May (the making of)

I am very slowly working towards a hand embroidered calendar for 2021, creating each page month-by-month in real time. Not only will each page be filled with hand embroidered illustrations of the wild flowers in season that month, it will also show information on sunrise and sunset times, the moon phases, and other details of seasonal change. My hope is to photograph each hand embroidered page to eventually produce a printed version of the calendar that can be hung on your wall, your fridge or the back of a door to prompt mindfulness of your surroundings and maybe encourage us all to put our phones down and go outside. You can read more about the overall idea here.

This month I created the very first page of the calendar - May! I had the initial idea in January, but Spring really kick started the plan, so I will be stitching in real time from May 2019 - April 2020, doing a page per month. Hence why it's a 2021 calendar!

I wasn't sure how I was going to approach designing each page of the calendar as I have never done anything like this before, but it turned out to be easy peasy! We went on holiday at the end of April and got back on May 2nd. I went for my usual walk the morning that we got back and inspiration hit immediately! Whilst we had been away, it was as if Spring had fast forwarded - the combination of rain and sun had resulted in SO. MUCH. GREEN. The grass was overgrown, the canopy was bright and green, and there were new wild meadow flowers everywhere. Instantly I knew how I wanted the May page of the calendar to look - I wanted to capture the green and the abundance that I had witnessed on that first morning back.

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When inspiration hit

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I let my ideas stew for a week or so, before sitting down to design the page. I started with the calendar grid itself (which would be filled with the dates, sunrise and sunset times, and moon phases on the computer once I had photographed the embroidery). I picked four flowers that I'd seen a lot of over the past couple of weeks (buttercups, dandelions, cow parsley and daisies) and practised drawing them on paper. Once I was happy with the illustration, I did a full page draft on paper before transferring it onto my muslin fabric.

When it came to picking colours, I knew that I wanted to capture mainly the greens and yellows and overall brightness of the Spring. I had taken lots of photographs of the scenes that had inspired me, so I took these along to John Lewis and sat on the floor in front of their DMC stand, gathered all the greens and yellows, and compared them to the photos until I had a selection I was happy with.

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I saved the embroidery itself for a weekend when I was travelling to London as I knew I'd have several hours undisturbed on the train to get started. It turned out to take a lot longer than anticipated - I started on Saturday 18th May and finished Sunday 26th May. I was working on it everyday, some days for half hour, some days for 3-4 hours at a time. A true labour of love! Once finished, I went for a quick walk to gather some real flowers. I carefully selected my favourites and placed them on the calendar itself, cutting the heads off daisies so that they lay flat, and choosing small bits of cow parsley to add to the embroidered versions until I was happy with the result and took a photo (and a video, and another photo, and then another 40 photos).

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I am so incredibly pleased with the result. For a long time I've let myself believe that I don't have the creativity 'gene', but the confidence that has grown in me through running this business (and the external validation that comes through sharing work on social media) has slowly chipped away at this belief. I'm so proud that this THING has come out of my brain and that it looks better than I could have hoped. It feels as if the more I exercise my newly discovered creativity 'muscle', the more it churns out new ideas and the more I believe in myself to be able to carry them out.

Obviously, I won’t start taking pre-orders for the calendar until Summer 2020 (I’ll want a copy of it in my hands that I am happy with before I start taking people’s money), but you can join the waiting list hereor read more about the idea here.

Thank you!

Claire xx

P.S. This month I borrowed W. Keble Martin's The Concise British Flora in Colour from the library. It is phenomenal. It took nearly 60 years to complete and represents a life's work - each page is hand illustrated and it's brilliant for identifying wild flowers. I think I'll be purchasing a copy of my own as soon as I have to return the library copy!

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