Reader, I absolutely love Jane Eyre. I first saw it in the spring of 2011. My mom and I would periodically rent period drama DVDs from our local library, and we decided to give the 2006 mini-series a go over the Easter weekend. I don’t think either of us had ever been more mesmerized by a movie, ever. We were so caught up in the story that we watched all four hours of it with no sense of passing time at all. My, but was it captivating!
Watching Jane Eyre every spring is now tradition for us (and we’ve started watching it over Christmas too) and it seems to get better every time. I’ve since seen many other adaptations, but none is as good as this one. I read the book in the summer of 2012, and fell even more in love with it than ever. I remember there being lots of rain and thunderstorms nearly every evening I read the book, which suited itself so perfectly to the atmosphere.
Jane Eyre is now forever evocative of the late spring/early summer season, of blooming flowers, rain-soaked trees, and thunderstorms.
I love it to the moon and back.
There’s something I’ve always found irresistible about love stories between a governess and the master of the house. And while romance is certainly not this novel’s only merit, it is rather center stage and one of the greatest love stories in English literature (probably in all literature, lol).
While researching my Honours project on the relationship between the Language of Flowers and hand embroidery in the Victorian era, I came across several examples of its use in literature as well. The wonderful Language of Flowers companion, A Victorian Flower Dictionary by Mandy Kirkby discussed the significance of the lilac flower in Jane Eyre.
Lilac: First Emotions of Love
It’s no surprise, then, that the lilac appears during the love declaration scene. (Spoiler alert if you haven’t read this book yet!!) When Jane and Rochester passionately declare their feelings for each other, they’re standing in front of a blooming lilac tree. This is the scene where you get the famous I AM NO BIRD AND I WILL NOT BE CAGED quote.
I am no bird; and no net ensnares me: I am a free human being with an independent will; which I now exert to leave you.Charlotte Brontë, Jane Eyre
Ok, I was off, but it’s such an incredible moment in this story! (and one which so many of the film adaptations had trouble capturing, but don’t get me started!)
Although technically neither are experiencing the “first” emotions of love at that moment since their feelings built over time, the lilac is still significant. For Jane it’s the first time she’s ever been in love and is able to give in to her feelings. For Rochester it’s certainly the first time he’s known true love. (I make this sound like some sort of sappy fairytale, but I assure you it’s not!! :P)
And during that scene under the lilac tree, it’s the first time they finally confess their feelings. Even though you, dear reader, know they will fall in love from the moment they meet (again with the syrupy fairytale…).
I knew when I came across that passage in Kirkby’s book that I would have to embroider lilacs in honour of Jane Eyre. I already had a project in mind, this insanely gorgeous branch from a pattern by Carol Andrews in her book Embroideries from an English Garden.
It’s a bit ambitious, especially since I’d never tried the bullion knot before (and the instructions called for EIGHT per flower!), but I was determined to give it a go.
I can safely say that this is hands-down my favourite thing I’ve ever embroidered. It turned out so well, despite some insanely last-minute stitching that became pretty stressful. I wanted to turn the embroidery into a journal cover as a Christmas gift for my mom, but in classic me style I left most of the stitching until the last few days before Christmas and I was STRESSED. But I did it! And boy am I happy with it!
It’s really the beads that do it for me, they add so much charm and life to it, I just love it. I’m definitely using beads again in future embroideries!
The project is honestly not even that hard, it’s just really time-consuming because there are many layers to think of.
First, the leaves, stems, and branch. I used long & short stitch and whatever green threads I had on hand that matched the recommended ones as closely as possible (gotta do what you gotta do when the fabric store is closed). The instructions called for fancy Madeira silk threads and Appleton crewel threads, but unfortunately I had none of those. I made do with good ol’ DMC cotton floss for everything. I think I worked in 2 strands to make the process go a little bit faster.
Then, I continued with the flowers. Each petal has a layer of satin stitch underneath the bullion knots to ensure the fabric won’t show through. Again, I used whatever lilac-y mauves and purples I could find. Once I finished satin-stitching all the petal bases, it was time to attack those bullion knots.
By that point, I had tried to make a bullion knot ONCE and was only mildly successful. It was December 22nd at this point and I was tempted to just…not.
I tried the bullion knot again and failed miserably several times. There was no way I would finish on time unless I performed a miracle.
So I did.
(If only I could do that with anything, hahaha!)
As you can see, the result is highly satisfying and looks just like an actual bullion knot. But of all the knots pictured here, only ONE was made using the actual bullion-knot way. The rest, I just magically willed into existence 😉
I came up with what I think is a GENIUS hack for those dreaded bullion knots. Doubtless others before me have thought of it, but I was pretty happy for coming up with a solution by myself.
I’ve prepared a lovely little tutorial for you all, in which I spill the beans on my genius hack so that you too can tackle bullion knots with no fear whatsoever.
See this post if you want to learn it: Awesome Bullion Knot Hack.
You’ll never be scared of bullion knots again, and no one will be the wiser.
All in all, I think I did one of my favourite books justice with Carol Andrews’ incredible pattern. This was totally worth it, but next time I’M STARTING IT AHEAD OF TIME. I say this every single time and never learn. *sigh*
- If you’re interested in more of my fangirling over Jane Eyre, head on over to my Goodreads, where I reviewed the book in which I set the spooky atmosphere and tell you imagine Jane walking down a misty path and bewitching a man’s horse.
- The absolutely gorgeous summer hardcover special edition was a gift from one of my dearest friends, and it’s from Chapters (or Barnes & Nobles, if you’re in the USA).
- If you want to read Jane Eyre for free, you can download a free copy at Project Gutenberg or borrow it online at Open Library.
- Carol Andrews’s Embroideries from an English Garden: Chapters or Amazon US.
- A Victorian Flower Dictionary: The Language of Flowers Companion by Mandy Kirkby: Chapters or Barnes & Nobles.
And with all this, let’s end on this fabulous quote:
The soul, fortunately, has an interpreter – often an unconscious but still a faithful interpreter – in the eye.Brontë, Jane Eyre
May it inspire you in turn to stitch some blooming flowers and read (or re-read) Jane Eyre. For the best film adaptations and which ones to avoid like the plague, don’t hesitate to get in touch any time. DM me on Insta @northernbellediary or leave a comment or send me an email (firstname.lastname@example.org)😊. Also be sure to subscribe to my newsletter so you don’t miss my awesome bullion knot hack!