Sunday, May 4, 2014

One Crewel Mama

My dear mama has always been a stitching and gardening inspiration to me, in fact an inspiration in all kinds of ways, and lately I have been much impressed with the crewel curtains she recently finished for her dining room.  To be truthful they weren't created specifically for her dining room, they just ended up there because they fitted the size of the windows.  They are magnificent and part of their charm (to me) lies in the fact that they are so out of scale and naive in their composition.  Each curtain has a central "tree of life" design, and attached to the tree are many and varied creatures, flowers and foliage to suit the imagination  of the stitcher, including butterflies, various insects, unicorns and many birds.

Something about the crewel embroideries struck a chord in my memory and after much fossicking about in the upper most shelves of my (extensive) stitching library this weekend I retrieved the first embroidery book I ever purchased and found this illustration 


I was given a "book token" for what must have ten my seventh or eighth birthday and bought this book, which must have set me on my wicked stitching path.  I remember sewing a cross stitch sampler on grey cloth (similar to aida), which had reindeer and odd Scandinavian looking ladies and men on it as well.  I wish I had kept that sampler, even if only to remind me that I have made some progress on my stitching journey.  

The other thing which has preoccupied me this weekend has been the struggle in the garden.  Having knocked back the Jerusalem artichokes last weekend and cleared some space, it was time to fill in the space with "good doers".  I was mightily impressed last season by the verdant parsley and convinced I would never need to buy another seedling, such was the bounteous growth.  Much the same with last winter's pansies.  Having waited patiently for the seedlings to appear it was eventually time to admit defeat and buy replacement seedlings.  No sooner did I take out my trowel and commence planting than I saw the parsley growing all through the lawn

and likewise with the pansies, though they at least had the decency to sprout in the actual garden beds rather than in the grass.

This acanthus was planted as a tiny struggling plant, and I was very much impressed with its glossy foliage and thought it might have been wiser to plant it at the back of the border, rather than giving it prime position.  I cut back its older leaves and was surprised to find that the new ones were making rampant growth in autumn.  

But then I was alarmed to find tiny acanthus leaves emerging through the brick paths and wondered whether they spread through an underground network of roots - but how had they travelled so far?  It was only then that I remembered how charmed we all were one day in late summer when we heard loud explosive cracking noises and realised that the seed heads of the acanthus were bursting open - obviously the seeds were propelled far and wide, probably germinating in the lawn as well but being beheaded by the mower and only surviving in safer areas.  It looks as though yet another thug has found its way into the garden at Shoestring Cottage and perhaps it might be best to make a circular Colisseum garden with all the gladiators left to fight it out.  We could have the Jerusalem artichokes, the acanthus, the plume poppies and those strange lilies with the network of white veins over their leaves all in one area until there was one victor.  


  1. What a beautiful and unique pair of crewel drapes your mother has created. I found them so charming and inspiring. My mother covered her dining chairs in her crewel design when I was a child. I still have them but they have faded badly. Still, I love them.

    1. So pleased that you liked the curtains Egretta. Those things made by our family members are so special, aren't they? You must be very glad to still have the crewel work your mum did for her dining chairs and sometimes the fading and changes brought about by time only add to the enjoyment. :)