From Watercolour to Embroidery

Watercolour : Silk Flowers at Paynesville

Watercolour : Silk Flowers at Paynesville

This vase of flowers was on the table in a motel room we stayed in, many years ago. For some reason they caught my eye, and for our whole stay – which was full of activity and outings – I wanted to paint them. But we were never in the room for long enough during the daytime.

Finally, on the morning we were going to leave, I got out my paints, sat down, stared very hard, and painted this. I’ve noticed that if I really want to paint something, it often works much better than paintings I’ve done because I want to practise painting.

I don’t think I even bothered to take a photograph. Everything I wanted to remember about the vase is in the painting.

When we got home, however, it seemed to me that the painting offered possibilities as the basis for a simple embroidery.

Embroidery based on the watercolour

Embroidery based on the watercolour

A very simple embroidery, but, as you see, making use of a variety of stitches.

The vase was textured glass, not clear, and I represented that using lines of coral stitch among the stem stitch. I didn’t work it more densely, because I wanted it to have a certain lightness of touch.

The twigs were very rough and twiggy, so I used scroll stitch.

Finally, the simple shapes of the flowers were best represented using my neatest and most careful satin stitch. All I really wanted from them was the colour.

I haven’t the vaguest idea what to do with the embroidery, so I’ve laced it over a board to keep it tidy. But I thought you might be interested to see one of my very rarest stories – I know other designers often do detailed watercolours of their designs, but it’s not how I work. More often, I have a rough idea in my head, and work on each element while I’m planning the details of the next, waiting for the piece to tell me what it wants.

This has turned out well, but I’m still slightly bewildered that it happened at all!


  1. Sue Jones says:

    Very neat, simple, delicate, in both interpretations. Thank you for showing them to us. The watercolour sketch is perfect as it is. The stitch translation is nicely in keeping with the shape and weight of it, but with much less of a Japanese feel.

    (At one time I was photo-collecting artificial flowers and plants, especially the rather strange and battered specimens found in shops, hotels and restaurants. They still have a dreadful fascination for me. Yours doesn’t look like a fake.)

    I tend to do as you usually do, and leave most of the planning to keep my brain busy while I am stitching the obvious bits. Even with counted thread embroidery. (This sometimes causes a lot of unpicking!) But I have sometimes worked everything out first, or copied something I have already done as a coloured drawing, and I should probably do it more often as it wastes less thread.

    I am suddenly feeling INSPIRED now – oh dear!

  2. What a nice memory of your trip and the delight of the floral display in the room. I have never done an embroidery based on a watercolour. I think the Scroll Stitch was a good choice for the knobby twigs.

  3. Jen Mullen says:

    What a great way to preserve a memory in water color and in thread!

  4. Lady Fi says:

    Wow – that is stunning and I like the simple, clean lines.

  5. Catherine says:

    This is a lovely painting and piece of embroidery. I like the simple nature of it. Perhaps if you find yourself in a similar situation you could stitch another one or two in a simple style and have a collection to display. Or perhaps stitch this in a number of different colour ways for a collection.

  6. Lin Tarrant says:

    It’s worked really well Rachel – beautiful. xx

  7. Jane says:

    That is lovely, a beautiful statement!

  8. Terrie says:

    Nice way to keep good memories. Love your water colour painting. Simply clean and clear. Embroidery afterwards is solid to make something functional.

  9. Susan says:

    I like both the drawing and the embroidery which echoes it so nicely. I envy you your drawing ability, because that is something I definitely was not gifted. I so much admire people who can draw anything that looks like itself! I think the embroidery captures the texturing of the glass and the flecks of color quite nicely. It will tell you how it wants to be displayed, but is it large enough to simply frame it, perhaps with a narrow mat with a blush of the color of the flowers?

  10. Just catching up with the last 2 weeks worth of blog posts!
    Well done. This is a good example of working from primary sources and it’s also great that you felt ready to embroider. 🙂

  11. Carolyn Foley says:

    Lovely design and it has translated so well from the painting to the embroidery.