Saturday, 26 February 2011

Threads of Feeling

As I write, it's touch-and-go whether this post will have photos, as, although I've scanned them, they always save to some mysterious ether-filled netherworld that requires a husband's skills to access.   He does keep showing me how to do it, but infuriatingly (for him) I can't seem to grasp it.    They're in there somewhere, but let's not dally - Onward!

Anne and I had a trip on the train into London to the Threads of Feeling exhibition at the Foundling Museum.   I know lots of people have blogged about this, and you've probably read all about it before, but I'm not going to let that put me off!   

We walked from the station to Bloomsbury through some sun dappled squares full of crocus and snowdrops, and debated whether we were city girls or country girls.   

The Foundling Hospital was the dream of Thomas Coram,  who worked for 17 years to raise funds to establish a Hospital to take in the abandoned and deserted young children he had seen in the streets of London.   In 1739 he was given a Royal Charter and the Foundling Hospital was built.  

From the moment of its inception, the Hospital made strenuous efforts to keep records of all the children given into its care.   Each baby had a registration form, or 'billet' and the mother was encouraged to leave a token which was attached to the billet as a means of identification.   These mainly fabric tokens pinned to the children's billets were the subject of the Threads of Feeling exhibition.  

While it was patently a very moving story, it was also a fascinating insight into the range of colourful printed textiles available to even the poorest women in the 18th century.   As the guidebook says, "The poor did not live in black and white".  

I love the names of the different fabrics, some of which weren't familiar:  calimanco and camblet, susy, cherryderry and linsey-woolsey.  

The billet checklist had 23 items of clothing in which the child might be dressed, but, tellingly, only a very few items were ever ticked.   Not only were the fabrics exotically named, but the names of the clothes were slightly mysterious too.   We worked out that a clout would be the modern equivalent of a nappy (diaper) and would usually be just rags, and these would be covered by a pilch, a slightly more substantial wrapping.   A biggin turned out to be a night cap, a mantle was a long sleeveless garment, but if anyone knows what a barrow is I'd be pleased to know. 

Tragically, although Florella may have been "call'd for Again", hundreds of children actually died in the Hospital and most of those who survived were not reclaimed.   

In order to protect the anonymity of the parents, the babies left with the hospital were given new names and in the main part of the Museum there is a list of some of the children taken into the care of the Hospital.   In some ways, I found this one of the most tragic aspects, that a child's connection with his family name would be severed.   It was clear from the list that many surnames were chosen from London boroughs:  Westminster, Stratford, Newington, Farringdon.   Some were garnered from further afield:  Nottingham, Gloucester, Colchester and Bristol.   Others were really far-flung:  Thomas Africa, John Europe, Richard Asia.   The inspiration for a few is rather hard to fathom: Epimonidas Allen, Chaloner Ogle, Cloudesley Shovel.   There was even a Tudor Plantagenet.  

Although the original Hospital buildings have been demolished, Coram, as the charity is now known, still exists 280 years on, continuing to work with vulnerable children and young people.

You have until 6th March to get to London to see the exhibition for yourself and if you possibly can, I would urge you to do so.

Have a good weekend!

Thomas Coram

Sunday, 13 February 2011

with love from ... ?

For the one I love

ceramic disc from Karen at hodgepodgearts
fabric from Lesley

Happy Valentine's Day


Wednesday, 2 February 2011

Some new felt brooches for my Etsy shop

At last!   I've managed to get a few bits listed in my Etsy shop, camera problems notwithstanding (I love the opportunity to slip that word in!)   Stupid thing won't talk to the computer any more for some reason, so have had to borrow Richard's fancy camera, which I'm not so familiar with.   And, of course, the English winter light is far from favourable for fotography.

This is a very big one we've seen before, but those below are new ones

smaller and sweeter and much lighter, so that you don't list to starboard when you're wearing it on your shoulder

one with proper petals, about  4.5" across

another quite big one, but not so big to poke your eye out

a sophisticated charcoal merino, silvery-white silk and flax 'bar' shaped one

and a more colourful version, again with silk and flax fibres felted into the soft merino - this one's about 5" wide and some kind lady has already put it in her Etsy Treasury.   How kind of her.

Gina's got some lovely new corsages in her Etsy shop too - go here to have a peek.

I've 'volunteered' to do a felting demonstration next week for our village Women's Institute.   Now watching someone felting (or at least fulling) is like watching paint dry, so I'm going to have to work on a 45 minute stand-up comedy routine to keep the ladies entertained.   I'm also worried (because I'm such a messy worker) that the front two rows are going to get soaking wet.   I might have to drape them in decorators' dust sheets so they don't go home damp and sudsy.   It'll be a bit like a trip on the Maid of the Mist under Niagara Falls.

Now I've got to find some inspiration for a photo for Emma's February Splash of Colour...

Hope you're all having a good week!