After some lovely emails and kind comments on my latest herb bouquet, I thought I would share some of my favourites from my garden and their uses.
But I also have started a new, herb-themed embroidery project, so I'm combining the two in this herb + craft blog post...
I am making a set of herb placemats, using the gorgeously rough-textured linen I first used here.
This is bronze fennel, a striking statement plant in the garden. The bronze fennel in my garden is nearly five feet high, a full and frothy feature in the corner of the herb border.
|Bronze fennel towering over the lavender|
I cut it back to the ground every year, and it shoots up so quickly and fully each summer. As it matures, the leaves turn bright orange, with yellow stems.
I love the colours, from cool white-green stalks on the young shoots to the rich, burnt orange of the feathery larger leaves. Sunset colours.
It then turns more coppery bronze, hence the name, but I wanted to capture the fiery shades of early summer leaves.
I matched the embroidery floss to the leaves (thank you, Sublime Stitching, for such vivid hues!). I turned to a beautiful Japanese embroidery book for some inspiration:
|Herb Embroidery on Linen - that's fennel under the title!|
The book features the common fennel in an embroidery pattern, so I adapted it to suit the bronze fennel’s palette.
|How stunning is this?|
Fennel has a cultivation history spanning thousands of years, used by the ancient Greeks and the Romans to suppress hunger and enhance food flavour. It was used as an insect deterrent in the Middle Ages, and today fennel seed is a common herbal remedy for indigestion.
My fennel grows in a bright sunny spot, and the leaves and young stems can be added to salads and fish dishes with tasty results. The flowers have a bit of crunch and add texture and gorgeously sweet aniseed flavour as well. The bulb of Florence Fennel is the variety used in cooking; I may grow some of that next year!
For my first herb placemat, I stitched the stalk with chain stitch side by side with stem stitch, in two shades of green. The young bronze fennel plant has tan-coloured flower stems, and tiny yellow blossoms – these open wider with greener stems as the summer goes on. I stitched the flowers with French knots and straight stitch.
The leaves are simply straight stitches with the occasional stem stitch to add slight curves.
I want to keep the mats very simple to focus on the embroidery. I backed this mat with a neutral vintage linen fabric I bought at a fete earlier in the summer (from Sarah Moore’s stall, read more here). I thought the placemat looked a bit stark with nothing but the herb in the upper left section, so I added a little bee in the bottom right corner, as the bees love the bright fennel blossom.
|Teeny tiny bee!|
I already have more wee insects in mind for the other placemats, you’ll have to wait and see!