Hello dear friend,
Today on the blog, I have something very special to show you: a beaded blackberries embroidery project. I’ve been planning it out for a long time and it’s inspired by one of my favourite books. It turned out even better than I expected and I have been so looking forward to sharing it with you all! To add to the excitement, my work was also featured on Hannah’s lovely blog The Bohemian Bookworm just yesterday! I highly encourage you to give her a visit. Her blog is full of charming bookish and period drama inspiration (not to mention it now features an amazing book review and embroidery project by yours truly!).
Ahhh, Venetia! What a complete delight of a book you are! (If we take out the parts with Mrs. Scorrier, of course. And Edward Yardley. He is most definitely not delightful.) I’ve mentioned it on my blog before, in my post called 10 Wonderful Classic Books to Read This Summer (although after revisiting it lately, I have realized that a large portion of it takes place in autumn, so…what better time to go read it than now?!). I also wrote a full
gushy, incoherent essay on it over on Goodreads, if you want more of my fangirling thoughts on it.
My Thoughts on Venetia
One of Georgette Heyer’s most acclaimed works and a favourite among readers, Venetia is undoubtedly one of my favourite romances of all times. I assure you that you will seldom find a more perfect one. While Heyer’s Regency novels tend to be more comedy than romance, Venetia is certainly more romance than comedy. The signature funny, witty style is there of course, but it’s overall more serious and lyrical than her typical screwball comedy.
Taking place in the countryside of Yorkshire in 1818, the story is rather quiet (despite the passionate romance scalding off the pages) for a Heyer book. Although Venetia does go to London later in the book, this is not your usual romp full of glittering balls and soirées. It’s a more mature story, with an “older” heroine (really, she’s only 25, but most Heyer heroines tend to be 17-20) and everyone’s favourite seasoned rake, Lord Damerel, kindly christened the Wicked Baron by Venetia and her siblings.
“‘[…]your quotations don’t make your advances a whit more acceptable to me – and they don’t deceive me into thinking you anything but a pestilent, complete knave!’”.
A Beautiful Romance
There is no doubt that Venetia and Lord Damerel are among Heyer’s best-matched couples, if not the best. Most readers unanimously agree that they are perfect for each other, unlike some other couples. Their romance is ultimately grounded in solid trust and friendship nearly from the start (we shall magnanimously gloss over the aforementioned “advances”). They laugh together, share inside jokes, understand each other, and best of all, they can’t stop quoting classic literature.
‘Item, two lips, indifferent red-’
‘Oh, no, you’re quite out, and have gone to the wrong poet besides! They look like rosebuds filled with snow!’”
Ahh. Their bond is undeniably strong, and unlike in other Heyer novels, you don’t have to read between the lines to see how attracted they are to each other, and how much in love they soon fall. It’s palpable in their every interaction. I might make it sound a little spicy, but fear not, this is a clean book. 😉 Orgies may be mentioned now and again, but what’s to be expected from a novel so bent on referencing ancient Greece and Rome if not to throw in a little orgy (pardon me, a splendid orgy!)?
I’m kidding of course, there are no orgies in this book. It’s all in good taste, I promise. For all this talk about passionate romance, that isn’t exactly what makes their relationship so good. As mentioned previously, it’s the fact that they are so completely in tune with each other and become such good friends so quickly.
The Idyllic Setting
I think this is probably the passage that touches me the most in the entire book, and trust me there’s a lot in there to delight you. But that sweet passage, the opening of Chapter 5, in which she wakes up to the delicious memory that she has found a friend in Lord Damerel is just so pure and heart-melting that I can’t help sighing contentedly.
The imagery conjured up is also very beautiful. Venetia awaking – probably wearing a charmingly embroidered white nightgown – to the first rays of sunlight on a golden autumn day, a thrush sweetly singing in the garden…Very romantic and period-drama-esque indeed.
Georgette Heyer’s books are always lavishly detailed, usually describing people’s dress at length, providing a veritable treasure trove of ideas for historical costumers. In Venetia however, I found the setting and romantic tones of the book even more inspiring. I love to create embroideries inspired by classic novels, and the blackberry project came to mind from what is surely the most famous “first encounter” scene between the hero and heroine in all GH’s books.
‘Fair Fatality, you are the most unusual female I have encountered in all my thirty-eight years!’
‘You can’t think how deeply flattered I am!’ she assured him. ‘I daresay my head would be quite turned if I didn’t suspect that amongst so many a dozen or so may have slipped from your memory.’”
