May's Tulips

Where do you get your inspiration? 

This is a question, I often get asked. There is no single or easy answer. I find inspiration in lots of places and I think that, more often than not, INSPIRATION is a combination of ideas and impressions.  Sometimes it is instant and sometimes I am not even aware the inspiration is there, it is just vague, intangible ideas that simmer, bubble and brew away in the back of my mind until one day...

Embroidery panel designed my May Morris, 1890s. 
Cheltenham Art Gallery & Museum

I have had this picture of embroidered tulips in my stash of inspiration photos for ages. From the moment I first saw it I fell in love with the colours and the beautiful flow of the overall pattern; the way the tulips and other foliage intertwine. Tulips are so often depicted in a very orderly, upright way - almost like toy soldiers on parade, but here they meander gracefully and slightly wild to fill a surface. Looking at it, I knew it was 'Morris' but other than that, I had no details until only recently, I came across this little snippet: 

"Embroidery panel (probably intended to be a fire screen) designed by May Morris, 1890s. As head of the Embroidery section at Morris & Co, May worked with a team of embroiderers. One of its most skilled embroiderers, she designed pieces like this, and designed and embroidered large, elaborate special commissions | Cheltenham Art Gallery & Museum"

A few weeks ago, when I was flicking through one of my favorite books: May Morris Arts & Crafts Designer I spotted a small(ish) picture of yet another tulip embroidery. 

This time it wasn't the colours that caught my eye, but the slightly unruly row of  tulips on a background of flowing acanthus leaves. 

TULIP – (also ‘Tulip and Acanthus) Embroidered sideboard Runner (166cm x 32cm wide). Design by May Morris (1890) V&A 

It remembered the more vibrant coral reds, greens and blues in my 'old favorite' and started sketching right away. Sometimes the drawing can take some time but this new design 'Tulips & Forget-me-nots' quickly fell into place. Now I just have to finish stitching it, to see if it works out how I imagine.

I was on such a 'roll' that after embroidering the tulip leaves, I started the forget-me-nots right away and completely forgot to take a photo of the tulip leaves on their own.
All the forget-me-not leaves are stitched in the same way - blanket stitch using 5 slightly different shades of misty blues. 

'Tulips & Forget-me-nots' work in progress

I do like blanket stitch leaves, but I do confess that I after finishing all 52 of them, I am looking forward to something else. The forget-me-nots should be pretty quick to do and then - pretty, coral red tulips. I am really looking forward to embroidering them next week.

This is not the first time I have been inspired by May's Tulips. 

Some years ago, I created this piece MAY for a silk shading class. Although the design is a lot more structured than the crewel embroidery piece I am working on now, I think you can still see the similarities. 

I only have One Kit left for MAY. The fabric this was stitched on (a mid-weight linen/cotton blend) is no longer available and I haven't found a good substitute. But I do have the pattern available as an instant download both via the STUDIO Shop and the ETSY Store. The original design was embroidered using Au ver Soie stranded silk but I have included a conversion to DMC stranded cotton in the pattern since stranded cotton is much easier (and cheaper) to come by. 

I hope you all have a lovely weekend. I am working (not embroidery related) most of it, but fingers crossed, I will be back stitching my tulips early next week.

Best Stitches,
Anna X

MAY silk embroidery by Anna Scott
Silk shading pattern


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