Thursday, 17 April 2014

Did you know : Easter icons and oddities

Some fun facts to keep you entertained over Easter:
  • The largest Easter egg ever made was more than 25 feet high and weighed more than 8 000 lb. It was made out of chocolate and marshmallow and supported by an internal steel frame. 
  • Lamb, a popular choice of meat for Easter Sunday lunch, represents the lamb of God. 
  • Crosses made from palm branches and handed out in church represent the palm branches people waved to welcome Jesus to Jerusalem on the first Palm Sunday. 
  • Easter was traditionally a time for new clothing and hats as a symbol of new life, both at the start of spring and through the death and resurrection of Jesus. 
  • The crossed strips of icing on top of hot cross buns represents the cross on which Jesus was crucified. 
  • In Ukraine, Easter baskets are filled with traditional foods and decorated with flowers, coloured eggs and greenery. The food is taken to church and blessed, then eaten on Easter Sunday for brunch to break the fasting of Lent. 
  • Candles burned at Easter time symbolise Jesus, “the light of the world”. 
  • Twisted pretzels, which are eaten at Easter time in parts of the world, are representative of arms crossed in prayer. 
  • Baby animals in general are associated with Easter as they are born in spring and seen to represent new life. 
  • The Sorbs from eastern Germany are deemed the true experts when it comes to painting eggs, and have even embellished their eggs with delicate embroidery. 
  • A lesser-known symbol of Easter is the butterfly as some say its life cycle represents the life of Jesus. The first, caterpillar stage is his life on Earth; the second, cocoon stage portrays his crucifixion and burial; and the third, winged stage represents him rising from the dead and ascending to heaven. 
  • The film Easter Parade was released in 1948. It starred Fred Astaire and Judy Garland, and featured the music of Irving Berlin. The title song includes the lyrics: 
In your Easter bonnet 
With all the frills upon it 
You'll be the grandest lady 
In the Easter parade 
  • In Spanish, Easter is known as Pascua; in French, Paques. These words are derived from the Greek and Latin Pascha or Pasch, for Passover. 
  • Egg-shaped jellybeans became associated with Easter in the US in the 1930s, although they apparently date back to Biblical-era Turkish delight.
Have a good long weekend and hope you get to do some embroidery over the holidays.

Pattern featured: Easter Icons, available from Etsy, Craftsy and my SA shop.

Saturday, 12 April 2014

Embroidered Easter flowers

Four main flowers are associated with Easter, the daffodil in particular because it is one of the first to flower when spring comes around in the northern hemisphere, being closely linked with Easter at the same time of year.

From a Christian perspective, daffodils are said to offer hope of life after death – eternal life. And legend has it that daffodils were profuse around the time of Jesus’ resurrection.

Daffodils are the flowers of those born in March. In Germany, they’re known as Osterglocken or Easter bells. And folklore often associates these flowers with luck – bring just one into the house instead of a bunch and misfortune will befall your home, but take care not to trample a daffodil and you’ll be rewarded with good fortune.

A little yellow cup,
A little yellow frill,
A little yellow star,
And that's a daffodil.
     Author Unknown

Easter lilies are usually white as a sign of purity and goodness and some Christians believe the shape of the flower is a symbol of God calling his son home with a trumpet. It is also a flower closely associated with the Virgin Mary.

The Easter lily originated in Japan, native to the Ryukyu Islands, from where the bulbs were exported to the US. But when war broke out around 1941, the US began cultivating its own superior bulbs. Today, almost all of the potted Easter lily bulbs in the US are grown in a narrow region along the coast on the border of California and Oregon.

In Ireland, Irish republicans wear badges at Easter featuring Easter lilies in remembrance of those who lost their lives during and after the Easter Rising/Easter Rebellion of 1916 to gain independence from Great Britain.