Repeatedly warned by family and friends against the dangerously rakish Lord Damerel, Venetia nevertheless doesn’t scruple to wander about his grounds when she knows he is not at home. He’s not there, darn it, and his blackberries are going to waste!
It came, therefore, as a surprise to Venetia, serenely filling her basket with his blackberries, when she discovered that he was much nearer at hand than anyone had supposed.”
Naturally, who should happen upon the charming picture of Venetia in an old dress and straw bonnet quietly picking blackberries but Lord Damerel himself (on his horse, no less)? Actually, he happens upon her as she is trying to disentangle herself from an especially encroaching bramble. He then starts (naturally) to quote classic literature, and after recovering from the shock of being ruthlessly kissed, Venetia starts (naturally) to quote back. I love this unforgettable scene so much, and have associated Venetia with blackberries ever since.
The Project: Beaded Blackberries
I’ve been dreaming of embroidering my own beaded blackberries after seeing beautiful photos on Pinterest and in the book Embroideries From an English Garden by Carol Andrews. What a perfect project that would always remind me of Venetia!
The design is my own, and I embroidered the piece using different techniques.
The Embroidered Leaves
I started by stitching the leaves and branch in needle-painting style, using the long & short stitch. I’ve talked about this technique before in my post Garden Bouquet Embroidery Part 2: Wild Roses. It was a little faster here because I used two strands for most of it, except for the veins and tiny thorns that border the leaves’ jagged edges. I used very small straight stitches for those.
The Ribbon Flowers
Next, I created the flowers with small pieces of ribbon. I wanted them to have the round petals of a real blackberry flower. To do this, I cut out each petal out of a wide piece of ribbon and singed the raw edges with a candle. Then I ran a gathering stitch along the bottom to create a fold, and sewed each petal one by one to form the flower. I later added the center details using embroidery floss.
I used polyester ribbon which wasn’t the best and it unraveled easily, but the candle flame and a bit of Fray Check glue did the trick. 😉
The Beaded Blackberries
And finally, for the blackberries, I knew I wanted to use beads to make them sparkle and shine and look as good as real ones. I also wanted to raise them a little bit, so I decided to do a bit of stumpwork. Stumpwork is raised, or 3D, embroidery, and one of my favourite things to try lately. I used felt and pieces of cotton ball to create the blackberry shape, and then hand-sewed beads one by one to cover the shape entirely.
And voilà, beaded blackberries! I’m immensely pleased with how it turned out! It was a lot of tedious work but I enjoyed it a lot and it certainly paid off. And now I’m reminded of Damerel and Venetia’s witty banter and swoon-worthy romance every time I look at my beaded blackberries. It probably didn’t help that I compulsively listened to the audiobook version narrated by Richard Armitage while I worked!
A Bit of Floriography (because I can’t resist)
Of course, I was very curious as to the meaning of the blackberry per the Language of Flowers of the Victorians. I have the handy pocketbook reproduction of the dictionary illustrated by Kate Greenaway (which you can see here), and while there was no entry for “blackberry”, there was one for “bramble”.
Bramble = Lowliness. Envy. Remorse.
Well! Not exactly the most joyful thing, but in the context of what we know of Damerel’s character at that point in the story, lowliness would seem fitting! When he surprises Venetia tangled up in brambles, all she (and the reader) know of him is his unsavoury reputation as a degenerate hosting wild orgies during hunting season. Low indeed. Remorse definitely comes later as he starts falling in love with Venetia, but there is no sign of envy about him at all.
Very interesting, isn’t it? I would say the bramble’s floriography meaning is pretty spot on in the context of the story! Although floriography hadn’t really caught on yet in society in 1818, (and I’ve never heard that Heyer purposefully included references to it in her books) it’s always nice when the significance proves apt (or somewhat apt) anyways!
Don’t forget to visit Hannah over at The Bohemian Bookworm! I’m very happy and honoured to have been invited to post on her blog and I hope that you enjoyed reading my thoughts on Venetia and seeing my beaded blackberries project. Thank you so much, Hannah, for inviting me on and letting me share my project! 😊
And to conclude, I highly, HIGHLY recommend that you read Venetia (and Georgette Heyer in general) if you haven’t already. You won’t regret it. It’s such an idyllic experience that you won’t want it to end (if you’ve read the book, you will understand this reference haha!).
Until next time, my friends! I should have the next instalment of the Garden Bouquet up on the blog this Saturday.