Take Wing

No.2 in the Bushland Quaker series

I’m finding Quaker-style designs are addictive. There’s something about the symmetry and the ability to combine small motifs that is really appealing. And they’re quick to stitch up too!

I wanted to do a series before I even completed the first Bushland Quaker. The opportunity came faster than I thought when I was fortunate enough to be included as a new designer at the first online Needlework Expo (and a big thank you to Janis from Noteworthy Needle for including me and running such an amazing market). THAT was a big learning curve! I’m humbled by the response and thought you might like to know more about the birds featured in this design.

Superb Fairy-wren Malurus cyaneus

The Superb Fairy-wren: I know, too cute for words. The male of this tiny species is a wonder of blue flashes, darting out and around, often attacking himself in reflections in my windows when the sun is at just the right angle. The female is a soft brown and I often see a pair together splashing in a bird bath, flitting in small hops on their tiny wings.

Emu Dromaius novaehollandiae

I don’t have Emus pecking at themselves in my windows, thank heavens. They can be nearly 2 metres (over 6 feet) tall. Flightless and one of the world’s largest birds, they can run at impressive speeds and lay enormous green eggs. They also seem to ham it up in front of cameras with quirky expressions. Oh, and the chicks have stripes!

Brolga Grus rubicunda

I think my personal favourite motif in Take Wing is based on the dance of these gorgeous cranes, the Brolga. They exhibit elaborate dances as part of their courtship rituals and I just knew I had to include them in the design. I would love to see them in person one day, in their elegance and sweeping gestures. They often inhabit wetlands, so I included this in my design.

Galah Eolophus roseicapillus

Sometimes known as the pink-and-grey Cockatoo, these loud, raucous birds often travel in large flocks, playfully screeching through the air. Australian birds tend to the noisy, squawking side. Apparently, when early British settlers arrived, they thought the bush was full of demons, expecting birds to tweet and sing quietly as they did back home. I love these and other birds’ wildness and noise: they are brash, playful and so very full of life.

The Laughing Kookaburra Eolophus roseicapillus

Speaking of calls, the Kookaburra really does laugh. At dawn, their full-throated laughs are a familiar sound in many areas of Australia. In the last place I lived, I had a local Kookaburra swing around into the back yard every afternoon to sit on the washing line, keeping one eye out for bugs and lizards, the other on me as I worked at my desk. They are a symbol of joy for me.

Tawny Frogmouth Podargus strigoides

Not a true owl, although it appears similar, this amazing bird is also nocturnal. During the day, they adopt a wacky posture up in the trees, which camouflages them perfectly, looking like a tree branch. I had an up-close-and-personal encounter with a Tawny Frogmouth once, which had been trapped in a garden enclosure in the place I was staying. After I freed it, it flew up to the balcony where I was sitting, and stayed nearby for hours. The eyes of this bird were incredible: deep, round and wise. It was an incredible privilege.

Black Swan Cygnus atratus

All swans are not white … In fact, these gliding beauties are common throughout most areas of Australia. I love their glossy plumage and deep red beaks. And hey – I just discovered, they are vegetarian! In my design, I had to adapt a traditional Quaker swan motif to include an Australian version. Again, thank you to StitchyBox samplers for the wonderful resource, the Ackworth School Motif Pattern Book, which I drew upon for this series.

Gouldian Finch Erythrura gouldiae

These little cuties were just so colourful, I had to include them. They are grassfinches, feeding on seeds and small insects. I can only imagine how beautiful they are to see in flight.

The Australian King-Parrot Alisterus scapularis

King Parrots are also a familiar sight for me. They travel in pairs and are unusually quiet for Australian birds. They also have a very calm kind of vibe. They look quite intelligently into your eyes, but are unfazed, sitting quietly in the branches, completely at peace.

Sacred Kingfisher Todiramphus sanctus

I just adore the colour of these medium-size Kingfishers. And for being Kingfishers, they rarely eat fish! Common in coastal areas, they instead feed on insects, reptiles and crustaceans. The flash of blue as they dive is just stunning.

Satin Bowerbird Ptilonorhynchus violaceus

Last but not least, is this glossy wonder. The male of this species is a deep, inky blue and builds these incredible structures to attract the more subdued, greeny-brown female. The better to entice her, he decorates the bower with anything blue within stealing distance. In the park behind my childhood home, we had a bowerbird nest, festooned with pilfered straws, biro lids and bottle tops. Having two males in the motif is a bit of artistic licence (it worked better symmetrically!), but I got to include both the male and the female, as well as the amazing structure they build.

Some of the flowers included in Take Wing.

Of course, I had to include some more flowers in this design. Some familiar from the first Bushland Quaker, with others introduced here. Some of them include (in clockwise order) the Brown Boronia Boronia megastigma, the Gymea Lily Doryanthes excelsa, the Bottlebrush Callistemon and Sturt’s Desert Pea Swainsona formosa. Bottlebrushes of many different types and colours are very familiar sights in many Australian gardens and the enormous Gymea Lily I’ve spied on train trips through the bush. They are often 5-6 feet tall and remind me of old sci-fi movie monsters: giant triffid-like things that flower after a bushfire.

I hope you enjoy knowing a bit more about the birds and flowers that make up this design and that you enjoy stitching it as much as I did. My thanks again to Jay at JaysXStitch on Etsy for the lovely linen (36-count ‘Weak Tea’) and to Cottage Garden Threads for their stunning, hand-dyed flosses. The design uses a combination of Cottage Garden Threads and DMC, but the chart has a full DMC and Weeks/Gentle Arts/Classic Colorworks conversion. If you would like to try the Cottage Garden Threads, I have threadpacks available in my Etsy store, or ask your needlework store.

Oh, and I don’t think I’ve finished with this series yet. Stay tuned!