Jardin de Lavande sampler: the lavender fields
Over the past few weeks I've been introducing you to my new Jardin de Lavande blocks - prior to their release in July - and taking you on a leisurely virtual tour of France's most beautiful gardens. This week I thought I'd share a little more about my inspiration for this quilt.
As soon as I saw Tilda Fabric's Maple Farm - and its sister collection Tiny Farm - I was instantly drawn to its soft violets, gentle lilacs and sun-washed mauves. The Jardin de Lavande Sampler was inspired by my first glimpses of that beautiful fabric: it instantly conjured up the glowing colours and golden light of southern France and the lavender fields of Provence.
That beautiful fabric is where this quilt began and I happily immersed myself in a teetering stack of gardening books as I developed my ideas for each block. There had to be a gardener's house, of course - because you know I can never resist a house block - and, as French parterre gardens are so iconic, I wanted to include some geometric blocks to offset the whimsy of the gardener's tools. Whittling down which tools to include was tough, because vintage gardening paraphernalia is so beautiful.
I was also inspired by French brocantes, or open-air antique fairs, such as the world-famous Paris flea-markets or the century-old Sunday market at Isle-sur-la-Sorgue in Provence. Summer brocantes are also popular in the south-east of England, where vintage French zinc watering cans are highly sought after.
As are monogrammed linens: I thought a monogram would be a wonderful way to personalise the quilt, so included all the letters of the alphabet in the pattern...
Over the past nine weeks - or the past nine months for our block of the month participants - I have introduced you to my favourite French gardens. I admit it's a subjective list but, hopefully, one that will encourage you to explore some more, if only through the window of your computer screen.
But July is here and we have arrived at our final destination: the glorious lavender fields of Provence. Paris-based photographer Mary Quincy captured them beautifully when she toured the lavender fields in a vintage 2CV called Albert.
You can see more of her exquisite photographs of the Valensole lavender fields and the surrounding villages here.
Provence is synonymous with lavender, but where did that story begin? The Romans cultivated lavender to fragrance their laundry - the name is derived from the Latin lavare, to wash - and brought it with them to Provence. The soil and climate suited it perfectly. By the nineteenth century lavender was the mainstay of Provencal farms and so prized it was known as blue gold. Much of the fragrant lavender oil went to supply perfume production in nearby Grasse: it takes 100 kilos of lavender to make a litre of lavender oil.
Nowadays lavender is a mainstay of the tourist industry, with visitors flocking to the lavender fields in July to see it in bloom and taking away bags of dried lavender, blocks of lavender-scented olive oil soap and jars of lavender honey to remind them of their stay. A souvenir.
This quilt is, for me, a souvenir of the summer of 2020. When I made it I wasn't entirely sure I'd be able to share it as a block of the month quilt. Fabric supplies were erratic, international post unpredictable and the all the plans carefully made for the programme were in disarray. My dear friend Andrea was magnifique throughout it all: stepping up to have pattern books printed in Canada and being so calm and encouraging when the timeline felt impossible.
Our block of the month participants have also been merveilleuse: sharing their tips so generously - you are all so much better at embroidery than me! - and supporting one another on Instagram and in our Facebook group. What a wonderful journey this has been in your company.
Merci beaucoup mes chers,