There are more than 600 variations of passion flower, which originated in the rain forests of South America. Missionaries used the flower to explain the mysteries of the Christian faith to those living in the tropical Americas and so it became known as the “flower of the five wounds” in Spanish, the lower five anthers being a depiction of Jesus’ wounds. The three stamens represent his three nail wounds or the Holy Trinity. The circle of petals depicts the crown of thorns. And the leaves are indicative of the spear that went into Jesus’ side.

Tulips, which originated in Persia and Turkey, are synonymous with the Netherlands, where there are huge flower markets and cultivated Dutch varieties. They generally signify love, with different colours associated with various types of love, although purple tulips are symbols of royalty. Red is said to mean true love, yellow has evolved from representing hopeless love to a being modern-day symbol of cheerful thoughts and sunshine, and white tulips signify forgiveness.

To Christians, tulips are a symbol of the joy at Jesus’ resurrection. The regal shape is seen as representative of the love he gave the world and tulips also symbolise rebirth, blooming as they do in early spring and around Easter time in the northern hemisphere.

Pattern featured: Easter Flowers, available on Etsy, Craftsy or from my SA shop.

Friday, 4 April 2014

Easter eggs and the bunny

The rabbit is a really old Easter association and some say the Easter bunny was originally a pagan goddess, worshipped by the Anglo-Saxons. They held a huge festival each year to mark the return of spring and fertility, and celebrate the goddess of spring, Eastre. But as the Christians spread around the world, preaching and converting, they in turn came into contact with different cultures and beliefs. Inevitably, some of these rituals were integrated into their own celebrations and in the case of the Saxons, religious beliefs merged and they changed the spelling of Eastre to Easter. The rabbit or hare – a symbol of abundant life in ancient times – was the pagan symbol for the goddess and celebration of Eastre, although Germany was apparently the first country to recognise it as an Easter symbol around the 1500s. Christians only acknowledged the bunny a while later. 

Easter eggs, much like the Easter bunny, predate Christianity. Eggs and chicks represent new life and have symbolised the coming of spring since ancient times – along with all new life. Some believe the egg is a symbol of the rock tomb in which Christ lay for three days before rising again. An ancient tradition though, saw people of various cultures exchanging eggs during this time of the year as a symbol of rebirth – the wealthy wrapped them in gold leaf, poorer families boiled the eggs and coloured the shells using flowers and leaves. This was more to do with the onset of spring, although it later became part of the traditional celebration of the resurrection.

Some say that decorating Easter eggs dates back to the 13th century. One explanation given is that it was forbidden to eat eggs during Lent and so people would paint and decorate them to mark the end of the 40 days of fasting and penance, and eat them during Easter celebrations.

Hunting for Easter eggs is widely believed to have stemmed from a German tradition. They made the first edible rabbits from pastry and sugar in the 1800s. But before that, children would hide “nests” (usually their bonnets or hats) around their homes in the hopes that an egg-laying hare known as "Osterhase" or "Oschter Haws" would fill them with coloured eggs overnight. If they had behaved well, the bunny was sure to come. When German settlers arrived in the US – as the early Mennonites, or Amish – they brought this tradition with them. It spread around the world and baskets as receptacles for eggs were introduced in England during the reign of Queen Victoria, when children would fill them during the hunt for Easter eggs.

The White House holds an annual “egg roll” on the Monday after Easter, a race in which children push hard-boiled eggs across the lawn. President Rutherford B Hayes held the first official egg roll in 1878. Some Christians see egg rolling as symbolic of the stone being rolled away from the entrance to Jesus’ tomb.

Easter wouldn’t be Easter without chocolate, particularly chocolate eggs, which date back to early 19th-century Europe. The Germans were masters of the culinary arts and made chocolates and sweets alongside their pastry bunnies. Chocolate eggs and rabbits inevitably followed and are probably the most well-known symbols of Easter in modern times. Today’s marshmallow eggs stem from confectionary originally made by Russian immigrant Sam Born in Pennsylvania during the 1950s. He sold handmade, marshmallow-flavoured chicks known as Peeps, and later introduced other shapes and flavours such as chocolate mousse bunnies.

