Arcadia by Brenda Sortwell

26th March 2021

Presently over 50% of the world’s population lives in urban areas, with the UN predicting that number to rise to 68% by 2050. That means a good proportion of us spend much of our lives in built up areas, separated almost entirely from nature. 

Recent studies are showing how important trees and plants are for our well-being, and how our disconnection from nature is affecting our mental health.

But humans have longed for an idyllic, natural environment for millennia, which is where the idea of Arcadia arose from.

You may have heard of Arcadia from various science fiction shows, or even read about it in novels. The term came from a Greek province that existed during the time of antiquity and boasted a stunning landscape and sparse, pastoral population.

Even back then, city dwellers longed for the simplicity of that kind of life, and it wasn’t long before the term Arcadia became ubiquitous as a poetic description of an idyllic, unspoilt wilderness which was wonderful, but virtually unattainable.

The idea of this kind of landscape remains in the modern, collective imagination and can be seen in films and TV shows to this day. If anyone remembers seeing James Cameron’s film, Avatar (2009), you’ll recognise how the idea of Arcadia, populated with virtuous and uncorrupted individuals, still captures our hearts and minds today.

As such, the name suits those embroidery designs which display a glorious, natural world filled with colour, light and fantastical creatures – something that describes Brenda Sortwell’s latest design as seen in Inspirations magazine issue #109 perfectly.

Morris Magic by Brenda Sortwell from A Passion for Needlework | Blakiston Creamery

You may remember Brenda’s piece ‘Morris Magic’ from A Passion for Needlework | Blakiston Creamery, which featured William Morris inspired crewel embroidery. In her new project Brenda combines a fascinating and beautiful collection of real and imagined flowers with an elegant bird sporting brilliant plumage, blending in perfectly with the natural surroundings he inhabits.

Brenda’s colour selection really enhances the effect of this unique work of art. By combining the jewel tones of teal, aqua and pink, with muted browns and greens and hints of purple, the idyllic nature of the scene is captured beautifully.

The piece requires the stitcher to play with a range of techniques in order to achieve the wonderful tactile quality of the finished work.

From fluffy Ghiordes knots through to plump satin stitched areas, festoons of French knots and a fabulous mix of open space and dense stitching, the array of stitches provides perfect balance to this piece.

To achieve success while stitching Arcadia, stitch placement and direction is vitally important, particularly for the large sections of satin stitch and long and short stitch that make up the main bird.

His cheeky face, formed exquisitely by the shape of the beak and a carefully placed eye, is perfectly expressive.

Although most of us don’t have the luxury of living in a pastoral paradise surrounded by unspoilt nature it doesn’t mean we can’t dream about it, imagine it, or try to emulate it in our art. By stitching Brenda Sortwell’s latest project, you are giving yourself a chance to rest in the peace of the mythic Arcadia, as well as promising the opportunity to revisit it in your imagination every time you see this wonderful project up on the wall.

Make Your Own Arcadia

Step 1 – Purchase Project Instructions

Arcadia by Brenda Sortwell is an ornate bird surrounded by flowers and  foliage using the fabulous traditions of Jacobean crewel embroidery.

Printed Magazines

Inspirations Issue 109

Digital Patterns

Arcadia – i109 Digital

Step 2 – Purchase Ready-To-Stitch Kit

The Inspirations Ready-To-Stitch kit for Arcadia includes everything* you need to re-create this stunning bird: Fabric (unprinted), embroidery threads and needles.


Arcadia – i109 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 magazine/digital pattern.

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