Our current lead time is 2-3 working days

Snapdragon blog

The quest for Mastery

embroidered cushions

I began embroidering the monochrome meadow design that many people associate with me 12 years ago. I have always loved the ways that meadows work - the different heights of the flowers and seedbeds and decaying bosses. I love the way that these little concentrated points of interest are scattered through the chaos of the grasses.

It is the only design that I have returned to week after week, year after year for the last decade or so.

Normally I get bored very quickly - my head crowds with ideas, I have the typical artist's 'shiny object' problem. The next project is always the most exciting.

But it has never been like that with the meadow design. Where the joy in other designs is the process, the high feeling of getting something from my head onto paper or fabric - with the meadow it has always been different. It is an incremental way of working, a move towards mastery.

embroidered cushions

While in many ways I feel that it is a constant, unchanging design - my 'classic signature design' if you like - that isn't actually true.

I used to sell to a wonderful shop called Edwards and Todd (sadly now closed) near to the British Museum and a couple of years ago they sent me a photo of one of my early meadow cushions. It was single layered, sparse, static and very upright. It was still pretty, it was just a very early version, and it showed me just how much the design had evolved and how far my skills had come.

I look at these cushions from 2007 and I can see the tension in my hands and the slight stuttering of the line.

embroidered cushions

The large meadow cushions are embroidered onto 50 cm squares of fulled wool - it is a piece too large to fit flat onto the sewing machine working area so the sides are scrunched up and I can only see the small part that I am working on. Until I take it away from the machine I cannot see the whole design.

The design now is made up of 3 or 4 layers of stitching.

embroidered cushions

The first pass is sewn from right to left, putting in the main focal plants - the cow parsley, the teasels, the tall poppies - building up a rhythm.

The second layer is worked from left to right, adding in the grass, the small flowers like daisies and rattle - this is the layer that knits the design together.

The third layer is about looking at the composition and adding in punch and focal points where needed. It try to keep this as light as possible - I always feel that the more the design is done as a flowing whole, the better it is in terms of reflecting the reality of a meadow.

Each cushion takes about an hour to embroider - a constant buzzing of the needle, a physical manhandling of the wool, an attempt to keep a flow.

embroidered cushions

I found writing this post oddly difficult - not the actual writing, that came easily enough, but the sitting down to write it. I spent two whole days doing other things so that I didn't have to sit down at the computer. I think that it was that I was writing about aiming for mastery. My inner voice saying loudly "was it not a bit presumptuous to talk about mastery, was I not getting above myself a bit?"

This is why I think it is really useful to keep a record of the early versions of designs - even to post them publicly if you are brave - because they can show you how far you move in a really short time.

Yesterday Facebook Memories showed me a pen and ink drawing from 2 years ago. It was from right when I started to draw regularly. - it was really basic, unskilled, flat and slightly embarrassing. But it also showed me how far I have come.

I have written a matching post to this one about how the process of creating something is important - it will be published in the Snapdragon Studio Members' Winter Magazine.

I have been embroidering a small number of these cushions this month and they will be launched tomorrow as a limited edition for Studio Members.

embroidered cushions

Comments: 5 (Add)

Debbie Down on October 25 2018 at 19:30

I adore mine I’ve had it several years it’s my favourite ever cushion and I have a shop full 🤣

Snapdragon Jane on October 25 2018 at 19:34

Thank you so much Debbie - I'm delighted to hear that, you have made my day. Jx

PennyL on October 25 2018 at 21:18

I’m not able to buy a cushion, but I was only thinking this morning how much I love my bee key ring and beautiful brooch. They give me so much joy and pleasure. Thank you Janexx

Helen Outen on October 26 2018 at 14:19

Jane , your designs and especially your stitchery is always beautiful and inspiring. I was inspired by your floral stuff when I was at college doimg floristry and have always loved your stitched designs. You are a very talented lady.

Fiona on October 26 2018 at 18:23

I love my cushion, and really enjoyed hearing about how it is created. To me it is a special representation of the changing Scottish countryside that I don't always get see.

