Remembering those who served

Pincushion made by a soldier c1875-1900, Goldsmiths' College, University of London

At the time of year when we remember those lost in wars, it’s particularly moving to see craft objects made by soldiers on active service. There is a long tradition of handicrafts made by soldiers and sailors from scraps of fabric or items at hand like shells (both the marine variety and munitions casings). Sometimes these were for sale, like the carvings done by sailors. Most interesting, however, is the large number of pieces made to send home to loved ones, often incorporating images or messages from the maker. Pincushions were pieced together from a patchwork of uniform fabrics, decorated with beads, sequins, and ribbons, then sent home ‘For Mother’ – as they tell us in beaded lettering. This example, from the collections of Goldsmiths’ College, University of London, makes a direct appeal: ‘Forget me Not’.

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