The language of flowers…

I saw a post earlier this month on Facebook about the rose being the birthday flower for June and I thought “Aha!” Time to remind myself which flowers are for which months, as it can make a lovely, apt, birthday present for friends who love their gardens or, like me, just love having flowers in the house. It also reminded me about the ‘language of flowers’…

Sometimes called ‘floriography’, the language of flowers is all about sending messages through the arrangement of flowers. Meaning has been attributed to flowers for thousands of years but interest in floriography really took off in Victorian times. Gifts of blooms, plants, and specific floral arrangements were used to send a coded message to the recipient, allowing the sender to express feelings that could not be spoken aloud in buttoned-up Victorian society! Armed with floral dictionaries, Victorians often exchanged small ‘talking bouquets’, called nosegays or tussie-mussies, which could be worn or carried as a fashion accessory. It’s a rather lovely idea and such a shame that now, most people just text or tweet each other – so unromantic!

But there… for those of us that still have a bit of romance, or poetry in our souls, here’s a list of birthday plants for each month, plus their significance. This isn’t definitive and you’ll find some differences, but you’ll get the general idea!

January: Carnation
The flower is said to symbolise love, fascination and distinction. Carnations come in every shade and each colour can symbolise a sentiment or emotion. Pink means affection, a white carnation mean good luck, whereas a yellow carnation denotes disappointment or exclusion.

A Victorian tussie-mussie.February: Violet
Although this month is associated with St. Valentine’s Day and red roses, the flower for the month is violet. The flower symbolises faithfulness, humility and chastity. Giving violets in the Victorian era conveyed the message ‘I’ll always be true’.

March: Daffodil
This month is synonymous with the onset of spring and accordingly the flower associated with this month is the daffodil also known as jonquil or narcissus. A gift of these flowers conveys the hidden meaning of friendship and happiness.

April: Sweet pea
The sweet pea is said to symbolise pleasure or good-bye. In the Victorian era, these flowers formed a part of the bouquet that was sent to someone to convey gratefulness.

May: Lily of the valley
The flower conveys sweetness and humility. In the Victorian era, they conveyed the romantic message ‘You have made my life complete’.

June: Rose
Roses are available in many colours and each has its own special meanings, but the underlying message the flowers convey is that of love and passion.

Pink larkspur for contrariness!July: Larkspur
With its simple form, feelings of open heart and ardent attachment are attributed to it. Again, there are different meanings for each colour. Pink denotes contrariness, white expresses a happy nature, and a first love is usually symbolized by purple.

August: Gladiolus
It stands for sincerity and symbolises strength of character.

September: Aster
The name of the flower – which looks like a star – is derived from the Greek word for star and, in the language of flowers, it symbolises love, faith and wisdom.

October: Marigold or Calendula
The marigold stands for sorrow and sympathy.

November: Chrysanthemum
Compassion, friendship and joy. Chrysanthemums have different meanings. Red is for love, white means innocence, and yellow denotes unrequited love.

December: Narcissus
The narcissus symbolises sweetness.

 

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Sparkling Lavinia Stamps

Lavinia Stamps are all designs drawn by Tracey Dutton. I have exhibited opposite Tracey for several years at the NEC – the Hobbycraft show – and every year I watch her demos and ‘ooh’ and ‘aah’ over her talent and the fabulous effects she produces.

The great thing about stamping and crafting in general – and Papercrafting in particular – is that everybody can have their own style and be an artist without necessarily being able to paint or draw. It was suggested when I was about 13 that I might like to leave the art class as I so often wasted school supplies (my paintings and still life drawings were awful!) and instead increase my Latin lessons to include a conversational lesson each week.

Well all I can say is RESULT – I not only got rid of a hugely egotistical young art master who taught nothing and had a bevy of devoted 13-year-old fans, but I got to know a wonderful lady who taught Latin and gave a tea party each week for three of us to speak Latin. Really fun, great company and CAKE … what more can I say!

Seriously though, it left me feeling I was great at Latin but apparently devoid of artistic ability. Well, what nonsense, just because we can’t paint or draw in a traditional way doesn’t mean there aren’t a million other techniques we can all use to create wondrous pieces of art.

Here the Lavinia stamps have been stamped onto colourful backing sheets (we have some on the website here) and then wonderful touches of sparkle and other tints and colours have been added. What’s not to love and I would fight off anyone that said this isn’t art!

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A load of old cordwainers!