Snapdragon social

Did you have a good Easter break?  We went to Spain to visit our eldest daughter and came back late last night, possibly actually early this morning. ⠀
⠀
The Tuesday after Easter is always an important date for me, for even though my baby birds have flown the nest, I still get the new term feeling. And the term between Easter and summer is always a busy one, so much to fit in! ⠀
⠀
The start of a new week⠀
⠀
The start of a new season. ⠀
⠀
The start of a new planner, new journal. ⠀
⠀
New plans, new pens, new garden to plant. ⠀
⠀
These pheasants eye narcissi - with their perfect eye liner - are flowering under the plum trees in the orchard. The perfect morning commute.
On Sunday night Euan turned to me and said “I don’t think we have ever made as much difference to the garden in such a short time.”⠀
⠀
⁣ He was right. In October we had brought in soil to make raised beds - turning the ground slick and slippery. All winter and Spring I looked at mud and worried about all the people that I had told that there would be a garden to see in May. ⠀
⠀
But then - dry weather, fierce cold winds and suddenly on Friday afternoon we could barrow and build and by Sunday night . . . There are the beginnings of a new productive garden - a mix of vegetables and flowers for cutting. ⠀
⠀
As usual Euan did all the heft and heavy stuff and I planted and staked and fluffed up mulch. ⠀
⠀
If you are coming along to A Seasonal Day on 8th May I am pleased to say that there will be a garden! ⠀
------------
Sometimes projects come together really quickly - one of the best things about having a small making business is that you can go from idea to having something for sale in a single day. ⠀
🧶 ⠀
⠀
This was not one of those projects - I had the idea in our busy Christmas period, took away the samples to knit while travelling in Asia in February, and yet only put the kit up on the website yesterday. ⠀
🧶🧶⠀
⠀
I don't normally post many direct product shots here - but this one is special to me. I wanted to make a beginners’ knitting kit that allows people to knit something practical and quick - in this instance beautiful cotton face cloths and exfoliating cleansing wipes - and which felt substantial yet not daunting. My aim with everything is to make it easy for people to give things a go. ⠀
🧶🧶🧶⠀
⠀
And I wanted it to look beautiful and be practical and all be packaged up in way that was part of the kit. ⠀
🧶🧶🧶🧶⠀
⠀
Everything came together earlier this week and I’m so pleased with how it looks, the squidgy cotton balls of yarn, the instruction cards and needles all in their own specially printed drawstring project bag. ⠀
⠀
I hope you like it too.
How do you like to learn? I used to be happiest just battering on by myself, making mistakes, googling. But increasingly I find I’m preferring to be shown things by someone who knows what they are doing, to have the space to ask questions, and then to go home and try everything on my own with the option to call if I get stuck. ⠀
⠀
I find my mind opened so much more by talking to other people - rather than beginning a project from my own limited viewpoint. ⠀
⠀
I had a great time yesterday learning E-magazine production with Eleanor from @creativecountryside and today I’m planning to practice everything by re-formatting the guide to getting the most from your cut flowers to send out with the next newsletter. ⠀
⠀
I also met up with @bob_sy - all arranged on an Instagram whim - and had a wonderful evening discussing kindness, connection and creativity. ⠀
⠀
Increasingly I love being able to move beyond typed words and have great rambling conversations. Is anyone else finding the same? ⠀
⠀
GIVEAWAY - Today I am getting the train down to Lancaster to meet Eleanor from @creativecountryside.  She is going to be showing me the ins and outs of making a magazine.⁣⠀
⁣⠀
I have always loved the aesthetics of Creative Countryside magazine - the solidity of it, the surety - so when the chance came up to take a masterclass in how to put it together I jumped at the opportunity.⁣⠀
⁣⠀
I love putting together the e-magazines for Studio Members and A Seasonal Way, but I am very aware that I am simply joining together PDFs.  I want to create something more magical, more meant.⁣⠀
⁣⠀
My lesson is co-inciding with suddenly having fast WiFi at home - so uploading a magazine no longer requires a drive to Stirling to poach University WiFi.  This will change Everything!⁣⠀
⁣⠀
This magazine is the first bumper edition of Creative Countryside, as it turns from a quarterly into a biannual publication. ⁣⠀
⁣⠀
I am a contributor to this edition, as well as subscribing, so I have an extra copy which I would love to give away. ⁣⠀
⁣⠀
Just comment here - and make sure you are following me - and we will pick a name at random next Tuesday.⁣⠀
⁣⠀
(The knitting is the #comfortblanketkal by @louisetilbrookdesigns which shall be my train knitting)
⠀
I knew this greenhouse as a child. It had a grapevine then, and a lead dipping trough that was home to motherless ducklings. ⠀
⠀
There were long snakes of terracotta pots under the staging and I got to turn the cranks to open windows in the roof. ⠀
⠀
When it was abandoned and began to fall down we asked if we could take it and give it a new home - and now  it stands in our drive, the oldest thing here. ⠀
⠀
Euan rebuilt it all exactly - with a new base, but with everything else original.  It turned out to be a superior form of flat pack.⠀
⠀
This weekend I stood in the greenhouse, mid watering the seedlings that are crammed in tiers onto the staging and floor, and tried to link it back to when I was seven. ⠀
⠀
I couldn’t. Then is was an enormous space of dust and spiders and broken glass , of benches to climb on and a cold, dark trough of water we were to stay away from. ⠀
⠀
Now it is my garden in waiting. Waiting for May. ⠀
⠀
I did think I should maybe plant a grape vine though.
I photographed this heart of honeysuckle on the Isle of Bute last month - a random reminder that nature is at the heart of everything that I love.⁣⠀
⁣⠀
Also last month, I spent a wonderful evening with my friend @hazey107 - and she told the story of why she had crossed the school playground to make friends with me 16 years ago.⁣⠀
⁣⠀
Seemingly I was standing waiting for the P1s to come out, my toddler on my hip.  Her bright blonde hair was full of leaves and sticks, her bare feel black with soil.  Hazel immediately felt that, with such a feral looking child, I must be her kind of person.⁣⠀
⁣⠀
We would have been travelling back from the field where I grew my flowers at that time, we hadn't yet found this house.⁣ I was probably worried about being the only scruffy Mum at the school gate. ⠀I never felt I did school gates very well. ⁣⠀
But hearing Hazel’s story I was so glad that I never mastered that
We are promised a dry and sunny weekend here in Stirlingshire. I have 3 days completely clear of commitments. The greenhouse is full of seedlings, the ground is dry enough to work. I have 4 tonnes of mulch in the drive. 🌱

I can barely contain my excitement. 🌱🌱 I’ve been awake since 5 (though obviously still in bed!) 🌱🌱🌱 What do you have planned for the weekend?
snapdragon.life
FacebookTwitterPinterest

About Snapdragon

At Snapdragon we gently guide you through bringing the changing seasons into your daily life, helping you slow down, so that you can experience increased well being, calm and creativity.

Through our communities, both free and paid for, through Jane's writing on the blog, through carefully hand crafted gifts and activity kits, and through our online and in-person workshops we aim to bring people back in touch with the rhythms of a seasonal life.

Learn more about why here

Loading