Geometric Tortoise

Truth be told, I always thought that little flower shaped, ‘novelty’ sequins were really tacky and had no use in my work. How wrong I was.

I started with a circular piece of cotton as my ground, stitched onto my usual white drill. The cotton had been dyed in a ‘landscape’ – green at the bottom and blue at the top.

As you can see, I had a lot going on with this piece, and initially felt quite overwhelmed. Normally I pretty much know I’m going to start working on a particular area and build up in sections. But other than knowing I was going to be covering the circle in as many different flowers as possible, I really didn’t have a plan. Challenging and liberating (by the end).

I really wanted to use this piece as an opportunity to not only use embellishments but also experiment with some decorative surface stitches, something I rarely do.

One element I knew was absolutely key, was the giant King protea, national flower of South Africa. I started with the basic purple shape in cotton applique, then began layering up long purple purls.

It is amongst the oldest flowering plants on the planet, dating back over 300 million years.

It was very important to me to feature it in this piece for obvious reasons, especially when I learned it symbolises hope, change and transition. 

If you’re not familiar, google the flower to see if I got it right!

Then it was a case of appliqueing the spiky felt crown of petals, and some bugle bead embellishments for the flower stamens. I was very pleased with how this turned out.

I continued to build up the coverage with using the sequins and beads in as many ways – colours, heights, combinations, as I could, and made sure that I didn’t repeat the same (clump of) flowers twice.

To provide a bit of structure, I couched some string down on the left side of the piece, as decorative grass or stems to accompany these daisy type red flowers, which I used detached woven picots to achieve.

You can see here I’ve also used some pom poms, long bugles, herringbone stitch for the leaves, and started to build up the french knots around the tortoise to depict the dry soil of the habitat.

I made sure to fill gaps with french knots too, to tie the textures together.

Nothing is ever wasted. Here I used a pair of stumpwork detached slip leaves which I had made for a discarded project. You keep everything because it can always be reused!

Next I wanted another feature flower, so created this one by using sequins and beads stacked up to make semi stiff tassels, built up to create the blossom.

It took me a good couple of days and hundreds of beads to create.

Another look at this second King protea, but in bud, using velvet quilted down to create the texture.

It was very tricky at times to maintain consistently interesting textures and colours. I wanted to make sure that wherever you looked there was something interesting or unexpected to see. I used fluffy pipe cleaners here.

You can also see here the different heights I was working with.

The final quarter. It was getting really tricky to reuse sequins in different ways. I really liked these hyacinth type clusters.


All the threats the geometric tortoise faces pale into insignificance compared to the loss of its habitat.

Destruction of more than 90% of this environment has occurred due to urban and agricultural development. In addition, alien invasive vegetation, fire, poaching for the illegal pet trade, and even bush meat have pushed this tortoise to such rarity.

I wanted this piece to reflect the extreme biodiversity, and magic of such a habitat, but also communicate something ‘unreal’, as so many species here already do not exist.

Although only 4-6% of the former span of the Cape Floral Kingdom remains, there is a more hopeful future to the story of the Geometric tortoise. 75% of the remaining population now exists in protected areas.

What can you do? It may seem like a simple thing, but if you’re buying flowers, be aware of what you’re buying – more and more it is fashionable to include the stunning and exotic flowers of South Africa in bouquets, but please spend the time to discover if they have been harvested legally, fairly traded, and with ecological sensitivity.
What we do, matters.

Contact me to enquire about purchasing this piece.

5 thoughts on “Geometric Tortoise

  1. Pingback: Gooty Tarantula
  2. You did it – everywhere you look there is a different interesting (more like fascinating) thing to see. This is not only incredibly creative and beautiful, but kudos to you for pointing out the habitat loss in such a breath-taking way! Thank you for sharing your journey – you really ARE a creative genius!

  3. You are truly a creative genius. To be able to take something (flower sequins) that you originally didn’t like and not only use them, but turn them into something beautiful and expressive shows your genius and your creativity. I always enjoy reading your posts.

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