Nowadays, Easter’s commercial side far outweighs the religious and traditional aspect of the holiday. The stores are filled with chocolate eggs and rabbits, baskets and chicks, and strings or boxes of marshmallow eggs – all of which are eagerly hidden or sought out, depending on which side of the hunt you fall. And in the US, jellybeans are popular Easter candy as well.

Pattern featured: Easter Egg Hunt, available on Etsy, Craftsy or from my SA shop.

Thursday, 27 March 2014

Easter embroidery

Some of you may already be well into Lent, but there’s still more than enough time for a bit of Easter embroidery. Whether you’re observing the religious holiday or looking forward to some time off with a chocolate egg, I’ve got three new Easter patterns for you featuring motifs relating to different aspects of the holiday in my Etsy, Craftsy and South African shops. 

There are quite a number of symbols and traditions associated with Easter, most of them murky in origin. The holiday is the most important of the Christian calendar, being a celebration of the resurrection of Christ. But it also falls at the start of spring on the seasonal calendar, in the northern hemisphere at any rate, which is ample reason to celebrate if you’ve ever experienced the icy grip of winter up north. And so the origins of the rituals and icons we’ve come to associate with Easter veer between the pagan, the religious and in modern times, the downright commercial. And mostly there is more than one story about how they originated.

Easter used to fall on any day of the week, for instance, rather than a Friday and a Monday as it does today. It’s said that the Easter weekend as we know it only came about after Emperor Constantine formed a committee to set the rules of the Easter schedule. The members of this committee decided that Easter Sunday would fall on the first Sunday after the first full moon on or after the vernal or spring equinox. This fell on 21 March and so Easter could fall at any time during the following cycle of the moon.

The Christian tradition of Lent – representing the 40 days when Jesus fasted, resisting temptation and repenting of his sins – also played a role in determining the date on which Easter fell. French legend tells of the annual Mardi Gras, a pagan festival with origins in Egyptian custom and the original Valentine’s Day. It was a day on which people celebrated the goddess Venus, in search of fertility, and it fell on the day before Ash Wednesday. Mardi Gras translated as Fat Tuesday and the date was dependant on the equinox, much like during Emperor Constantine’s rule. It came to be seen as a day of release, on which to get everything out of the way through feasting and fun before embarking on the 40 days of Lent. And so the dates of Easter became intertwined with the date of the annual Mardi Gras. Either way, Easter has been called a moveable feast because of it not falling on a set date every year.

Interestingly, a French explorer by the name of Iberville was in Louisiana in the US during Mardi Gras in 1699 and apparently he was the one who introduced the festival to the town of New Orleans, sparking the well-known Mardi Gras parades and celebrations held there today.

Another US custom, the Easter parade in New York, originates from the Easter holiday. The parade started in the mid-1800s, when the upper classes strolled along Fifth Avenue after the Easter church services in their new spring outfits. New clothing and hats were usually bought around Easter time and seen as a symbol of new life, both at the start of spring and through the resurrection of Jesus. Average citizens started showing up to observe the wealthy and so began the parade, which still takes place in Manhattan today with participants sporting elaborate, decorated hats.

The exact origin of the word Easter is unknown. Some say it comes from Eostre, who was a goddess of spring and fertility. Others say is stems from the pagan goddess of spring, known as Eastre. Still others have traced it back to the Latin term “hebdomada alba”, which means white week and refers to the white clothing people used to wear when baptised at this time of the year. An error in translation resulted in the term “esostarum” used in Old High German and it eventually became Easter in English. Some researchers say the word Easter derives from the Spanish word for the holiday, Pascua, or Paques in French. These words in turn come from the Greek and Latin Pascha or Pasch, for Passover, which eventually came to mean Easter.

Sunday, 16 March 2014

Danish knots: How to, plus tips and tricks

The look of a Danish knot depends entirely on the length of your foundation stitch and where you bring your needle up again after making it.  

