Having wandered through the fragrant Flower Garden and found the mischievous chickens in the Kitchen Garden, an embroiderer now finds herself following the sound of water splashing on stone.
As she walks along the warm sandstone path and down a flight of steps, she realises that she's not alone. Narrow streams run in parallel with the path, filled with vibrant Golden Orfe fish, glistening in the sun as they snaffle morsels from the surrounding pond weed. The embroiderer comes to an ornate fountain adorned with fantastical dolphins and decorative carvings. Water spouts from the dolphins' mouths and tumbles from deep bowls, splashing onto the worn stone steps below.
The embroiderer glances up, certain she's seen something catch the light, but it's gone. Looking down the next path, she sees a tiny building which piques her curiosity. As she gets closer, she sees the little house is richly decorated with tiny glass tesserae. A bowl sits in the front recess, spilling over with water flowing from a spout above, held in the mouth of a fearsome Medusa. The ancient monster and her snakes glare at the embroiderer with wide topaz eyes, as if daring her to further invade the grotto. About to defy Medusa and take a drink of the cool, fresh water, the embroiderer glances up, distracted. There it is again, that flash of light lasting only a second. Intrigued, the embroiderer leaves Medusa to her centuries-old loneliness and continues down the path.
The edge of a lake comes into view, decorated with vivid yellow flag irises, rich blue dots of water forget-me-knots, stately bulrushes and bright green grasses rustling in the gentle breeze. As the embroiderer draws closer, she sees the surface of the lake is scattered with floating pink and white water lilies. An elegant heron gives the embroiderer a quizzical look but decides she is no risk and returns his gaze to the glassy water.
Strolling around the lake, the embroiderer looks back across the water and suddenly realises those little flashing lights are darting dragonflies in glorious jewel-like colours. As they swoop over the surface, she sees the tranquility is deceptive - everywhere the embroiderer looks, there is movement and life. Otters tumble together in play, ducks squabble as they bob for tasty morsels and fly overhead, the water lilies tremble as fish nudge them as they nibble the stems and hunt for flies, while frogs and newts take sudden fright with the embroiderer's movement and dive to the dark green depths of the lake.
She sees something stirring deep below the water and wonders what it could be. Ghostly inhabitants of the old Roman villa, still searching for their treasure? Or a formidable pike, lurking in the weeds and waiting for dinner to approach?
The embroiderer sits at the edge of the water and gazes across to the far hills as she contemplates her next works. She has a feeling they could be rather watery...
This sampler includes a wide range of counted embroidery stitches, from cross stitch (over two and over one) and padded satin stitch, to French, colonial and bullion knots and back stitch. All stitch diagrams, full instructions and detailed charts are included in the chart pack - and of course you can always contact me on firstname.lastname@example.org if you have any questions.
I used 32ct Zweigart Ice Blue linen for this sampler, which is a close colour match to DMC 3841. I do recommend using linen or evenweave as working cross stitch over one is difficult on aida, but it would look just as good on 28ct or 36ct if you wanted to go larger or smaller! Be aware that if you want to use higher fabric counts, you might want to use tent stitch instead of cross stitch in the over-one areas.
I've used mainly DMC six-stranded cotton but this doesn't have the high shine and fineness I wanted to depict the water. So here I used Rajmahal Art Silks - an Australian brand of viscose floss with strands fine enough not to completely hide the stitching underneath and the most wonderful sheen to catch the light, just as water does! You can purchase Rajmahal Art Silks from many suppliers (including a number on Etsy) or order direct from www.rajmahal.com.au - but be warned, they come in luscious colours and can be addictive!
Art Silks can be a little 'springy' to work with, so it's a good idea to work with short lengths. Beeswax and other thread conditioners can dull the shine so I prefer to pass the strand of floss through a damp sponge before stitching. Make sure it's well-squeezed out, you don't want the floss to be dripping! If you're using a hand-dyed fabric, it's worth testing the dampened floss out on a spare corner first to make sure the dye from the fabric doesn't transfer onto the floss.
Regular visitors to Honeyapple Meadow will already have guessed that I've added a little Kreinik Blending Filament to the bees' wings for a subtle twinkle in the light. I've also used DMC Light Effects for the jewel-like dragonflies but for these and the bees' wings, any other metallic floss would work equally well.
The Water Garden Sampler chart pack, including all instructions and diagrams, is available for only £22.95.