Flowers for Elizabeth – The Blanket by Susan O’Connor
27th January 2023
If we haven’t already adequately conveyed our excitement and enthusiasm for the release of Susan’s book Flowers for Elizabeth, clearly we need to use a few more superlatives!
And just when we thought the excitement level couldn’t get any higher, today we also get to write up our first Featured Project article from the book as well. Giddy-up Y’all!
The amazing thing about the book Flowers for Elizabeth is that it’s so multi-layered and multi-dimensional it’s hard to know where to start.
So, just like all great books and all great adventures, the very best place to start is at the beginning… which in this instance means Susan’s masterpiece itself, the Flowers for Elizabeth blanket.
We recently caught up with Susan to learn more about the origins of this extraordinary piece, and with our pens at the ready, fingers itching to transcribe every word we asked, ‘So Susan, tell us how the Flowers for Elizabeth blanket come into being?’ This was her response:
‘Well, it just all sort of happened really…’
Ok, pens down, itchy fingers relaxed, time out here people… a project like this doesn’t just magically happen, does it?
Now as a side note, the curious thing we have discovered after speaking to countless designers over the years is that, amazing as their work is, the process a skilled artisan goes through to create their masterpieces is often so organic and effortless that to them it just ‘all sort of happens!’.
As lovely as that thought was, we couldn’t just leave it at that, so we pressed in and eventually gleaned some incredibly interesting insights as to the processes Susan uses when designing.
For anyone who is new to this project, the Flowers for Elizabeth blanket is a decorative throw featuring twelve large and twelve small designs, all inspired by the wonderful botanical embroidery of the Elizabethan period.
Using wool and cashmere fabric, the motifs are worked onto an ivory background, dramatically sectioned with strapping and bordered with a wide binding in black, reminiscent of the Tudor houses built during the Elizabethan period.
It’s easy to write all that once the blanket is finished, but what did Susan have in mind when she first cut a piece of virgin blanketing measuring 127cm x 112cm (50” x 44”) and began mapping out her design?
L – Pear & Periwinkle | R – Primrose & Thistle
‘I’ve always had an affinity with and a great interest in Elizabethan botanicals, along with the architecture of the day, so I had an idea to use this thematic backdrop to create a luxurious blanket for adults rather than for children for a change.
My vision was to frame the blanket with a dramatic black lattice in the style of a classic Tudor house, within which I would then populate a combination of lush floral plants which I felt would look rather striking against the contrast of a very formal, structured layout.’
And Susan did just that – she began by meticulously measuring, cutting and attaching all the trellising and the outside border along with stitching all the beautifully embroidered gold edging.
Next, she sketched up her initial motif combining the Heartsease and Eglantine followed by the second motif the Cornflower and Strawberry. (This explains why these two motifs sit in the centre of the blanket as they were the first to be placed).
We asked Susan how she went about selecting the Elizabethan plants she would use:
‘I created a list of the 24 I liked best and then paired them based on which flower formations I thought worked well together, taking into account complementary colour matching and being careful to avoid any flower and fruit combinations that were too similar to one another.’
You will note that many of these decisions came intuitively to Susan based on her innate understanding and experience of design principles.
L – Pea & English Daisy | R- Heartsease & Eglantine
With the pairings now done and the sketches complete, the design lines were then transferred onto the fabric using wash-away markers. It was now time to commence the embroidery for the motifs.
Here’s is an amazing fact for you:
Susan’s knowledge of the botanicals for this project is so extraordinary, all the shading, colour selections and intricate details were added without any reference photos, such is her passion for all things Elizabethan.
We’ve just checked and our word count for this article is already waaaay over, so even though there is so much more to discuss, including Susan’s colour selections, shading techniques, placement of the remaining motifs and more, we’ll have to leave it there.
L – Cornflower & Strawberry | R – Peony & Buttercup
If you are interested in learning more about Susan’s processes for this blanket, email us and we’ll see if we can get enough interest for a follow up article.
For now, we’ll finish with Susan’s answer to what advice she would give to anyone about to start this project:
‘Just take it one motif at a time. While the whole project does require some time to complete, as you work up one motif, then another motif, it becomes lots of small projects within a larger one and in turn provides a real sense of satisfaction and enjoyment as you go.’
So there you have it, some fascinating insight into the Flowers for Elizabeth blanket, which we trust has given you the motivation to give it a go yourself. It truly is one of the great iconic embroidery projects of our generation.
Make Your Own Flowers for Elizabeth Blanket
Step 1 – Purchase Project Instructions
Flowers for Elizabeth by Susan O’Connor is a decorative blanket showcasing beloved flowers and fruits from Elizabethan gardens, each worked in wool threads.
Step 2 – Purchase Ready-To-Stitch Kit
Flowers for Elizabeth | Complete Blanket Kit Includes everything* you need to re-create this stitched masterpiece: Fabrics, sewing thread, embroidery threads and needles
Flowers for Elizabeth | Blanket Thread Pack
Includes all the threads you need to re-create the stunning motifs from the blanket in wool.
*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.