This past year we’ve all had to find the beauty close to home. With this in mind, I wanted to create a design that celebrates the colours, shapes and quirks of Australian flowers. I’d long wanted to design a Quaker, which I love for their simplicity and symmetry. Barely before I realised it, I had half-a-dozen motifs designed. Here’s some information about some of the flowers (and a few feathered visitors) that inspired me.
The Waratah is the state emblem of New South Wales, and they grow not too far from me. Most Australian flowers are dimunutive and subtle, but not so the Waratah. When they are in flower, they gleam like a beacon in the grey-green bush.
There are nearly 1000 species of Wattle and the Golden Wattle Acacia pycantha is the national emblem. They range in colour and shape of the flowers, but these golden, fluffy bubbles are the most iconic. I have a Wattle tree right next to my bedroom window, and when in flower, it is full of birds and a glowing delight.
These striking plants are covered in tiny hairs which give the range of colours available, from yellows, greens and reds to new hybrids which can even be pink. They appear almost furry up close and at the ends, look at lot like the paws of a kangaroo. They are tricky to grow in the garden (but I do not have the proverbial green thumb): a goal plant for me.
Speaking of furry, the petals of the Flannel Flower are unbelievably soft. They grow in hidden spots and it is always a blessing to find a stand of them, glowing palely in the hot light.
Banksias are everywhere near where I grew up. Their spiky leaves are a common sight, enlivened when in flower, with these amazing columns of colour. When the flower heads fade, they leave behind dark, woody fruiting bodies that look a bit like pine cones. These cones were the bad guys in the Snugglepot and Cuddlepie books that I read as a child. I still see the scary Banksia Men hiding in the branches as I walk past.
These masses of pink flowers bloom in winter. Native to Western Australia, they also grow well in gardens. My parents have one and it greets you with its perfect flowers on a cool day.
Known as the Australian Cherry, the Lilly Pilly produces masses of brightly-coloured fruit, mostly bright pink. Native to rainforests, we are also lucky enough to start seeing the fruit used in jams and other delectables. In my design, I highly stylised the Lilly Pilly to pay homage to a traditional Quaker motif.
I would love to see one of these lovelies in the wild. It is the state emblem of the Northern Territory and blooms late winter in the desert. More goals.
When researching Australian flora for this design, I came across this stunner and knew I had to feature it. As it is a native to Western Australia, it was unfamiliar to me, but I now have a new favourite.
As I started to combine the motifs in my design, I realised I just didn’t think of flowers without birds, so I tucked a few of my locals in there too. The Crimson Rosella visits me almost every day, usually in a pair. They are quiet and friendly, letting you walk near and peering in at me from the Wattle tree outside. Their colours are so deep and rich, they brighten the air as they wing past.
Cockatoos are so familiar, they’re just neighbours. Noisy, somewhat cheeky and sometimes destructive neighbours. They tend to travel in flocks and descend with screeches you wouldn’t believe. When I was tiny and we heard them flying past, my dad would always say ‘There goes the pterodactyls!’ They sound exactly how you’d imagine flying dinosaurs would do. Known for decimating the entire crop of a fruit tree in a matter of minutes (just for the seeds), or verandah railings if you’re really unlucky, they remind me of 1950s’ movie juvenile delinquents: loud, showing-off but not really any harm.
I so enjoyed designing this piece, that I’m creating a series. I would also like to thank Cottage Garden Threads for some of the thread palette that I used, so perfect to capture the colour of the Australian beauties that I featured. Thanks also to Jay of JaysXstitch on Etsy for her gorgeous natural-dyed linen in ‘Weak Tea’. Lastly, thanks to StitchyBox Samplers for their wonderful publication, the Ackworth School Motif Pattern Book, an invaluable resource and generous gift for designers.
Bushland Quaker is available in my Etsy store, as well as some brick-and-mortar stores soon. It is stitched in full crosses only, and can be stitched on linen, evenweave or aida. More coming soon….