Tools of a cordwainer’s trade.I am always fascinated by words and their origins and coming across old names for things always piques my interest. Partner in crime writing, Julia, recently wrote an article about a woman who made shoes and made the point that she was most definitely NOT a cobbler… she was a cordwainer. What a wonderful term! This, of course, set me off and I began Googling and have found out all sorts of fascinating things…

Old names for trades are really quaint and often highly descriptive, what a shame we no longer use most of them. Here are some examples:

  • Carnifex – butcher
  • Cissor – tailor
  • Flauner – confectioner
  • Huckster – seller of small articles/wares
  • Nedder – needle-maker
  • Puddler – wrought iron worker, mixer of molten pig iron into wrought iron
  • Tipstaff – policeman, bailiff, constable
  • Whitcher – maker of chests

A huckster from the 1860s… long before the advent of the website!Hmmm… perhaps I should promote myself as a ‘Huckster’ as through the website we sell lots of ‘small articles and wares’ – what do you think?

If you are called Cooper or Baxter, you may well know that your ancestors were barrel makers (cooper) and bakers (baxter).  But what if you are a Spicer, Leech or Fuller? Somewhere along the line your ancestors would have been (in order) grocers, doctors and felt or cloth makers.

It’s fascinating to see how our names evolve over the centuries. People’s accents and the listening and spelling capabilities of parish clerks are usually responsible for all the different versions of names we have today. She’s not sure, but Julia thinks ‘Wherrell’ is a corruption of ‘wheeler’. As her family originates from Wiltshire, the accent would make wheeler sound more like “woller’ or ‘worrell’ and eventually, ‘wherrell’.

‘Sheen’ is not an easy name to sort out, but most likely it has Irish origins. The original Gaelic form of the name Sheen is ‘O Siodhachain’, which may derive from ‘siodhach’ which means peaceful, so that’s quite nice!

And the difference between a cobbler and a cordwainer? A cobber mends shoes, a cordwainder makes them. The word is derived from ‘cordwain’, or ‘cordovan’, the fine leather produced in Córdoba, Spain. So now you know!

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The truth about St Valentine’s Day!

Happy Valentine’s Day! I’m sure all of us at some time in our lives have sent Valentine cards, or longed to receive one… As a teenager, I can remember it being terribly, terribly important! It is really more of a young person’s event but some people are very good at keeping the romantic flame alive as they get older and go out for a nice meal, or buy flowers, Richard is a real sweetie and often presents me with a huge bouquet – but it depends how busy we are at work!

As ever, when one of these special days comes round on the calendar, I like to do a bit of sleuthing and find out the truth and more often, the myths behind it all…

Saint Valentine’s Day is celebrated in many countries A Valentine card from 1862.around the world. It began as a celebration of one or more early Christian saints named Valentinus and there are all sorts of martyrdom stories and myths about this era. But the day was first associated with romance by Geoffrey Chaucer in the High Middle Ages, when the tradition of courtly love flourished.

In 18th-century England, it evolved into an occasion for lovers to express their love for each other by presenting flowers, offering confectionery, and sending greeting cards known as ‘valentines’. Printers had already begun producing a limited number of cards with verses and sketches, called ‘mechanical valentines,’ and a reduction in postal rates in the next century ushered in the less personal, but much easier, practice of posting Valentines.

Paper Valentines became so popular in England in the early 19th century that they were assembled in factories. Fancy cards were made with real lace and ribbons, with paper lace introduced in the mid-19th century. In 1835, an amazing 60,000 Valentine cards were sent by post in Britain, despite postage being expensive. 

I think it’s lovely that we crafters still make our own and put real time, effort and love into producing our Valentine cards, rather than just buying a mass-produced effort which today are so often rather cheap and a bit vulgar – I know, I know, I’m showing my age!!

Have a lovely day, whether you are celebrating or not!

 

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Christmas stockings

My major task this week is to find lovely little stocking fillers for my daughter’s stocking. I realise I have very few Emily-free days before she is home from university and will be as nosy as a five-year old about where presents might be hiding even though she is now 21!

Christmas stockings have been hung for ages but there’s no definitive history, it’s all folklore or tradition. Some people just have presents in the stocking – all supplied by Father Christmas. Some have a stocking, and then Father Christmas comes along and leaves larger presents under the tree. In our family’s case, we have stockings, and then all the presents are from real people rather than Father Christmas.

We always leave gifts for the reindeer and Santa – I don’t mean for a moment that Emily still believes – but I think we all just enjoy the little ritual of carrots for the reindeer, orange juice for Father Christmas as he is driving (Father Christmas was a little disappointed about that!) and a mince pie or chocolate brownie depending on what’s in the cake tin, to sustain him through his busiest night of the year.

When the girls were little, it was easy to have a limit of £4-5 for anything in the stocking, now it’s so much harder. Not only have prices gone up – I saw a £45 cashmere scarf advertised as a stocking filler today – but also adults are much harder to find things for than little girls! As tradition dictates, there’ll be a satsuma, some gold chocolate pennies and then a few other sweet treats, the obligatory amusing bubble bath and sadly this year I have stooped to a parrot key ring that swears – not a very good example but it is highly amusing.

So it’s full speed ahead for me – a personalised cupcake making apron (she loves to cook), some underwear, funny socks … thank goodness for the internet!

So, what are your stocking traditions?

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