Mending a Soldier’s Heart at Heart Space

recreated soldier’s pinned heart

This wonderful pinned heart, so bright and fresh but curiously authentic was made yesterday during a workshop at Heart Space Studios. The maker, Libby, had received the original some 25 years ago from her grandmother, to whom it had been given as a token of love by her husband, a soldier during the first world war.

box of rusted and stained remnants with scribbled design for reconstructing the heart.

When she first received the heart, Libby tried to restore it…..with disastrous consequences; the whole thing disintegrated because the silk that the heart had been made in had rotted. She thoughtfully put  all the pieces  in a small box, with a scribbled note of the design – and yesterday it arrived to be mended. The first thing to do was to see what we had got and to clean it as best we could….

all the beads were separated and washed as was the fine cotton velvet centre cross and the remaining  shoulder applique.

The pins were steel with several rusted, but we decided we wanted to use as much as possible of the original materials and also bright stainless steel pins would have detracted from the overall quality of the reconstruction.

rusted pins with some beads still attached

I then had to draft a pattern to fit the purple velvet cross, luckily one of my old pinned hearts was the perfect size so I used this.

original heart used for pattern.

Libby decided that she wanted to use strong colours that complemented the original velvets, but disliking yellow she chose some of my own hand dyed green silk velvet to replace the shoulder appliques.

drawing round the new paper pattern for the back of the heart

Next came the heart reconstruction, this time stitching by machine, it is stronger and quicker…..

machine stitching the heart shape for filling with sawdust

leaving lots more time for time for the really fascinating business of pinning the beaded design back into its original position.

the first central cross is held in position

The washed velvet was still a bit dull and faded but little is seen when all the rest of the beads and the ribbon are in place.

pinning the regimental ribbon in place

I was pleased to see that the original  woven silk regimental ribbon was still very bright after I had carefully washed it in several rinses of warm water. These ribbons with badges and coats of arms feature in many of the hearts I have collected, but none are as bright as this.

the simple beaded lettering being formed

Libby re-wrote the message “FOND LOVE” onto paper and the pricked through it with a pin straight onto the silk. We had found some evidence of sequins in the remnants and they are useful to hide the raw edges of the applied fabrics; in my stash of beads I found some dull gold metal ones salvaged from a 1920’s dress, the same period as the original heart.

the almost finished heart

By the end of the day the heart was almost complete, except that there were a lot of the original beads left over…Libby said that she would keep pinning them  into patterns as more is more in this type of thing. So that evening she brought back the finished heart which you can see at the head of this post.

The best thing of all though was how the remaking of this family heirloom originally made by Libby’s hardly remembered grandfather, resulted in her reflecting on her family and its history, the ties to the present formed by using the remnants of a family wedding dress;  she was moved by  the idea of actually touching the same beads and placing them in the same patterns as her grandfather had  – I have seldom worked with such an enthralled and ultimately contented and student.

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