Sunday, 2 February 2014

February's fair maids

After making the Remembrance Day poppy and the Tudor rose for Lancashire Day, I thought it would be nice to make a different brooch to mark the changing of the seasons and traditions. It's taken me a while to get around to it but the snowdrops growing in my parents' garden gave me the inspiration.

At first, my plan was to make something 3D in felt which, in my fantasies, would have looked something like these gorgeous examples by CozyFelt (left) and Olga Voloshchenko (right). Sadly though the reality of my skills meant I had to aim for something simpler. I played around with felt and fabric for a while but nothing looked quite right. Back to the drawing board and to cross stitch.

I found a pattern in my magazine stash and settled down last Sunday with a cup of tea and a couple of pieces of Scottish tablet to stitch.

And this was the result! I tried lots of different settings but this simple border of green and white felt worked the best. There's a couched silver thread around the linen to give a touch of sparkle. Not what I envisaged at the start but I'm pretty happy with it.

That wasn't the end of the snowdrops though.

While looking for ideas and patterns, I came across lots of information about snowdrops, including this lovely, little poem by Alfred Lord Tennyson.

Many many welcomes,
February fair-maid,
Ever as of old-time,
Solitary firstling,
Coming in the cold time,
Prophet of the gay time,
Prophet of the May time,
Prophet of the roses,
Many many welcomes,
February fair-maid!

I thought it summed up beautifully the hope and anticipation that these first flowers of the year bring.

The snowdrop, in purest white arraie,
First rears her hedde on Candlemas daie

I also discovered that today is Candlemas Day when a blessing of the church candles for the coming year would have been held. Snowdrops are also known as both Candlemas bells and Mary's tapers. You can see in this photo how they might have come by the latter name as they push their flame-like white tips into the light.

Candlemas marks the midway point between the Winter Solstice (shortest day) and the Spring Equinox (20 March) and coincides with the pagan Celtic feast of Imbolc. As you know, I love a good tradition and don't want to miss an excuse for feasting, so I thought it would be fitting to mark the occasion with something to eat.

It wasn't hard to find inspiration in that humble staple, milk. Imbolc translates as 'ewe's milk' and the scientific name for snowdrops, Galanthus, comes from the Greek for milk (gala) and flower (anthos). As I've had a bit of a poorly tummy this week, a warm milky pudding sounded just the thing. I did consider making galatopita (being Greek and milky) but instead settled on that English classic, rice pudding, laced with a splash of amaretto.

Who would have thought that the simple little snowdrop could provide so much inspiration?

Before I go , I have one last traditional saying.

If Candlemas Day be fair and bright
Winter will take another flight.
If Candlemas Day be cloud and rain
Winter is gone and will not come again.

I don't know what it's been like in your corner of the world today, but here it's been a beautiful sunny day. Looks like we're in for a long winter :(


Do you ever find that some posts come together really easily and others you have to labour over? This is definitely the latter. I had such a mix of ideas and inspiration it was hard to bring that muddled mass together. I hope I got there in the end. x


  1. You expressed yourself very well in this post, I love all the different snowdrop things, and the poem etc. Your brooch looks lovely, I hope that you enjoy wearing it over the next few weeks. Hope that you have a good week. xx

  2. What a lovely reflective post on your inspirations and tying them altogether with crafts, food, poetry - very impressive and informative as I didn't know about these traditions. Do good to learn something while drooling over your scrummy looking pud.

  3. I so love rice pudding, and I haven't had it forever! Loved your post, Julie! Your snowdrops were beautiful. Our groundhog saw his shadow, so we're in for more winter here too! Have a great week!

  4. Great post. We had cloudy and cold weather today - so hopefully it will hold true that winter will take flight. One can always dream.

  5. I love your little brooch, it's beautiful.

  6. A lovely snowdrop post! Complete with a scrumptious treat at the end... ;-) I love your stitching, please consider linking up to my Stitching Sunday post to share? It's so pretty, and I have snowdrops in my post, too! Chrissie x

  7. Oh wow, what a lovely post. Your stitching is beautiful and the rice pudding made me all warm inside. We celbrated Candlemas at church yesterday morning, the day Mary took her son to the temple - 40 days after his birth which was the law at that time.

  8. Ah tablet, delicious tablet! It is just too good isn't it?! A lovely post as always Julie. The snowdrop photos are gorgeous and your little stitched snowdrops are so sweet.
    Marianne x

  9. It sounds like Candlemas predicts winter's length in much the same way as groundhog day in the US. Your celebrations are so rich -- I am always arriving at holidays with very little preparation and having to patch the celebration together at the last minute.

  10. If we're in for a long winter, winter had better actually arrive!! I love snowdrops, I snapped some for my 365 photo at the weekend. I mark imbolc some years and some years don't bother. I love all the quotations you have in this post - they're the kinds of things I'm often reading as I like to read about old traditions, old sayings etc. Your photos are lovely and your cross stitch looks great!

  11. Many, many welcomes...I have live in England and I understand how welcome these flowers would be!
    I remember that the crocus was very exciting to me when I saw it pushing itself up after such a long cold winter! Am I remembering that correctly>

    1. Yes, crocus are one of the first spring flowers and I've already had one flower in my garden - much earlier than usual because of the mild winter here. x