Absence Makes the Heart Grow Fonder

The Scarlet Pimpernel must have thought itself utterly abandoned. Real life is not always compatible with cross-stitch design. Another spring has come and gone, I have retired, and I no longer have an excuse for ignoring this blog or my beloved wildflowers.

When last we saw the Scarlet Pimpernel, I had decided that I didn’t like the shape of the flowers. So today, with my calendar cleared, I had another run at it.

The leftmost flower on the right-hand plant is six kinds of goofy, but this is better. The pedicels are still a bit long, but they will allow the flowers not to overlap the leaves.

Translated into squares:

Not very Gerda-ish yet, but let’s keep going. What colors?

Wow. It looks like there’s a lot going on here. But it’s my standard three colors for the foliage and two or three for the flowers. To make these really look like Pimpernels, though, the flowers will need to have a white eye surrounded by a purple ring. Note the memo to myself to leave out a little stemmy bit on the right hand plant All it’s doing is confusing things.

I have finally figured out how to make my charting software behave semi-reasonably on my new laptop (who thought it was a good idea for the floss color choices NOT to be in numerical order), so here is the chart:

A color block chart is next. The program doesn’t handle the peculiar grenadine/salmon color of the flowers very well. They’re DMC 351 and 352, which is appropriately more orange. The two shades of green in the leaves will not be so starkly different, and the pale green of the fruit and tiniest leaves will be a lot more distinct.

Stitched over one, just about life-size:

On white Aida. (The purple eye rings aren’t showing… Hmm):

On caramelly-colored or golden linen, over one-ish:

I think I like it! Once the proper thread colors are used, I think this will do nicely, and I can always swap them out for actual orange shades. Not, perhaps, the most Gerda-ish of my designs, but it has a lively charm that I’m happy with. Good day’s work, and glad to be back!

See? This is What I Mean.

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.  

scarlet-pimpernel-horticultureIt’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.