Start with a short stitch and bring your needle up a little way from the foundation stitch and you’ll get a compact, squat knot. Start with a longer stitch and bring your needle up alongside the foundation stitch and you’ll end up with a knot “with tails”. Either way, this is a really simple stitch to do.

Tips and tricks:
  • Use Danish knots as a filling stitch by scattering them throughout a shape, either in a uniform pattern or freeform arrangement. 
Summer Rain hand embroidery pattern 
  • Adjust the length of the foundation stitch to create different looks with the same stitch. 
  • Play around with the positioning of the knot on longer foundation stitches. 

Bring your thread to the front and make a short, diagonal straight stitch. This is your foundation stitch. Bring your needle to the front again directly below the top of the foundation stitch.


Slide your needle under the stitch from right to left and pull it through to create the first loop of the knot. Take care not to pierce the foundation stitch or the fabric.


Take your needle under the stitch again from right to left, below the first loop and with the thread under your needle.


Pull the second loop taut around the foundation stitch and take your needle to the back close to the knot to finish it off.


For a Danish knot “with tails”, start with a longer foundation stitch and bring your needle up again just to the left of the stitch and halfway along it.


Again, slide your needle under the stitch from right to left and pull it through to create the first loop of the knot, without piercing the foundation stitch or fabric.


Take your needle under the stitch again from right to left, below the first loop and with the thread under your needle.


Pull the second loop taut around the foundation stitch and take your needle to the back close to the knot to finish it off.


Three Danish knots starting with stitches of differing lengths.

Tuesday, 4 March 2014

Tweeting on Twitter

I finally took the plunge and signed up for a Twitter account for Kelly Fletcher Needlework Design. I've had a personal account for a while, just for following, not actually tweeting, and there are two main things that I like a lot about Twitter - the bite-sized bits of information and the instant and easy access via my cellphone.

So while I was hesitant to commit to yet another social media platform, I had to accede that Twitter had too many good features to ignore. It's a quick and easy way to keep up to date with what's happening in your industry or realm of special interest, you can message people directly, and most Tweets include links if you want to know more or conversely, let your followers know where to go for more detail.

All this makes Twitter a great way to keep up in a world inundated with information, and connect with fellow embroiderers and designers or a favourite publication.

I know I won’t be one of those people who find the time to tweet several times a day (that would leave me no time for stitching!), but I’m there if you’re keen to link up with me that way. And I’m following some people and publications you may be interested in too.

Friday, 21 February 2014

Ideas magazine : Entrepreneur of the month

When I opened my dedicated online shop for South African embroiderers last year, I approached local magazine Ideas to ask if my shop might not be the kind of thing for their monthly page on new shops and product ranges. The magazine positions itself as "the ultimate guide to modern living for women with creative flair" and is great about promoting local, hand-crafted wares and the artisans behind these small businesses, and I thought I might have a chance of my shop being featured. 

So when I got an email back saying they'd actually like to interview me for their entrepreneur of the month spot, I was more than thrilled. And because the magazine is based in Cape Town and I'm in Johannesburg, I got to be interviewed by and meet no less than the editor and have my work styled for photography by the creative director, as they had flown up for an awards ceremony. Lucky for me.

This all happened in November last year and I then spent a couple of weeks frantically designing and stitching two embroidery projects for the same issue. It all paid off though and the March issue, themed the illustration issue, is now on the shelves. The projects I designed for Ideas are in my usual contemporary creative surface embroidery style.


I'm a regular Ideas buyer and, setting aside the fact that I happen to be in it, I can honestly say this is one of the best issues yet. It may be that I'm drawn to and inspired by illustration and visual creativity, but it's packed with interesting features, creative layouts and fresh ideas. And this has made me even more thrilled to be a part of it.

All that's left to say, really, is a big thank you to Terena, Dala and photographer Elske Kritzinger for taking the time to come to my small corner of the world to chat about my work. It was lovely to cross paths and I look forward to doing so again soon.

PS Digital editions of the magazine are available on