Tinctorial Plants embroidery - Second Part

Tinctorial Plants embroidery - Second Part

- Categories : Museums and Heritage

Although woad, indigo and madder are well-known for their dyeing properties (see part one), it is more surprising to find decorative flowers such as the dahlia, hollyhock or French marigold.


The Poppy, Dahlia ahd Hollyhock from the Sajou Tinctorial Plants pattern chart

Papaver Orientale, Dahlia and Alcea rosea.


There are many different types of poppy. This one is from the same family as the opium poppy, which in Latin is unambiguously known as Papaver somniferum. This plant has used for medicinal purposes for thousands of years. The Sumerians described it as the plant of joy almost 6000 years ago. It was also used by the Pharaohs in Ancient Egypt, not only for therapeutic purposes, but also for its psychotropic attributes. The poppy has been used as a symbol since Ancient Greece where it was ­­found on the money of the time and the goddess of the harvest, Demeter, is often represented holding a bunch of poppies. The use of poppies as a symbol of remembrance was instigated in 1921 by Moina Michael, an American professor and humanitarian, who was inspired by the poem “In Flanders Fields” by John McCrae. The petals of this versatile plant are used to obtain pink and violet.­

The dahlia originates from the warm regions of Mexico, Central America and Columbia. The hollow stem of this plant led it to be known as Chichipatli or Acocopatli, roughly translated as “water cane”. ­­The plant was later baptised dahlia in honour of the Swedish botanist, Andreas Dahl, student of the famous Carl Linnaeus, known as the “father of modern taxonomy” after formalising the naming of plants. The first dahlia grains were sent in 1789 by Professor Vincente Cervantès, director of the botanical gardens in Mexico, to the Abbot Anotonio Cavanilles, himself professor and future director of the botanical gardens in­­ Madrid. Introduced in France in 1802, the root of this ­­­­plant was recommended as a carbohydrate, with a taste akin to the artichoke and as a replacement for potatoes. However, the dietary qualities were quickly superseded by the decorative values. Originally, there were only four or five different varieties of simple flowers. Gradually the dahlia conquered all of Europe and became a veritable passion. It was so popular at the beginning of the 19th century, especially the violet variety, that certain breeders managed to make a fortune. Used for dyeing, the darker ­colours have always given the best results. .­

The hollyhock (Alcea Rosea), which can grow up to three metres high, is widespread all over Europe. It was imported from China during the Crusades in the Middle Ages. The herbalist William Turner gave it the name Ho­­­­lyoke, from holy and hokke, a Middle English word meaning mallow. Hence the American name for this plant is rose mallow. This biennial plant produces flowers in all tones of pinks, reds and purples. The petals are used to obtain mainly blues and purples. The whole of the hollyhock is reproduced here and flows through the title.


Oak and buckthorn leaves from the Sajou Museums and Heritage pattern chart

As with many leaves and barks of trees, those of the oak (Quercus) are used for dyeing. The leaves produce many shades of beige of little interest. However, the bark is rich in tannins and gives glorious browns, even black with blue hues, when associated with iron salts.

As for buckthorn berries (Rhammus), the colours extracted range from yellows to browns. As proof that this tree was once widespread and considered as useful, it was the name given to the 18th day of the month of Fructidor in the French Revolutionary Calendar.


I have placed a little whimsical touch to each of the embroideries in the Museums and Heritage collection: for the Toile de Jouy, this comes in the form of small fabric samples which are sewn on another fabric. The pompoms on the Bayeux embroidery are a reminder of the seven colours identified in the original masterpiece. Our Sajou 10 years project has ribbons, press studs and buttons which are added to the embroidery. In these Tinctorial Plants, we have added ribbons to represent the dye colours obtained by each plant. This is where you can add your own personal touch to make your project unique. Everything is explained in detail on the pattern chart.

The Tinctorial Plants embroidery from the Sajou Museums and Heritage collection

This project is available either as a large pattern chart or as a complete kit presented in a lovely box.

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