Tuesday, February 5, 2013

Embroidering the Scent of Winter Tangerines

Embroidered tangerine

Drawing on an old folk tradition that never existed but should have, we present the wonder of what the Germans call "sticken des geruchs der wintertangerinen," or "embroidering the scent of winter tangerines."

Embroidered tangerine design dating back to the 12th century

The two halves joined

Interior stitching

One method used to dry tangerines while preserving their shape - sand packing

In the dead of winter, with scant light from flickering candles, those who lived deep in the forest fought despair by taking up the meditative practice of embroidering tangerines and oranges. As they stitched the citrus skin, the essential oils of the fruit were released, filling the room with the scent. Modern research indicates they instinctively stumbled on a strategy that is based in scientific fact. Studies have shown (http://www.prevention.com/health/emotional-health/scent-citrus-shown-reduce-stress) that the scent of oranges is effective in fighting off anxiety, stress, and depression.

"Blood of winter" design

Two halves


Stitched "hinge" joins the two halves

Interior stitching

Once completed, the embroidered oranges and tangerines were packed with moss or dry soil in order to assure the peel retained its shape while drying. Once dried, the resulting beautifully embroidered casings were tucked in nooks and crannies around the house as an offering to friendly spirits in hopes they would make themselves hidden nests for the winter, forming cozy beds from the interior stitching. These friendly spirits could do battle with evil spirits and dark moods, so the more of them you could lure into your home, the better.

Celestial pattern based on design circa 14th century (note star taking advantage of bark-like discoloration in fruit)

Close-up of top

Two halves joined

Interior stitching (spirit nest)

A sense of scale: size of finished embroidered tangerine


  1. pretty sure you are my spirit animal.

  2. Glad you guys are liking this - I'm finding it hard to stop embroidering tangerines. It's mesmerizing and I have to remind myself to stop and hold it up to my nose and inhale deeply every once in a while.

  3. What a delightful idea!!!
    Thanks for this........Ive never heard of this being done, but I guess its not unlike the notion of sticking cloves in oranges too.
    Must try this myself now lol

  4. That is the oddest, most interesting thing I've read in a long time. Thank you for this post! The research was interesting, too.

  5. Applause and awe at your creative genius.


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