I had big plans on Wednesday. I was going to drop Ding Dong off at Nursery in the afternoon and head up to London on the train for both the signing of Orla Kiely’s new book ‘Pattern’ at Selfridges and  to visit ‘Threads of Feeling’ at the Foundling Museum.

Unfortunately the all- consuming house renovation meant I had to stick to painting walls but I did manage to sneak out my upholstery class on Friday and head up the Northern Line in to Central London.

The truth of it is that anything baby-related gets me a little bit emotional so I was quite prepared to have a few sniffles when I found out about the Threads of Feeling exhibition.

Founded in 1739 The London Foundling Hospital took in babies aged 2 months or less from parents who had nowhere else to turn. Many mothers lived on the poverty line experiencing hunger and disease and turned to the Foundling Hospital in the hope their child would have a better life. The Hospital always left it open for the parents to return and collect their child in the future, but in reality only 1% of babies were ever collected.

After 1760, the hospital started to take records of each child left and the Hospital encouraged mothers to supply a token to keep with the registration form as a way to identify them. The exhibition was a collection of these forms and tokens.

The majority of the tokens were pieces of fashion textile from dresses. The tokens also included pieces of embroidery and hand written notes, or ribbons with embroidered names. I was expecting the notes to bestow sorrow and regret, but I think that if a mother was given this avenue as her only option she could only express hope that her child would have a better life.

What amazes me is that this collection of fabrics has become the largest collection of antique textiles in the UK.  Because of the way in which 18th Century women wore fabrics and then reused them and reused until they were rags, there are very few examples of textiles from the 18th Century.

This piece of linen is a reprint of an early print left as a token. VV Rolueax has also been heavily involved in the exhibition and produced some limited edition ribbons with words and embroidery.

I’d like to thank the lovely Miss Shelley Mullane who is Front of House Coordinator at the Museum for providing me with a snippet of the above fabric, a programme and entrance! It really is a must see if you are visiting London.


About Vicky Grubb

Once a kitchen table Upholsterer, now a fully fledged tutor, author and hoarder of vintage fabrics. My Upholstery studio is based in Bournemouth, Dorset, where I live with my husband and two tinkers.

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