Monday, 28 July 2014

Bronze fennel embroidery

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.

The Work-In-Progress
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!

Chrissie x


  1. really, really pretty stitching Chrissie ❤️
    V x

  2. Gosh, that does look complex! X

  3. I love the detail of the wee bee on the placemat !!
    Interesting plant, that bronze fennel, I haven't seen it yet, I don't think it grows here in these regions... Does it still have a use nowadays in the kitchen ?

  4. beautiful delicate embroidery.....just gorgeous. Love the wee bee!

  5. Your embroidery is really beautiful, Chrissie. I love the colors and that little bee is just darling!

  6. Oh it's gorgeous, such wonderful dainty work and the bee is fab
    Clare x

  7. Lovely embroidery Chrissie, so simple and effective on the natural linen background, and I love the tiny little bee! The herb themed placemats will make a lovely set to treasure. The bronze fennel plant which inspired you is stunning, and the embroidery book looks full of lovely ideas. Look forward to seeing the next ones too!
    Gill xx

  8. The Bee is amazing I so admire teeny tiny embroidery, also admiring the patience you obviously have to sew it!
    d x

  9. Hope there's a ladybird on one of them. ..

  10. Beautiful stitching happening here Chrissie, all very lovely, as usual, and I love that cute wee bee in the corner. It always used to amaze me how quickly the fennel grew in the garden of our previous home - I love everything about fennel and yours is doing so well. Have a wonderful week lovely, xoJoy

  11. Oh Chrissie, this is absolutely divine! Such intricate stitching! I've enjoyed sharing your knowledge about the herb and only wish I was a good gardener / cook. I love your Japanese embroidery book too - looks like works of art. Beautiful beautiful embroidery my dear, I'm looking forward to seeing the rest of the set! Sam xxx

  12. Wow Chrissie, I love it. You are really talented. Thank you for taking us through the design process.
    S xx

  13. Such a wonderful idea for a placemat set. Your embroidery is just perfect and oooooooooh that little bee is fabulous!
    love Jooles x x x

  14. So beautiful. I love your embroidery on the placemat. X

  15. Beautiful Chrissie!! I love the touch of the little bee as well, that is so beautiful. xx

  16. Yet another stunning creation chrissie. I especially love the little bee as they do hold a very special place in my garden.

  17. Your embroidery is always so beautiful! I love this new one you have started, especially the teeny tiny bee.
    Marianne x

  18. Lovely embroidery ! And pictures !!!
    Have a nice day !

  19. So fine art.
    I love that book and Japanese art and handwork.

  20. They are going to make people jealous Chrissie! I'm staying tuned for little minibeasts. jo x

  21. You do such beautiful work Chrissie.
    Hugs to you,

  22. Bronze fennel is a beautiful plant and your embroidery is beautiful too, Chrissie! I love how you have embroidered the little bee, I love to see bees in floral designs as they are in real life, always buzzing about!
    I look forward to seeing other tiny embroidered creatures appearing :)
    Wishing you a happy week.
    Helen xox

  23. Anonymous5:22 pm BST

    Love all the attention to detail you've done and that little bee is perfect for finishing it all off beautifully - good job!

  24. My dear Chrissie
    Sorry for the delay in returning your visit but what a delight to see your lovely embroidery. The fennel is an inspired choice I think (I particularly like embroidered wild flowers) and the little bee is wonderful
    Thank you for calling in and I hope that you are having a lovely summer
    Best wishes

  25. Beautiful, beautiful, oh, so lovely! This is just my kind of post. Your embroidery is so exquisite. I have another book from the same Jamanese author; a cross stitch one which I refer to often.

    Happy August to you!


  26. Chrissie your stitching is so beautiful and delicate, you make me want to pick mine up (oh how I wish there was a little more time!). I have to say those placemats are really special and I am sure they will bring lots of happy meals. I also am just a little more than in love with that very gorgeous table cloth, oh my, I have serious table cloth envy!!! Enjoy your weekend my lovely xoxo