Drawn design of pansies on linen with thread and hand embroidery tools

Floral Design Winner and some Progress

Back in May I asked for your input on a few floral designs for a secret new project – and you guys voted for pansies! Well, that project is done, and I figured I’d show you how it grew along the way. I’m glad that this pansy design won; it was actually the first design I ever offered in the shop, and it’s good to see that you guys liked it as much as I did. The bones of it come from an embroidery catalog printed in 1886 in Lynn, MA, so it’s a fairly local piece of history, too.

Four floral designs - poppy, rose, pansy, and briar rose sketched on paper in color.

Picking a design is tough (although you guys made it easier!) and picking colors for this one was especially hard. I usually stitch all the flowers the same color, but I’ve done them a couple different shades once before, and I really liked them. So two colors it was! Now, finding two sets of colors that looked good with the green (and didn’t clash or look unrealistic) would be a new problem.

I’ve always loved violets and pansies, and they come in a million different shades. From delicate hues to fiery sunbursts, cheery yellow faces or velvety black, there’s a lot more to the Viola family than good old Johnny-jump-ups.  I decided to stick with purples, but pull some of the flowers more into pinker plums and maroons, and the others nearly into pastel blues. There is one shade, right in the middle, which found its way into each flower; I think it helps tie them together. The pansies that I saw in these color families generally had yellow faces (a big one for the purple pansy, and smaller for the blue) and dark veining. Perfect!

Pansy embroidery design with DMC embroidery floss, hoop, and scissors

With the colors down, usually I start stitching – but I’ve been trying to be a little better about jumping into projects. This time I noted what colors should be used on each petal, so that I could replicate the design later. I’m not planning to, but you never know! Sometimes I make a second diagram for stitch direction as well, but in this case things were pretty simple. The turned-over bits on the right flower and bottom right leaf are the only tricky parts, and I’ve stitched them many times before.

Shades of purple embroidery floss laid out next to an annotated pansy design

And now to begin! Usually for a piece like this I try to work the background elements first, and then layer things over them. It’s easier than trying to embroider under the edge of a finished bit! So I started with the flowers facing away and the bud, since they would have greenery stitched over them. This let me see how the purples would go together too. I had some concerns about the magenta – the flower I was working off of had a very bold pink edge to the petals – but in the end I think it was just what it needed to really separate it from the blue flower. It made for a nice shadow under the edges of the turned over petals, too. 

Embroidered pansies worked in purple on oatmeal linen in a hoop

After the first blossoms were worked, it was time to start on the greenery. I didn’t plan out where each shade on the leaves would go (there’s five, I think) but I did try to shade them as if the light was coming from the top right. Some were shaded from the inside out or from the edges in, depending on what thread I was using at the time. It looks pretty patchy until the last color goes in and pulls it all together.

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