I am still going around and around in my head. How big should the finished flowers be? Life size? Bigger? There are only so many stitches per inch you can stitch, unless you want to be doing over-one work on 40 count silk gauze–and I don’t! But I do want enough detail for the plants to be recognizable. If I put a lot of detail into the tiny ones, the larger plants are going to be HUGE.
Let’s take a case in point. Scarlet Pimpernel.
It’s a tiny thing, only a few inches tall. Opposite, ovate leaves. The flowers are on slender stalks and the corolla is about 1/4″ across. Five sepals, five petals. Bright salmon color with a bluish or purplish eye-ring and a white center. Five golden anthers. The fruit is spherical and nods on a slender stalk.
Just how much of that can we capture?
The leaves aren’t going to be a problem at any size. The flowers, now. . . Those will be tricky. First off, counted cross stitch is worked on an evenweave fabric, from a gridded chart. There is no way to elegantly chart up something that has a five parts arranged in a circle unless you use a lot of stitches and finished design is quite large. The color will pose no problem. It should even be possible, with a little bit of outlining, to get the purple eye ring. The yellow anthers, though. Those will be lost.
I remembered the other day that, in one of my Gerda Bengtsson books, there is a Scarlet Pimpernel design. Luckily for me, this little plant grows all over the North Temperate Zone, so Gerda was very familiar with it. This is her take:
You can see how Gerda dealt with pentaradial symmetry in this case—She didn’t. Her flowers are square. But the plant still “reads” as Scarlet Pimpernel because of the color, the leaves, the fruit, and the branching habit.
In poking through the stash, I found out that I actually had three Scarlet Pimpernels charted by Gerda. Each is a little bit different.
This one is a bit simpler, from a book in which the plants and charts are smaller than the first example. There aren’t any buds, and the branching pattern is less complex. The flowers are still square, but they’re not the same as in her first example. I think I actually like this one better, though it would be nice to have buds.
This third example is from a book in which the designs are meant to occupy rectangular spaces rather than squares. The plant has a very lifelike habit and even has some bits that overlap, but those flowers are still square.
In each case, she assessed the space she needed to fill, figured out how many stitches she had to play with length and width, determined how stylized she wanted to be, and went from there. If the great Gerda Bengtsson was satisfied with little square Pimpernels that definitely look convey the idea of Pimpernel-ness, shouldn’t that be good enough for me? If I’m honoring her spirit, shouldn’t I use the stylistic approach she did?
Where is the line between homage and imitation?
And then there is the little voice in the back of my head that says, “You know, if you did these plants in surface embroidery, you could stitch anything you could draw and not worry about charts…”
Which is a dilemma for another day.