Arbor Vitae by Tania Cohen

14th April 2023

One of the pleasures of working with needlework designers comes from watching how each talented artist takes traditional embroidery techniques and pushes the boundaries to create something new and unique. 

The art form is rooted in long standing, traditional techniques that have been practiced, sometimes for centuries. One much loved form of needlework is crewel embroidery, which has its genesis during Jacobean times and is loved by needleworkers worldwide.

Crewel embroidery gets its name from the specific wool in which it is normally worked. But there are also characteristic crewel styles and designs that are very recognisable. The Jacobean style often consists of ornate foliage and flowers, sometimes including animals and birds, but always displaying a glorious range of stitches, techniques and colours.

A motif that regularly characterises Jacobean crewel is the Tree of Life, with oversized blooms and leaves filled with movement and texture.

When one thinks of the Jacobean Tree of Life, one usually imagines it worked in soft wools in a range of colours. But Tania Cohen has created something different. She has combined a Jacobean design with silk embroidery and goldwork techniques to produce a truly stunning project – Arbor Vitae. This incredible piece features in A Passion for Needlework 4 | The Whitehouse Daylesford and is guaranteed to take your breath away.

Tania has created a sinuous Tree of Life with each branch ending in a sumptuous, stylised flower. It grows out of a series of hillocks, from which sprout more tiny flowers and grasses. Heralding from Australia, Tania has included a number of blooms from her own country, giving Arbor Vitae a truly unique flavour. The balance and shape of the design is harmonious and satisfying.

But it is the inclusion of various different techniques that sets this project apart. The delicate stitches are worked predominantly in a variety of sumptuous silks, which give a lustrous shine to the project. Tania has also included a range of goldwork techniques to add a regal air to the project.

With the inclusion of metal threads, paillettes and beads, whichever way you look at Arbor Vitae it will sparkle and shine in the light in a glorious way.

The project includes a delightful array of different threads and materials that make stitching it a real pleasure. Being able to experiment with stitches, silks, metal threads and various embellishments means that you’ll discover something new in every section.

This is a masterpiece of different styles all wrapped up in a Jacobean crewel design. This project offers something for everyone, whether you’re an experienced crewel work embroiderer, a goldworker, or someone who just loves colour and experimentation.

Arbor Vitae will be a project that will take pride of place on your wall. You will never tire of exploring all the stitches and colours, discovering something new each time you look at it. This is a perfect example of taking a traditional technique to the next level. We can’t wait to see where this talented designer goes from here.

Make Your Own Arbor Vitae

Step 1 – Purchase Project Instructions

Arbor Vitae by Tania Cohen is a spectacular interpretation of the traditional Tree of Life, bursting with stylised, indigenous flora from several Australian states.

Printed Books

A Passion for Needlework 4 | The Whitehouse Daylesford

Step 2 – Purchase Ready-To-Stitch Kit

The Inspirations Ready-To-Stitch kit for Arbor Vitae includes everything* you need to re-create this stunning Tree of Life: Fabrics (inc. with pre-printed design), wool felts, leathers, fusible webbing, sewing threads, embroidery threads, ribbons, beads and needles.


Arbor Vitae – APFN4 Kit

*Please Note: To cater for flexibility of purchase, instructions are not included with our kits. For step-by-step directions on how to create this project, please refer to the book.

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