Sewing Yarrow Flowers by Lindsey Bond

Detail from Yarrow Flowers on the Farm and Sewing Yarrow Pillow appliqué pillow

Sewing Yarrow Flowers is a four-minute video that features the creation of yarrow flowers as a textile piece. Wâpanewask / yarrow / achillea millefolium is a circumpolar herb with fern-like leaves, tiny white flower clusters and deep root system. The hand-stitched textile piece calls attention to the agency of yarrow’s return to untended land where my relatives settled and left approximately 70 years later. In my family’s absence, yarrow took root and began repairing and regenerating the land my family previously cultivated. In the video (with audio), I sew and participate in an online conversation with my aunts, father and sister who consider connections between our family’s absence and the yarrow flowers’ growth.

In 2018, I visited my Grandmother Reynold’s farmhouse for the first time. My father and I contacted the current steward and asked to visit the rural Saskatchewan farm. As I walked rural Saskatchewan farm. As I walked through very tall grass a patch of white yarrow caught my attention. I was reminded instantly of the twinkle in my Grandmother’s eye and reflected on the process of ancestral healing through plants.

Stills from Sewing Yarrow Flowers Still_Repair, Video
Stills from Sewing Yarrow Flowers Still_Repair, Video, 4:27 minutes, 2021.

At home, I began to machine sew and embroider material layers of stems, flowers and roots to begin my repair work. I worked with hand-me-down sheets and thread gifted from my elderly Aunts. As I sewed, I thought about my family’s relationship with this plant and acknowledged my relatives’ part in uprooting yarrow in this place, Treaty 6 Territory. I began the seed of a conversation by asking my Aunts if they recognized the yarrow flower from the photograph I took on the old farm. My family didn’t recognize the yarrow flower from where they grew up. My Aunt Carol said:

“I really don’t recall this flower all over the place. Not at all. The field… was totally plowed, like we planted potatoes… It was tilled and worked every year.” (Aunt Carol 2021).

During the conversation, I contemplated the lack of knowledge transfer about yarrow from our ancestors in Europe, where it also grows. There were moments where my family equated “taking care” of the land as it being “cultivated and looked after”. They vent their frustrations that the current farmer / steward leaves the land to disrepair. Their understanding of “taking care” recalled images of perfectly manicured farmyards from my family archive and from government settlement advertisements in the early 1900s. I realized how British Colonial ideals of occupied and cultivated land are embedded in the fabric of my family’s memory and consciousness.

We began to discuss my family’s relationship with the complex history of settler colonialism and our involvement in displacing the yarrow plant and nêhiyaw and Metis families. My Aunts don’t understand how we are complicit. Towards the end of our conversation my Sister suggested the yarrow flowers are growing there because the land has been left and isn’t tilled anymore. This conversation was the first time that my Aunts realize that there might be a benefit to our family leaving the homestead. I tell my family that yarrow means “to-repair” and we talk about the yarrow flowers approach to “taking care” of the land and its medicinal properties.

Sewing Yarrow Pillow appliqué pillow with embroidery
Sewing Yarrow Pillow appliqué pillow with embroidery, cotton, poly fill, alpaca/ sheep wool (dyed with walnut shells), 16″x17″, 2021.

Sewing Yarrow Flowers calls attention to ongoing repair work of engaging in critical family conversations (Hunt and Holmes 2015). Over time, the discussions aim to build a foundation for intergenerational settler responsibility, accountability and healing. I engage in “sewing as material conversation” (Strohmayer 2021), as a process to learn about the yarrow plant ecosystem, uplift yarrow as teacher and metabolize the weight of my settler colonial inheritance. This single artwork and conversation is not enough to repair my family’s relationship with the land or with the nêhiyaw and Metis families. However, the shared conversation and hand-work makes space for understanding, acknowledgment, and the slow building of reciprocal relationships, beginning with plants.

About Yarrow. Yarrow’s root structure is strong and grows deep, bringing nutrients up to improve soil for other plants. Yarrow attracts bees and insects which pollinate surrounding plants and eat common pests. It can grow in poor, dry soils helping with soil erosion. Known as “the blood healer” yarrow flowers can be chewed and used as a blood coagulant to heal wounds topically. Yarrow leaves are a natural insect repellant and the flowers can also be made into tea to help with digestion. They can also be used as a women’s herb to balance estrogen and progesterone hormones, among other healing properties. (Armstrong, 2020) (Gray 2011).

Works Cited

Armstrong, Carrie, Mother Earth Plants for Health and Beauty, Indigenous Plants, Traditions & Recipes, Eschia Books 2020

Gray, Beverley. The Boreal Herbal: Wild Food and Medicine Plants of the North. Occasional Publication: No. 70. Aroma Borealis Press, 2011.

Hunt, S and Holmes, C, Everyday Decolonization: Living Decolonizing Queer Politics, Journal of Lesbian Studies, 19:154-172, 2015, Routledge Taylor & Francis Group. Issn: 1089-4160. DOI: 10.1080/10894160.2015.970975

Strohmayer, Angelika, Digital Augmenting Traditional Craft Practices for Social Justice. The Partnership Quilt, Palgrave McMillian, School of Design Northumbria University, New Castle upon Tyne, UK, 2021.

Featured image (left): Detail from Yarrow Flowers on the Farm, digital photograph, 10″x10″, 2018.

Featured image (right): Sewing Yarrow Pillow appliqué pillow with embroidery, cotton, poly fill, alpaca/ sheep wool (dyed with walnut shells), 16″x17″, 2021.

All images: Lindsey Bond

Lindsey Bond (she/ her) is an intermedia artist-mother born in amiskwacîwâskahikan (Beaver Hills House) or Edmonton, where kisiskâciwanisîpiy / North Saskatchewan River flows across Treaty Six Territory. Lindsey uses slow textile and intermedia processes to intervene in her white-settler family archive. Conversational threads offer a way to think through her responsibility as mother and settler descendant to acknowledge colonial harms and sew relationships. Lindsey is currently facilitating the Collab Quilt Collective and recently defended her MFA thesis Ecosystems of Inheritance in Intermedia at the University of Alberta. You are welcome to join the Conversational Quilt project and visit her website: