Falling Leaves

Don’t you just love that crunch of Autumn leaves under your feet?

My new Quaker design explores the beauty of the changing leaves of Autumn and Fall, and the creatures that you can find alongside them. In Australia, the vast majority of our native plants do not change colours for Autumn (with an interesting exception that you can learn about below). I was lucky enough to grow up in a part of the country with a lot of beautiful deciduous trees that are native to the northern hemisphere, and I’d love to visit the amazing Fall displays that you can see in the forests and woods ‘Up North’ one day.

This design celebrates Autumn/Fall foliage and animal life from Europe, America and Canada and Australia. As with the other designs in this series, I work from real plants and animals, as I like to learn about them as I stitch. Here are some of the natural beauties that I featured, as well as some stitching tips for the design.

Tamarack in Fall Larix laricina

The central motif in the design features the Tamarack, a conifer from Canada and the US. Unusually for a conifer, its needles change colour in Fall, and are then shed. As they turn, they become the most gorgeous golden yellow, and its little seed pods become more visible. It is a very slow-growing tree, common to bogs and peat forests and is also known as the Hackmatack, American Larch, Eastern Larch, Alaska Larch or the North American Black Larch. This tree has medicinal uses, and was used traditionally for building tools. Its roots were even used to sew birch bark – it’s a source of needles!

Columbia Silkmoth Hyalophora columbia

The Tamarack is also habitat for a wide range of birds and animals, and even serves as a host for the larval stage of the Columbia Silkmoth (sometimes known as the Larch Silkworm), which I chose to portray fluttering in its branches. This stunning moth can be found in many areas of the US and Canada, and there are many photos online of people thrilled to find one visiting their garden.

Other Autumn/Fall leaves are more familiar, such as the beautiful White Oak, which seem to contain the entire process of the changing seasons in a single leaf.

White Oak (Quercus alba) leaves in the process of turning

The White Oak is native to the US, and can live 200-300 years. It is just one of many Oak species that can be found throughout the world, and its acorns are a traditional sampler symbol of strength and prosperity, while the Oak often appears in samplers as a symbol of longevity.

Sugar Maple leaves Acer saccharum

I had to include the stunning colour of the Sugar Maple, alongside some golden Willow leaves, to truly epitomise the beauty of the season. This tree not only provides sweetness in the form of maple syrup, it also gives us the sweetness of such glorious colour.

Horse Chestnut Aesculus hippocastanum

For an European example, I also featured the Horse Chestnut, native to parts of Europe, but common in Britain, the US and even New Zealand, where they are commonly planted in parks. It’s known in the US as the ‘buckeye’ and the seeds, once taken from their spiky cases, are used in the traditional children’s game, conkers. These seeds are collected in late Autumn from trees that can grow to 100 feet in height. In researching this tree, I learnt that there’s an annual conkers world championship (for those who take their competitive children’s games very seriously) and that saplings grown from seeds of a Horse Chestnut outside the house where Anne Frank hid in WW2 were cultivated in her memory all over the world.

The Fagus Nothofagus gunnii

Another discovery I made was that Australia does have a winter deciduous native species, the Fagus. In Autumn in Tasmania, in a number of National Parks, entire hillsides are covered with golds, oranges and reds. I’ve not yet had the privilege of visiting Tasmania, and this makes me even more keen. An alpine beech, it is thought that this species has been in Tasmania for forty million years.

Chrysanthemum, Pine cones and Gingko leaves in Autumn

I couldn’t complete one of these designs without including a flower, and the most autumnal flower to my mind is the Chrysanthemum. Represented in a stylised fashion in my design, this flower is native to East Asia and Europe, but is cultivated all over the world. Other plants you can find hiding in this design are other maple and pine varieties, and the Gingko, with its wonderful shape.

Black-capped Chickadee Poecile atricapillus

You’ll also find some animal life in the design, from a majestic buck, with antlers standing tall, to the humble hedgehog, scurrying among the fallen leaves. Visiting the Fagus is a rather scrawny-looking Grey Squirrel and perched above is the Black-capped Chickadee, which you can hear sing at The Cornell Lab. Common in the US and Canada, these little cuties apparently often first find new bird feeders placed in the garden.

An autumn design also didn’t feel complete without some fungi, growing in the cool, moist floor of a forest. So I had to include the iconic Fly Agaric mushroom, which always looks unearthly and magical to me. Of course, don’t touch! It’s crazy poisonous and best left in fairy-tales.

Stitching tips for Falling Leaves

This design was stitched on gorgeous linen by JaysXstitch on Etsy, 36-count ‘Weak Tea’. Jay uses natural dyes, which complement these nature-based designs perfectly. And to capture the complex beauty of autumn foliage, I loved using a palette of DMC mixed with hand-dyed Cottage Garden Threads in colours that seemed to move and change as I used them.

The Cottage Garden Threads colours used in Falling Leaves

The chart also provides a full DMC conversion, and a conversion to Weeks Dye Works/Classic Colorworks/Gentle Arts, but these do not truly replace the CGT colours. As some of these colours contain a wide variegation, you can play with placement and pattern to create leaves that seem to move and shift and glow.

You can use the CGT to make this stitch truly your own – you can choose which part of the variegated thread to use in different areas; you can achieve different effects even in a repeat of the same design. I’ll be adding a post shortly specifically about using Cottage Garden Threads in cross-stitch, so keep an eye out for that.

In my model I used 1 strand over 2 threads of linen on 36-count, which fits into a standard 8 x 10 frame. As the design only uses full crosses over 2, you can stitch it on any fabric you prefer, including Aida. The chart and thread packs are available in stores now (see my stockists page) and will be up in my Etsy store at the beginning of October. I hope you enjoy a walk in the Autumn woods while you stitch and appreciate the beauty of the changing seasons.