Built out of two loves, native flowers and handstitched embroidery, an 80-year-old Far South Coast resident has published her first book, and hoped more people could learn how to capture the flora of the country's landscape through cotton and stitches.
Hidden at the base of a driveway surrounded by a collection of native and exotic plants overlapping and twisting together with no formal edge, each with names most would have difficulty pronouncing let alone spelling, sits 'Petraville'.
It's the home of embroidery artist and now author Barbara Jones and her botanist husband David.
In October 2023, the Kalaru resident self-published a book called 'Cross Stitch Embroidery for Australian Plant Lovers', which included 31 unique cross stitch designs of native plants from around Australia.
From the Stirling Range mountain bells (Darwinia leiostyla) a native shrub from Western Australia that droops over with stunning pink bell-shaped flowers, to the red pokers (Hakea bucculenta) with rod-like blooms.
Barbara said the book was the first of its kind and allowed crafters to pick their type, thread count and colour to suit their decor or eyesight capabilities, something not possible with counted cross stitch kits on the market.
When on location, Barbara said her process often started with leaf shapes and structures, before she would analyse the native for different textures to help stimulate her creativity, from galls, abnormal bumps on leaves and roots, to holes from caterpillars nibbling away at tender foliage.
With offcuts and graph paper, Barbara sketched detailed designs and painstaking plans of how she would capture the beauty of flowers through a multitude of stitches and cotton hues, and pen scribbles with notes on the margins.
Her publication similar to a paint by numbers, but rather a stitch by symbols.
"While [David's] working on his plant pressing and that, I've been drawing the local flowers I've come across while I've been there, and I guess that's what I've always done," she said with a smile.
Barbara met her husband at Burnley Horticultural College in Melbourne, before they married in 1967.
When Barbara was 12 she made her first ornamental mat, a doily, with her mother Anne Mentiplay in their home in Hampton, Victoria, and Barbara had since continued to dedicate thousands of hours to perfecting this craft alongside her love for horticulture.
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"People think it's old women's stitching, but it's great and very therapeutic to do hand stitching, very good if you're stressed, helps you unwind," Barbara said.
Cross Stitch Embroidery for Australian Plant Lovers was printed on the Far South Coast by Merimbula's Excell Printing Group.
To help support Bega Valley businesses, Barbara's book is available from Merimbula Newsagency, Candelo Books (Bega), and Country Crafts & Cottons (Bega).
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