Thursday, October 18, 2018

"In the Garden"—Wheelbarrow of Flowers

Well, we have made it to the final block in our In the Garden Block of the Month Series! Our final block is a wheelbarrow full of flowers. Several years ago, I (Teri) had an old rusted wheelbarrow that I used as a planter to hide an ugly corner of our home's foundation. That year, I planted it with coleus and sweet potato vines. But this wheelbarrow was to be filled with a variety of favorite flowers we had not yet stitched.

My garden wheelbarrow
We had such a fun time in our class this past weekend at Primitive Homespuns Wool & Needleworks, that I didn't pause to take a single photo! The afternoon was over so quickly that we were all surprised when it was time to pack and head home to stitch. Here are a few highlights of the block.

The wool pieces for the wheelbarrow and birdhouse are appliquéd in place using a matching thread. Because the weave of the wool that I used for the roof of the birdhouse was pretty loose, I used a buttonhole stitch to give it a cleaner look. A piece of dark wool was placed behind the hole in the house to give the illusion of going inside.

I stitched the spokes of the wheel using a dark pearl cotton—three lines intersecting at the center, dividing the wheel into six sections. I searched my button stash the hub of the wheel, but you could just appliqué a circle of wool there. (Or you could embroider a circle with a fun circular stitch!)

I had appliquéd a piece of plaid green wool to the top of the wheelbarrow to serve as a background for the flowers. I knew I wanted to stitch black-eyed Susans. I've been a Marylander most of my life, and our state flower has always been a favorite. I used yellow silk ribbon stitches to create the petals' pearl cotton knots for the centers. 

Did you know that the black-eyed Susan was chosen as Maryland's state flower because it has the same colors as part of our state flag; it has an average of 13 petals, and MD was one of the original 13 states; and, it usually blooms on or around Independence Day? You are welcome for that piece of fascinating trivia!

I wanted to pull some of the purples that were throughout the quilt, so I chose salvia as another flower to stitch. I used pearl cotton to create the stems and leaves, and stacked fly stitches topped with a French knot for the blooms. I highlighted the purple pearl cotton that I used with a strand of light purple, so the blooms would pop a bit more. The purple I chose seemed to be so dark that it nearly disappeared, and adding the lighter color helped.

I also knew I wanted to include daisies, so I moved to the other side of the wheelbarrow and created the daisies using—of course—lazy daisy stitches. I varied the number of petals, to keep it interesting and to better fill the space. I used yellow ribbon French knots for the centers, but you could just as easily use floss or pearl cotton. The leaves are green ribbon stitches with silk ribbon.

The bullion roses were a new technique that we learned in class. I started with two yellow bullion stitches in the center, and then used a variegated pink to create the outer petals with overlapping bullion stitches. The buds were created using just two or three bullions. The calyxes were also made of bullion knots, using green pearl. I filled in the space with a few French knots. Be sure that you are wrapping the thread around the needle more times than you need to fill the space, so that it creates a curved stitch that will nestle around the previous stitches. And using a milliner's needle (size 1, 3, or 5) will make these knots SO much easier and more enjoyable!! It is much easier to pull this needle through all the wraps on the needle because the entire shaft is the same width. Ask me how I learned NOT to try these knots with a chenille needle... For a tutorial on making a bullion rose, click here or here.

The remaining space was filled in with lavender. I love lavender, and I know that I have taken photos of it in the past, but unfortunately, I couldn't locate any of them to share. To stitch it, I filled the area with small feather stitches using green wool thread, and then I just randomly made the lavender French knots throughout the section. Lavender is a great filler, both in a dirty garden and a stitched one! The stitched lavender does miss that wonderful aroma, though.

The wheelbarrow was finished, but my birdhouse needed a bird. I decided to add some yellow and make a goldfinch. He flew down and perched on the tire before going into his house. To stitch him, I outlined the body with an outline stitch and filled it with yellow stem stitches and straight stitches. I followed a photo I had taken to add the black and white wings and the black top of his head. A French knot with a small white stitch formed his twinkling eye. I used a pale orange floss to make his beak and claws. I think he's pretty cute!

One of the hardest things for me to learn when we started embroidering blooms with a variety of ribbons and threads is that there is likely to be a fair amount of variation. If I absolutely HATE the way a wonky stitch makes me feel when I look at it, I un-stitch. But more often than not, I keep stitching, and when the piece is finished, what looked horrid to me at first becomes hardly noticeable—even to me. I have spent a lot of time in gardens taking pictures of flowers, and I have come to realize that few of them are perfect. Well, they ARE perfect—in their imperfection! The petals are not all the same size or shape, bugs eat holes in some of them, the wind blows some away. While there are times that I redo a flower or two, especially when I am experimenting, a lot of times, I surprise myself and find that what I first considered a mistake just added some realistic charm to my garden. 

If you have ever taken a class with us, you know that we love to discuss the organic nature of our flower-stitching. I saw this plaque yesterday while I was shopping and thought it a perfect mantra. Remember: 

Stitching is supposed to be fun! Enjoy the organic nature of your garden.

Our Wheelbarrow of Flowers pattern is now available on our website, along with the other blocks in the series. As always, the hard copy of the pattern includes the ribbon needed to make the block. Next month, we will be creating a top border for our quilt, and we will discuss assembling the In the Garden quilt. We are almost finished!

Wheelbarrow of Flowers

To read more about our other blocks in the series, click on the links below.

We would love to see you In the Garden!


  1. What a beautiful block - the wheelbarrow is so cute and the colorful flowers are gorgeous. The beautiful bird really makes it so special.

    1. Thanks so much, Shasta, for your kind words! It was a fun block to stitch.

  2. A good bit of my wool collection is from old clothing. Some of it has a loose weave, so I have some easy-knit interfacing in both black and white to iron to the back to help stabilize it. Any of the interfacing is hidden by the time I finish making the item, so that is not a problem. Thank you for taking us through your process here.

    1. A great tip! We are actually going to talk about that next month when we discuss assembling the quilt. We are so glad you’ve joined us “in the garden”!