Pincushion hearts

100 Hearts for 100 Years

I love it when my hobbies come together. As well as crafting, I’ve been researching my family history for about 15 years. I’ve managed to add over 800 people to my family tree, going back as far as the 1640s on one branch.

I recently found out that my maternal great-grandmother was quite creative and used to crochet decorative edging around circles of fabric to make them into doilies. She descended from a long line of creative people who were straw plaiters. They came from Hertfordshire and Bedfordshire, where this type of work was a big industry. The work was done mostly by women and children – the youngest straw plaiter that I’ve found in my family was just five years old. The straw was plaited in a variety of decorative ways and then sewn together to make straw bonnets.

Straw plaiting

Decorative straw plaiting at Wardown House, Luton

With it being the centenary of World War One, many military records have been released online. I’ve managed to use these records to track down over 30 men connected to my family who served during the war. Whenever I see a programme or exhibition about WW1, I think about my relatives and what they must have gone through – not just those that served on the front, but their families back at home waiting and worrying.

During February, Ely Cathedral is hosting SSAFA’s exhibition of ‘sweetheart’ pincushions, which commemorates 100 years since the end of WW1. SSAFA, the Armed Forces charity, works with a diverse range of organisations that support the Armed Forces, veterans and their families. Some of the pincushions on display have been created by people who have been helped by these organisations, such as Fine Cell Work and Combat Stress. Others have been made by embroiderers and craftspeople in the UK.

Sweetheart pincushions

During WW1, pincushions were given to injured soldiers to decorate while recuperating in hospital. The hearts were decorated with things that were personal to each soldier.

The exhibition also features some of the original pincushions, dating back to WW1.

Norfolk Regiment Pincushion

It was a beautiful display, and some incredibly intricate work was on show. There are more photos on my Facebook page.

To End All Wars

Just along from the pincushions, in the cathedral’s South West transept, a new art installation by OuseLife artists commemorates the impact of WW1 on Cambridgeshire. The cascade of 100 banners was stunning. I lost count of the number of times I walked around the display, taking each piece in.

To End All Wars art installation

The banners were very powerful and moving

You can see more photos of the art installation on my Facebook page.

I’m planning on doing something creative to mark 100 years since the end of World War One, so watch this space!






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