Stuffed Hearts

soldier's beaded heart

On the subject of hearts…..searching my archives for more heart pictures for the Gallery section I remembered the stuffed and beaded hearts I used to make. Above is the first beaded heart I bought, it is probably from the first world war; the ribbons were specially woven for soldiers and sailors for giving as gifts. Here the military ribbon forms the centre- piece of this ornate pinned and beaded heart. I found that it had been stuffed with sawdust and so that is what I always use; sailors often used sand. Below is a much larger heart made by a sailor and again I think, from the early 2oth century.

sailor's beaded heart

But my favourite heart is this  dusty and damaged one; it is really small about the size of my hand and simple beaded and sequined message says “to my dear wife”

I started to make the hearts for presents, just to give to family and friends but they were so popular with people who saw them when visiting my studio that I made a few to commission. The first ones were for wedding presents, a mother for her daughter, I remember it was a winter wedding and the colours used were from the floers of the bouquet which are embroidered in the central panel. The writing is in cross stitch

two hearts made to commemorate a winter wedding.

first wedding anniversary present with a stitched portrait of the couple on their wedding day

Following this I made several wedding presents and left, a first anniversary present – again given by the mother of the bride -I can see the date is 1992 and is made in tiny real gold pins. The couple’s initials stitched in the top curves of the heart in padded satin stitch. I used to embroider family portraits and had some years previously embroidered this daughter as part of a larger piece, so it was really special to have this commission.

Not given to very romantic gestures on my own behalf this next heart, encrusted with all sorts of wonderful scraps of embroidered textiles, was actually made for my book, Crazy Patchwork – published in 1998 (by Collins and Brown ISBN 1 85585 641 7)

this was made as for my own 25th wedding anniversary.
front of a child's birthday heart with applique gingham horse
back of heart with the dedication and dates in gold pins

I have also made several hearts to celebrate births and naming ceremonies. Pin cushions were given as gifts for weddings and for a new child as originally when they were made by hand, pins were  very expensive; so small stuffed cushions with pinned messages were presented to both brides and new babies as symbols of good luck.

The small pink heart ( about 8 cms ) was a first birthday present to my nephew’s daughter Brannie and the glamorous heart below is for the daughter of my husband’s nephew, Ziva.

be-ribboned heart for a baby girl

The hearts I make are all fairly small between 8-12 cms. deep, but they feel very good in the hand, a satisfying weight and shape to hold easily. I have made a few smaller ones mostly for workshops and for some reason the one below has stayed with me, it hangs in various places in the house, at present around the neck of an angel  on the landing between the bedrooms and the studios.

wooden angel with small silk and silver beaded heart.

5 thoughts on “Stuffed Hearts

  1. Dear Janet,
    The hearts are such lovely objects and it’s fascinating that you are keping this tradition alive. You once made a heart for me and my partner which is highly treasured. It hangs on the bedroom door and serves of a reminder of a moment in life and a friendship made. These objects speak of time, emotion and though; all invested into an object that speaks to the recipitent but also others that may have the opportunity to view them. They have a longevity way past the lifetime of their owners because of this. In essence, they hold the same enduring magic and curiosity that you speak about in relationship to textiles generally. The joy of cloth and stitch is that it can be added too, taken away and re made over generations. Mends etc. add to the unfolding narrative of cloth that is only possible when working with a substrate that readily accepts change. Cloth could be a wonderful metaphore for life; it endures, changes, adapts and brings with it memories of hands and bodies that have either cared for it, neglected it, or loved it sometimes a little too much. Cloth scars but has a brilliant propensity to repair too.

  2. Thank you Nigel,
    This morning, searching the blog for things that I could submit to make to sell from the hearts imagery, I re-read your message to me and realised that it really encapsulates the reason why I have returned to stitching textiles after so long stitching enamels – the fact that cloth ” readily accepts change”. Of course this speaks to me strongly as I believe, as you know well, that we can only rely on change.

    I also find the idea of cloth holding memories because we use it so intimately and sometimes too much, coupled with your last sentence about damaged cloth readily accepting repair, somehow comforting and hopeful.

    But, one of the things I appreciate about enamel is its enduring nature and how it withstands weather – unlike cloth…but then we only really LOOK at it and if worn it is encased in metal. So lately I want to make fabrics where the textile protects the enamel that holds the enduring message.

    But your comment made me realise that the things I want to make as products to sell must hold within them the evidence of time taken, care given and carry emotional, personal or celebratory messages. I want to make things that people will treasure or give with love. Now how am I going to do that to budget?

    Love J.

    1. Hi I am trying to find out the value of a pin cushion heart in a box from first world war only selling to get meds for my son who is fighting cancer s it was sent to my grandmother by her husband while he ws fighting in the war he was then killed

      1. Hi Paulline, without seeing you pinned heart I have no idea of its monetary value – they can cost several hundreds of pounds if they are in good condition and very ornate or have messages pinned on them. There are collectors, sadly not me as I collect only those I find when browsing vinatge and antique fairs and shops and can afford. They are getting rarer though, and as we are celebrating today 100 years since the armistice of the 1st world war they are poignant reminders that soldiers and sailors had time to make these gifts as a reminderand a token of their love for their own families.

        Without knowing where you live – try the local museum to see if a curator can help you – or look at museum collections that contain them…or check out the war museum? Other than that – go to a repuatble antique shop that deals with vintage textiles and memorabilia…

        good luck. I would like ot see it though if you have a photo.Janet

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