Inspiration for needlework can be found just about everywhere – and I like to find it in books that aren’t necessarily needlework books, but are somewhat art-related.
Last year, I added two books to my library, and I really, really like both of them. Especially if you’re interested in botanical subjects for embroidery, you might find them enjoyable, too.
For me, it’s the tie-in with literature and poetry and art that caught me with these two books, Botanical Shakespeare and The Country Diary of an Edwardian Lady.
Both books feature flora (and sometimes fauna, in the case of the Country Diary) accompanied by text, whether it’s the text of Shakespeare or the text of various poets and writers throughout literary history.
In Botanical Shakespeare, which we’ll look at first, explores all the plants – herbs, fruits, flowers, trees, seeds, grasses! – that show up in Shakespeare’s works. Quotes from the Bard are accompanied by lovely botanical illustrations.
Each visual representation is accompanied by the text in which the plant is mentioned.
When I look at beautiful renderings like these, my mind extracts certain notions about floral shapes, colors, shading, contrast and the like.
I’m not an artist of this type – not by a long shot – so I rely on other artists’ skills to teach me what to see and how to see it. I need books like this to feed my imagination, to point me in certain creative directions, and to spark further ideas.
Check out these apples! Aren’t they fabulous?
They’d be an excellent exercise in needlepainting and shading techniques. And because they are already rendered artistically – they aren’t photographs – I think it gives an even better idea on how to handle the shading on similar objects.
Pinks! Carnations! and even Gillyflowers – or gillyvors, as Shakespeare put it. Whatever you call them, they show up frequently in 17th century needlework and other artwork, like illumination.
I just love the scope of the botanicals in this book!
If you’re a Shakespeare fan, if you love botanical art, this might be a book that you’d like, that could further inspire your needlework.
The second book, Country Diary of an Edwardian Lady by Edith Holden is perhaps the most thorough, intentional, and meticulous example of nature and literature journaling ever.
This is a beautiful book, a lovely collection extolling the months of the year in drawings, watercolors, poetry, literary quotes, natural occurrences, and little happenings.
The style of art is less meticulous and a little less refined, compared to the Shakespeare book, but the overall presentation and the connections between the written content is so charming.
This is the type of book that makes me realize I really should work on improving my handwriting! I love the precision and clarity of the text.
But more so, I like the way Edith Holden drew connections between the seasons, literature, and her own art.
You’ll find birds and bugs and such in this one, too – a very nice smattering of the flora and fauna Holden observed in the British Isles in the earliest part of the 1900’s.
If you have an interest in or a love for journaling, or you are interested in diaries and artistic observations of naturalists (especially 19th century), botanical drawings, and literature and poetry, you may find much to inspire you in this book!
It’s one of my favorite “end table” books. I like to pick it up and roam through it now and then, randomly, when I’m relaxing. Every time, I walk away from it feeling a bit more inspired, a bit more interested in the natural world around me. It’s just a lovely book!
I find these two books – and similar books – very helpful when I’m considering botanical elements in embroidery. Maybe you’ll find that they help you, too!
Where to Find Them
In the US, you can find both books available through Amazon. You’ll find them listed under my Amazon Recommendations on my page here.
This article contains affiliate links to book sources, which means that Needle ‘n Thread receives a small commission for purchases made through those links, with no extra cost to you. Thanks!