Tag Archives: crocheted plants

Roses in a concrete jungle

As my “work an octagon from the centre using some detail of interest” submission for IDC Part 2, I chose to do the rosebud motif I found on Dearest Debi’s website

http://dearestdebi.com/crochet-flower-bud-granny-octagon

I decided to use grey as the background rather than white, partly as I wanted to do a spot of stash busting, but also because I thought of a theme: greening up the cityscape. My suggested project is to turn this into a “Roses in a Concrete Jungle” bedspread, interspersing the rosebud motif with plain grey octagons..

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Well, of course I’m going to think of something like that – I’m a gardener for a living and found my vocation through an interest in environmental conservation and wildlife. As a city girl, I realised we can do a lot for biodiversity in an urban context through gardening. Clink.. is that the sound of a penny dropping..?

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Filed under International Diploma in Crochet, Stash-busting

Inspired by Nature

Nature is a common theme from which designers draw inspiration.  Browsing some recent magazines, I noticed several people citing the natural world as their muse, whilst others named patterns after natural elements, whether a “gnarled bark” beret or a “birchwood” cowl.  Floral corsages or brooches are popular too, and the cover of a recent Inside Crochet magazine encourages readers to “Go botanical with our latest floral designs”.

This is by no means a modern trend.  An exhibition at the GardenMuseum (which ended last month – this post has been a long time in coming!)  showed how fashion over the centuries has copied nature and, intriguingly, how horticulture has sometimes emulated clothing.  Embroidery had an impact on gardening in the late 16th and early 17th centuries, particularly in Europe when the craze for intaglio took hold in the gardens of the elite. Evergreens such as box, hyssop and thyme were tightly clipped to form elaborate scrolls and knots which were very similar to those found edging clothes. The parterre de broderie literally means the embroidered parterre, and was pure pattern-work, involving no flowers.  The English, however, seemed keener to include blooms among these intricate loops and whorls.

Botanical realism was much more a focus in British clothing than in France and the rest of Europe, where depictions of plants were often stylized.  Around the time that Herbals were being printed, flowers started featuring on British clothing. They were a common motif throughout the reign of Queen Elizabeth 1st and until the death of her successor King James 1st.  Hedgerow blossom appeared alongside imported newbies, from honeysuckle and pansies to tulips (originally from Turkey) and African marigolds.

pansy flower macro photography

The enthusiasm for floriferous decoration may have diminished for a while, but returned in the 18th century. During the period between 1720 and the early 1760s, when dress styles remained static, it was through patterns woven into fabric that fashionable variety was created.  Silk weavers based around Spitalfields, for instance, endevoured to provide new designs each year, and floral motifs were a recurrent theme.  Anna Maria Garthwaite and other successful designers even joined botanical societies and were able to view the latest species arriving on our shores.  No real surprise, then, that one of London’s biggest nurseries was situated next to Spitalfields.  Whilst Capability Brown’s stark landscape style came to dominate garden design, nurserymen courted the dressmaker’s interest, and a rare anemone was equally likely to be snapped up for the loom or needle as for horticultural use.

In the 19th century, Victorian innovation meant that colour became more vibrant, both in horticulture and fashion.  Technological advances in heating and glazing were instrumental in the mania for carpet bedding; half-hardy perennials, usually unsuited to our climate, could be started off early in the season and planted out en masse in garish patterns when the threat of frost had passed.  Bedding schemes changes yearly so gardens could change their clothes, so to speak, as often as a lady changed her wardrobe.  Meanwhile, a similar eruption of colour in fashion occurred as chemists discovered how to intensify hues and developed synthetic dyes.  A new language of colour emerged with Michael Chevreal’s formulation of the Colour Wheel, still in use today.  This classification of colour according to whether they harmonised or clashed was applicable in fashion and gardens alike.  In 1861, the article ‘Colour in Dress, Furniture and Gardens’  was publishes in the Englishwaman’s Domestic Magazine,  which explained colour theory and how to use it.

Eventually this fervour for vivid tones subsided due to a snobbish reaction to its prevalence.  Public parks created by philanthropists for the benefit of the poor meant that bedding schemes originating in wealthy gardens were now for the ordinary public to appreciate.  Likewise, cheap dyes became more readily available so bold colours were no longer the prerogative of the elite.  By the 1870s, more sedate hues created a soft haze in the herbaceous borders and, in clothing, white became a status colour.  It showed up dirt, so indicated the wearer was not a labourer.

Returning to the present day..  I’m looking forward to the completion of the Suffolk Collection by knit and hookwear designer Joanne Scrace.  The basis for stitch patterns and construction is the undulating landscape of East Anglia, and its colours and shapes, the countryside where she was raised and still lives.

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Hooked on Plants

A trip to Cambridge Botanic Gardens on Sunday combined two of my major interests: horticulture and crochet.  It was “Apple Day” which demonstrated the array of apple varieties (some hundreds of years old) with a chance to taste some of those cultivars that cannot easily be bought in shops, as well as offering produce such as chutney, cakes, juice and cider.  While getting slightly squiffy on cider samples, I didn’t forget to go and investigate the “Hooked On Plants” display in the tropical glasshouses.

Crafters often find inspiration in nature, be it colour combinations, autumn foliage or flowers.  Lichen of the tundra is a less typical inspiration but it is the plant of choice for the exhibition, along with trailing plants from arid environments.  The project was undertaken by designer Joanne Scrace and the Cam City W.I., as part of the Cambridge Festival of Ideas.  The underlying intention was two-fold: to highlight the diversity of plant forms as well as the availability of plant based fibres.

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Lichen was represented by simple rows of stitches worked into foundation chains, and were nestled into rock crannies.  Other more complex yarn plants involved the skills of increasing and decreasing to create, for instance, undulated or zigzagged leaf margins, such as those of the Fishbone Cactus (Epiphyllum anguliger); or the globose stems of plants adapted for water storage in deserts.  One crocheted plant of this type sat next to a sign explaining the “convergent evolution” of unrelated plants using similar survival mechanisms but originating from different continents e.g. Euphorbia obesa of the Euphorbiaceae family found in Africa, and Astrophytum asterias of the Cactaceae family from the Americas.

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942An overheard comment was an exclamation of how botanically accurate and recognisable these crocheted plants were, a credit to the women who made them (especially those who hadn’t ever crocheted before).

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