Dear friend, are you ready to embark upon a serious embroidery endeavour with me? I have here, sketched, planned, and transferred, the most ambitious embroidery project I’ve ever attempted: a beautiful garden bouquet. I’m equal parts nervous and excited about it. It will feature techniques I haven’t tried yet, some tried-and-true favourites, and of course, loads of beautiful flowers!
Let’s go on a garden tour and I will show you the inspiration behind the pattern. I suggest you put on your best hat and gloves, and you mustn’t forget a basket for you will surely wish to pick a few blooms for yourself. 😉 We are going to visit my grandmother’s garden.
A Garden Bouquet
The title of this piece is “Bouquet du Jardin Turenne”, which is French for “Turenne Garden Bouquet”. As far as I can remember, my grandparents have always had the most beautiful garden. My childhood memories are full of colourful flower-beds, well-tended and orderly, where butterflies swirl and birds chirp. I remember being sent to pick currants with my brothers and cousins, and I remember the smell of thyme and fallen rose petals.
My fondest memory of the garden however, has to be the raspberries. On either side of the house, there grows the biggest, juiciest and most perfect raspberries of all. They are truly unequaled. And there was always such a quantity of them!
Sketching the Design
Such happy, wonderful moments were spent in my grandparents’ garden. I have many cousins, and we all cherish fond memories of outdoor fun and botanical lessons. My grandparents recently celebrated 55 years of marriage, and although my gift will be late, I really wanted to make something worthy of the occasion. The idea of an embroidered bouquet inspired by their garden had been brewing in my mind for a while, and in fact I started sketching the piece about a year ago.
If you know me, you know I will tell you I’m no sketcher. I belong to the race of those “who can’t draw”. But as all the experts say, anybody can draw. You just need a lot of patience and determination. Well, this is no Mona Lisa, but I’m really proud to say that after many efforts, endless erasing and frustration, I managed to sketch this entire design by myself. I had recourse to Pinterest for reference images, but I actually drew the whole thing! I’m so happy with this achievement. Even if the embroidery completely fails, I will be proud of this at least!
Picking the Flowers
Choosing which florals to include was a massive task. I began by recruiting my mom to help me make a list of as many flowers as we could name from the grandparents’ garden. There have been A LOT over the years. I wanted the bouquet to represent the most staple specimens of the garden, while also staying balanced. For this reason, an apple tree branch was painstakingly drawn and unfortunately erased. I wanted to feature some of my favourites from the garden, as well as elements I knew were also special to my grandparents.
Therefore, our final contestants were the wild roses, the raspberries, the day lily, the currants, and yellow daisies. I began to realize, as I sketched and pondered that nearly all the elements I wanted to include were similar colours; pink roses, red raspberries, red currants, pink lily. It needed a splash of yellow so I added the daisies at the end. Originally I envisioned the lily orange, but Mom assures me that there never was an orange lily in my grandparents’ garden (I must have confused it with ours). So light pink it will be.
How to Begin Such a Project
The overall size of the bouquet isn’t very big, approx. 9 1/2″x 8″ and just fits in a 10 1/2″ hoop (the title is too close to the hoop edge, but that’s ok), but there are many elements fairly close together. As I mentioned earlier, I will use different techniques to embroider, so I think the best way to proceed is to break it down into sections. Ideally, it’s best to work back to front; you start with the elements the most in the background, and build onto it. That way, you achieve a more natural effect.
Since many of my flowers and leaves overlap each other, I’ve decided to work on it one species at a time instead. It will be less confusing to organize and keep track of threads, and I won’t have to switch techniques continuously.
Transferring the Pattern
Once I was happy with my sketch came the
fun part of transferring the design onto my fabric. I chose a nice, thick off-white cotton with a broad enough weave to support some ribbonwork. Unfortunately it was rather hard to mark with the pencil! I normally make a copy of my pattern by tracing it with a fine Sharpie on a piece of tracing paper. Then I use a lightbox and a mechanical pencil to transfer the pattern onto the fabric.
It did work and overall the markings should be satisfactory enough, but a heat-erasable or water-soluble pen might have been useful to go over some lines. Thankfully, the main outlines and positions of all the flowers and leaves are visible, so that’s all that really matters. It’s usually better to have fewer markings on the fabric than too many. If you look at my original sketch vs. what I transferred to the fabric, you’ll see that all the little details are missing.
That’s intentional, because not only is it really hard to get fine, precise lines transferred on fabric, but it’s also a bit of a waste of time, because all those details are added at the end usually on top of existing stitches. So I like to include details in my sketch for reference, but on the actual fabric, the needle and thread will do all the work 😉.
Up next: The Wild Rose
I will be starting with the branches of wild roses, since they will be the most time-consuming. I’ve pulled out as many shades of pink as I could find, and I’ll be working them in long & short stitch to achieve the art needlework effect.
I’m really excited, and I can’t wait to show you the result! Stay tuned for the next instalment of this Garden Bouquet project, as the roses bloom and we can admire them together. Thank you so much for joining me on my needlework adventures!
Check out these other posts if you like floral embroidery with a vintage vibe:
Happy stitching and until next time!