Honeysuckle T shirt for the mummy of a six year old who already has one

Navy T shirt with honeysuckle embroidery (hand embroidered by Mary Addison)

My husband’s daughter-in-law liked the T shirt I embroidered for her daughter so much that she asked me if I’d do something similar for her. She’s small and has longish, dark, very thick hair and a smooth complexion, so the sharp colours of the honeysuckle on a background of navy blue should look really gorgeous. It was a delight to make and a pleasure to be asked.

Detail of honeysuckle embroidered T shirt (hand embroidered by Mary Addison)

Gradually, little signs of what we used to regard as normal are creeping back into our lives. This week the gardens surrounding St Paul’s Cathedral opened and instead of parents, relations and nannies crowding on a narrow bit of pavement to collect our children from the cathedral school, we are now able to sit amid flowers and foliage until the children emerge. Buses and traffic have been very erratic recently and on Thursday I arrived nearly 45 minutes before pick up time. It was sunny and hot so I chose a seat directly behind the east end of Wren’s great building. Children, out of sight, at their last lesson of the day, were playing a noisy game of basketball in the sunken playground behind me, so I’d be in no doubt about when school would end. I regretted not having brought a book to read, especially as my current reading – The Stone Mason: A History of Building Britain – by the modest but exciting Andrew Ziminski, includes writing about his own work on the cathedral (though I haven’t got to the bit of the book on St Paul’s yet). Coincidentally I’d bought the book from the bookshop in Tetbury which we’d visited with the recipient of this T shirt. when we stayed at Owlpen Manor.)

Detail of honeysuckle embroidered T shirt (hand embroidered by Mary Addison)

With no book and a feeling that scrolling through one’s phone is the wrong thing to do on a sunny day in such a glorious setting, I raised my eyes and considered the building before me. Attending Evensong in the cathedral with my grandson, we had had the good fortune to sit in the choir. “Did Christopher Wren do all this” he asked, looking round.  “No” was my short answer just as the choir boys started up – though I really wanted to engage in conversation and add Wren that wasn’t the only genius at work on the cathedral, for the choir stalls themselves are resplendent with the virtuoso wood carving of fruit, flowers and putti by the baroque master  Grinling Gibbons, a man with a name as engaging as his talent. Now, here on the outside in the festoon panels beneath the windows I could see stone echoes of those wooden choir stalls. Looking at a book on him, I realise these were probably not by him – we know he did 26 similar panels which can be seen under the windows along the length of the building — but those I was looking at are very much of his style with deeply incised flowers and fruits, pickable and pluckable, if only you could reach them. Clean and straight lines of good modern building can be uplifting and pleasing, but there’s something very special about glancing upwards and noticing that three and a half centuries ago someone spent time and skill labouring to turn stone into such visual delight.

Grinling Gibbons woodcarving – detail of his Casimo panel (in the Pitti Palace, Florence)

The first photograph is fairly true as to colour of both T shirt and embroidery. I’m disappointed how grey the navy looks in the other pictures and even crosser that after many attempts, I have nothing better to show. Grrrrrr.

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  1. Posted September 20, 2021 at 8:11 pm | Permalink

    The top photo is enough to tell me that it looks gorgeous!

    I saw the Grinling Gibbons lace jabot on a visit to Chatsworth, and was so utterly astonished by it I was in danger of growing roots. There was a BBC4 (I think) documentary about him some time ago, which included an interview with a woodcarver – most illuminating..

    • Mary Addison
      Posted September 23, 2021 at 11:03 am | Permalink

      Such deep carving is stunning and makes you feel there’s real lace that’s undergone the wood equivalent of being petrified.
      I remember that programme with the woodcarver in his shed at the bottom of his garden – seeing him at work on the wood was, as you say, most enlightening.

      • Posted September 27, 2021 at 5:40 pm | Permalink

        Yes, I think he described carving as “dancing with the wood”, and I was completely smitten!

        • Mary Addison
          Posted September 27, 2021 at 7:16 pm | Permalink

          That’s lovely!

  2. Amara Bray
    Posted September 22, 2021 at 4:35 am | Permalink

    We can tell from the first picture how great the colors are! That woodcarving is amazing. Just spectacular.

    • Mary Addison
      Posted September 23, 2021 at 11:08 am | Permalink

      Kind of you to say so – always irritating when it’s embroidery not photography that I know more about!
      The woodcarving is really quite something – so tangible and fruit and flowers utterly pickable!

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