When I first thought about making my “Basket of Vegetables Artfully Arranged” it was a quirky amusement. As I started making them, I felt a little silly. When I really got into it, they became just too much fun to make.
There are two kinds of vegetables in my basket, those made with already dyed cotton velvet and those made with white silk velvet colored with chalk pastels. Each are topped with wool leaves and stems. In a couple pieces, I used the pastels over the cotton velvet. As with original Victorian velvet pin cushions, I did not keep scale as a rule, though I did adhere a little better to real life. This trio from Christie’s shows scale was not a hard fast rule, with the strawberry that is larger than the carrot and apple.
While tomatoes and strawberries are the velvet pin cushions we most commonly think of, I found as I worked, I was most smitten with the carrots and the eggplant.
The carrots captured my attention because it was such a simple shape, yet a complex coloring. The shape is simply a triangle, sewn up the side and gathered in on the top. The coloring though is layers of yellows and oranges accented with stripes. Original velvet carrots show beautiful coloring recalling the carrots of many colors. This original carrot shows a variegation of orange with short brown stripes and a small crown of greens.
The eggplant on the other hand is all about the shape with the green leaves wrapping around the top. There is just something about that combination that I love. This is true for each of the varieties I made. I also quite like the combination of the deep purple velvet and the green wool. (I think I will make a couple all wool eggplants too.) The original velvet eggplants have a beautiful depth of color, a level I have yet to be able to achieve with the colors I used.
Anther favorite is the assortment of chili peppers. This may be that they are already a favorite, or it may be that beautiful red color, or it may be that I can see them dangling together in a group. This is the one vegetable I do not have a solid original example of (yet.)
The squashes and gourds allowed for a great variety of heirlooms to choose from. These are each smaller than life, with the pumpkin being the most so. I want to look into whether or not actual stems were or were not used in nineteenth century examples. There is a fun modern trend of making decorative velvet pumpkins in a variety of fun colors with real stems. This auction example with an original stem is said to be from the early 19th century.
Returning to the popular tomatoes, I wanted an assortment of varieties from deep red, to orange red and green. Luckily, I was able to find several shades of red scraps to work with. I did a little coloring to play with how the colors change as they ripen.
I almost forgot my cucumbers. They are a little under ripe or were in too moist of a garden based on their rather light green tone.