to be entered in the giveaway.

  29. On Stephanie, I feel so much joy when I see you have written a new blog post. You have the most wonderful way with words.
    As to violets, we have them growing in the garden, both violet violets and white violets. They were a favourite of my grandmother's and always bring back memories of this wonderfully kind and wise lady.
    It's always good to have a recommendation for a well written book and I shall follow your link and find out more about it.
    I love Sally Mavor's work. Her attention to detail is exquisite.
    Enjoy your time with your family and I shall wait patiently for your next post.

  30. Dear Stephanie,
    I so look forward to your lovely, thought-filled posts. Thank you much for sharing yourself with the World. I adore violets, so especially appreciated the theme of this post.
    Wishing you a wonderful visit with your family.

  31. Stephanie...your post reminded me that violets were my mother's favorite flower! Funny, how just a word or photo can evoke long forgotten memories! Your work in progress is lovely. The book suggestion is noted and will be included in the next book order, as well as, the lovely Pocketful of Posies by Salley Mavor. What a delightfully illustrated book! You are too kind to share your copy of Sally's new book as a give away! Good wishes for a delightful family holiday!

  32. I would be thrilled to be entered in this fabulous giveaway! Thank you for sharing your talents with all of us.

  33. I have just ordered "A violet season" and I am very much looking forward to reading it soon. I came for a visit through the year of books and I am glad I did. I'll be back for more. I would love to be the proud owner of a copy of Sally Mavor's book. Enjoy Paris. x

  34. aw, i love violets....I've seen sally mavor's work before, it's amazing!-thanks for the chance to win the book ; )

  35. Thank you for your visit, Stephanie - it was lovely to see your name at Pondside.
    I will look for the book - I have found that recommendations from bloggers are unfailingly good!
    As for violets.....I spent much of yesterday working on flower beds and admiring the violets growing in the shady places - so very sweet and unexpected even though I find them year after year.
    Thank you for the opportunity to enter your draw!

  36. Another wonderful post from you Stephanie. It reminded me that I have one of the wee folk books and did not look at it for a long time. A pity really, it is truly lovely and Salleys art is sweet and soft and delicious. My grandchildren and I made together some little people with funny little hats taken from nature, found under trees, and I remember I was hunting in craft shops for fabric flowers to take apart for the skirts and wings. The girls are big now and the book is resting on the shelf. :-)
    I was happy to hear you made another hare, I wish you would never stop creating them.
    Enjoy your time in Paris! :-)

  37. I am in love at first sight with "Pocketful of Posies: A Treasury of Nursery Rhymes!" I never knew such a book existed! Thank you so much for writing about it! I am on the hunt now to get my hands on books from Salley Mavor! Have a wonderful time in Paris!

  38. I enjoy your blog very much over here in Canada. It's great to be able to participate in one of your draws, and I hope I'm lucky -- but if not, thank you all the same for the blog! Best regards, Sarah

  39. Stephanie,
    Here at the farm we have several varieties of violets in our lawns and gardens. There are yellow, white with deep purple throats, soft blue/violet, solid white, and a few dark blue. By far the most prolific are the white with purple. They make a joyful fairy bouquet which makes me smile as I spy them on the window ledge above my kitchen sink.
    I have cross stitched several violet pieces and your post reminds me that I had begun a set of wreaths that represent the four seasons. Spring, a wreath of violets is finished, as is the winter holly. Both the summer and autumn are in process. I think this may be just the time to get back to work on them again, but in the meantime, enjoy the violet piece.
    The Self Portrait book looks absolutely charming. Isn't it wonderful that we live in such a time that we can share these across the miles with the simple stroke on a keyboard.
    Hope you had a very fine visit with your family and are enjoying a lovely spring. With my warm regards.

  40. What a lovely post! Your stitchery is just beautiful -- such fun to have a post on the theme of violets. And I love Salley Mavor -- her little people are just to beautiful. I've always wanted to try some of her projects -- oh, to have the time! I can't wait to see your bunny giveaway!

  41. Hi Stephanie,
    So lovely to 'meet' you too! Thank you for your kind comment on my blog.
    I have enjoyed reading your beautiful posts.
    Looking forward to keeping in touch and I hope you have a wonderful time in Paris.
    Have a lovely day,
    Liz x

  42. Hello Stephanie, I love your cross stitch picture, and was thrilled to see your post about violets as I have just finished painting a cupboard which i decorated with violets. I was at a craft fair at the weekend and saw a most lovely velvet lampshade which was decorated with velvet violets, so there must be something in the air? The book about the violet farm sounds like something I would enjoy too.
    You are very generous with your giveaways and your talent. Have a lovely trip to Paris. With love, Linda x

  43. Yes, we are only now enjoying our violets! Deep blue, rich purple, pale lavender, and white with blue-veined throats - I love them all.

    That novel sounds well worth reading for the historical detail alone - thank you for recommending it. I had no idea there was such a thing as a violet industry. (I do love the word "violet", don't you? It looks as nice as what it represents, even with such an unlikely companion as "industry".)

    That textile art is simply amazing. I would love to get a closer look at those images!

    Enjoy your time in Paris. :)

  44. Hello Stephanie,

    I always enjoy your posts regardless of whether they are a week or a month apart. I'm thinking I'm due for a little bloggy break myself......I hope you had a wonderful time in Paris. I am completely envious that you live close enough to just pop down for the weekend. Sadly no Violets in this part of the world but that book sounds very enticing and your cross stitch is just lovely. I would love to be part of your giveaway for the beautiful book.....

    Have a lovely weekend!

    Mel x

  45. STEPHANIE! I will come via email - but thank you so much for coming to my new post. I will be back. Anita

  46. Beautiful stitching. Violets are so dainty and so lovely. I adore them. I just wanted to stop by and let you know how much I appreciated the email and your kind words about my Mom. She is slowly fading but still with us which I am so thankful for. Looking forward to seeing more hares and we still have to discuss the doll.


  47. Dear Stephanie..
    Wishing you a wonderful time away... with your loved ones..
    I LOVE every thing about this beautiful post...so very pretty!
    Wild Violets remind me of my Mama..
    She adored them too..I can't resist picking them and placing in the prettiest china cup by her photograph now..
    With kindest hugs..and thank you always for the kindest of words over in my little corner..
    Maria x

  48. Hello Stephanie, It is indeed violet time in America. We just had some sprinkles and the violets are finally popping up, at last. So Beautiful cross stitch. Please put my name in your drawing for the book/poster.
    A bientôt, Anne------PlumCreek22 ------etsy

  49. I cannot remember whether I entered this lovely giveaway or not :( If I have entered twice I am sorry Stephanie .............. fingers crossed .................. aka Vi x

  50. I love violets and my mum did too - they remind me of her!

  51. Jenna@theoutspokenyam.com

    It has indeed been the longest winter in America, but now the flowers are blooming beautifully!

  52. Am I too late to enter this competition... I really hope not! I've just found your blog and lovely work, and would love to win this beautiful poster of the 'wee folk'. Violets always remind me of my granny, who used to keep some of the sweetie variety (Parma Violets) in her brown click-shut handbag. She loved them, and so do I!

  53. I admit that you do extraordinary work that fascinates me.


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