World War 1 Soldier’s needlepoint

Needlepoint and World War 1 history

Weldon-Tapestry

The magazines featuring the needlepoint and embroidery of disabled World War 1 soldiers.

If I think of World War 1 soldiers I don’t immediately think of needlepoint and embroidery.

I found this pair of Weldon’s Antique tapestry (needlepoint) magazines and as I read the brown and crumbling pages it took me a while to realise that the needlepoint featured had all been stitched by disabled British World War 1 soldiers from the Soldiers’ Embroidery Industry.

A loyal royal friend

The Friends of the Poor started the Soldier Embroidery Industry in 1918 at 42 Ebury Street London.

The charity found invaluable support from the Royal School of Needlework who provided the expertise. The school’s patron was Princess Mary the sister of the King Edward (who abdicated for Mrs Simpson).

Princess Mary took up the cause of the Soldier’s Embroidery Industry and provided personal support, important publicity and goodwill as well as valuable commissions for many a royal household including an huge alter piece for Windsor Castle.

Joining the industry

The men who joined the Soldier Embroidery Industry generally worked from home on commissioned pieces for both private homes and church embroideries including church kneelers and parish vestments.

Larger projects, including a major altar piece for St Paul’s Cathedral, were stitched by groups of men and it is comforting to imagine this process of collective needlework was helpful in their recovery.

Many of the soldiers who worked in the Soldier’s Embroidery Industry often suffered from upper body injuries or were amputees.

Needlepoint as therapy

What to do with injured soldiers on their return from war was a huge issue.  Almost everyone knew a wounded soldier. The issue consumed governments, churches and a wide range of community groups.  These men were regarded as heroes and the community demanded they get the best of care even if by our standards it seems pretty rudimentary. The prevailing wisdom was to provide:

  • quiet for the mind
  • exercise for the body
  • and skills to earn a living.

Needlepoint and other embroidery were thought to be ideal for rehabilitation as stitching provided the soldiers with opportunities to develop their fine motor skills and provided therapy.

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An original label

 

The comfort of needlepoint

It is not possible to imagine what needlework meant to these men but for those of us who stitch for pleasure and know the comfort of needle and thread we can only hope that the process of stitching did bring these men some peace, satisfaction, an income and, let’s hope, some joy.

Their work lives on and is now highly collectable. Their story is hard to forget.

As we stitch, we will remember.

Barbara

Read more about the altar piece at St Paul’s Cathedral: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2583650/Forgotten-tapestry-hand-stitched-133-injured-soldiers-First-World-War-display-St-Pauls-Cathedral-time-70-years.html#ixzz2zi9EoV70

Kensington Parish news:www.stmarysabbotschurch.org

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