Come sweet-pea lovers have a society of their own, the National Sweet-pea Society, but if all lovers of sweet-peas belonged to it, the membership surely would include all the inhabitants of the world.
There is a subtle appeal in a sweet-pea hedge that we look for in vain elsewhere. It suggests beauty and homeliness, fragrance and harmony. A flower lover happily placed where choice orchids flourish, where the feathery mimosa, the flaunting cactus, and pink-petalled oleander grow in tropical luxuriance, yet thinks with longing of the soft-hued pinks and delicate mauves of the English sweet-peas.
We all love sweet-peas, and that little - known Sicilian monk, Francis Aspani, did the world a good turn when, a couple of centuries ago, he sent a few seeds of the wild sweet-pea to his friend Dr. Wredale, of Enfield.
The flower that delights us during the summer needs no special introduction to the embroideress who wishes to transfer to her household belongings the dainty remembrance of this princess amongst the blossoms.
We are but fulfilling the loudly expressed wish of hundreds of clever workers in supplying a really artistic design in a sweet-pea pattern. The flower readily lends itself to fine effect, and the smooth-petalled or waved varieties are equally beautiful when portrayed in needlework. The Hooded Standard is easy to work, and is so characteristic of the flower that, with comparatively few stitches, a fine effect can be achieved.
The foliage, again, is delightfully attractive. Unlike many flowers, whose leaves are apt to be unwieldy in appearance when worked, however beautiful in nature, the sweet-pea leaves aredaintilyseparated and sparsely growing, so that they present no difficulty to the needlewoman.
Then there are the tendrils, rioting in close-curled spirals or open-spread fingers, ready to catch on to any stick or support. These, again, give a charm to a sweet-pea pattern which sweet-pea growers and mere members of the National Society have failed to grasp, or, if they have noted it, have failed to point out its special attraction from the embroiderer's point of view.
A Riot of Colour
With regard to colour embroidery, this daintiest of flowers leaves nothing to be desired. So varied is the range that, whatever the colour scheme of the room where our sweet-pea cushion is to abide, whatever the colour of the dress the sweet-pea embroidery is to decorate, we can choose our silks with perfect assurance that Nature will be represented faultlessly.
Every shade of oyster, snow, cream, and dead white may be found in sweet-peas. Each shade of red, from the most delicate shell, blush, pale rose, deep rose, ruddy crimson, deep blood colour, to red of almost a black shade, is true to Nature. The same with blue; palest hyacinth, the deep blue scentless pea, to almost blue-black petals on some of the newer varieties - all are seen in our gardens.
In purples we may choose our silks from bundles of palest heliotropes, delicate mauves, waved lavender overlaid with rose, purple, ruddy purple, and deep Royal purple, shades that vie with the regal decorations of the imperial robes.
Let each needlewoman take a handful of the sweet-peas she loves best and matching her silks in Nature's own colours, let her embroider her pattern with a bowl of sweet-peas in front of her. Thus will she embroider more successfully than ever before, and will create a colour scheme which will be a joy to look at long after the sweet fragrance has departed from the bunch which inspired her needle.
The patterns shown in the frontispiece and on our next page are specially designed for reproduction in many ways. The large spray can be used singly as a centre ornament for a tea-cosy, sofa cushion, bodice embroidery, or for the fashionable pocket where a wide, short ornament is desirable. This pocket is of rose-coloured linen embroidered in white flourishing thread, the fringed knobs of twisted white linen braid. Rose cord forms the handle, which may be worn hanging on the shoulder.
Another suggestion for a centre, the design from the frontispiece being worked in green and rose colour
The bag was made to wear with a rose linen frock with panels of sweet-pea embroidery, ornamented with the narrow spray, which repeats with artistic continuity.
The large spray also "repeats," and in this way can be used as a wide skirt or tunic edging. Nothing could be more lovely than such a wide border round a cream soft satin Court train worked in a creamy blush or a waved pink variety.
A table-centre showing the small corner worked in waved mauve (Marquis) and the narrow sprays in continuous line would be very lovely. A single or double line of ribbon in the foliage green might form an outside border. Or, for workers who can spend much time on their handicraft, a buttonholed curved outside border, with a single dot of green satin-stitch in each curve, would make a good outside finish. This green dot, representing the pea, would be quite in the picture.
This pattern can also be very effectively worked if the background is darned. Trace the design on a linen of good coarse round thread, darn the whole ground closely and evenly, taking up one thread in every five. Continue the darning one inch beyond the pattern in the widest part. It is a good plan to use a fine huckaback; this indicates the threads to be caught up clearly. Outline
Lay tracing-cloth on this design, the shiny side downwards, and pencil over the outline. Next take a sheet of carbon paper and lay it on the material to be embroidered, place the traced design over this and trace the pattern through to the material. Do not move the tracing-cloth until the spray is finished. This method can be used also with the coloured frontispiece the pattern in a darker thread, and run a dark thread at the edge of the darning, or use some other simple pattern at the outside. This makes a very handsome border.
It is quite simple to use so well designed a pattern as that here given, but some practical directions may prove useful.
Buy some tracing-paper or tracing-cloth; the latter is much the best. Threepennyworth is sufficient for tracing both the large spray shown in our coloured illustration and the small border and corner which is printed in outline. Lay this on the pattern to be traced, the shiny side downwards, and pencil over the outline; the cloth will be found as transparent as tissue paper, but as strong as calico. Now spread the material to be worked on a table, or board, with no cloth on it. If the linen, silk, satin, or muslin is of small size, it is a good plan to fix it firmly in place with drawing-pins at the corners.
Now lay a penny sheet of dark blue or black carbon paper next to the material, and trace over the lines of the pattern with a sharp pencil or blunt knitting-needle.
When the spray is finished, but not before, lift up the tracing-paper, and the pattern will have been transferred to the material to be embroidered. Repeat this process as many times as the arrangement of the pattern requires.
Thus may we take lasting portraits of these lovely but all too ephemeral blossoms to give as souvenirs to our friends; thus may we embroider for our own pleasure or that of others life-like needle-pictures, which will be a joy through those dreary months of winter, when their beautiful living prototype can no longer gladden our eyes.