I recently acquired the sweet vintage heart above, which started my quest to learn more about it and others I'd seen. The story I discovered made it even more precious to me!
During World War I, which began 100 years ago, these pincushions were made by convalescing and disabled British soldiers and sailors who stitched them as they recovered, and sent them home as tokens of their affection to loved ones.
I read that the tradition began in the nineteenth century with Queen Victoria, "an amateur practitioner of textile arts," who thought that the soldiers might find needlework a great distraction while far from home.
The cushions measure about 8 inches, and were decorated with beading, decoupage, ribbons, thread and trim. The materials to produce them were often purchased in kits from canteens and shops.
Mine has small decoupaged flowers on the curves of the heart, but many were adorned with ribbons that feature short mottos like "Forget Me Not," "Think of Me," or short snippets of verse. They often incorporated the name of the soldier's unit, their insignia or regiment's colors.
In a world where loved ones are little more than a phone call or email away, it is difficult for us to envision the despair of separation with little or no contact from our beloved. Just imagine the heartbreaking rush of emotion that the recipient of these tokens must have felt receiving them.
It was with thoughts of the above that I started making my own sweetheart pincushions.
My first one has an anchor on the point - a nod to the British sailor who made the vintage heart that started my obsession.
My granddaughter, who is very fond of blue, asked if they came in her favorite color, so this next one was made for her.
This one holds a photo of my grandmother, and gave me the perfect opportunity to use some vintage metal bullion that I've been hoarding for several years.
This one was for my youngest granddaughter, and is not made of pins at all (to make it safe for her two-year-old hands). Thanks to my dear friend, Monica, and her sewing skills, who embroidered O's name on this purple ribbon for me. She has been my sewing partner while we've been stuck (ha ha) inside by the weather.
And, of course, I couldn't forget K. Boys enjoy receiving tokens too.
I am not finished making these hearts. Bits of velvet, silk, pins and beads are covering my kitchen table (and floor).
I totally "heart" these hearts.
Happy Valentines Day!