WW1 Soldiers’ Embroidery Industry

The Industry

World War 1 and needlepoint don’t immediately go together, but on the eve of this significant Anzac Day I thought I’d share a story that does link them in unexpected ways.Weldon-Tapestry

Last weekend I came across  a pair of ancient British tapestry (needlepoint) magazines.  I was amazed to read the needlepoint throughout the magazines had all been stitched by disabled WW1 soldiers from the Soldiers’ Embroidery Industry.

After a little research I learnt that these men were generally amputees and worked from home on commissioned pieces of all kinds. Larger projects, including a major altar piece for St Paul’s Cathedral, were stitched by groups of men and one imagines this process of collective work must have been helpful in their recovery. The “Industry”  was supported by the Royal School of Needlework the patron of which was Princess Mary, Viscountess Lascelles, Countess of Harwood, the sister of the infamous King Edward who abdicated for the love of  Mrs Simpson.


A Stitch in Time

I also found references to “the Industry” in the Kensington Parish Newsletter, Advent 2013. The article, “A Stitch in Time”, by Jane McAllan describes the historical demise of Church embroidery as members gradually dropped off and the Guild folded in 1917. She goes on to describe the foundation of the Soldiers’ Embroidery Industry. The Parish gave a donation of 20 pounds to The Friends of the Poor who got it started 1918 at 42 Ebury St, London.  References to a article in the Parish newsletter of that year describe the skill of the men and marvel that even those more used to manual work display surprising skill and enjoyment in their needlework.

For those of us who stitch for pleasure it is impossible to imagine what needlework meant to these men, however, it would seem that the process of stitching did bring them comfort, satisfaction and, let’s hope,  some joy. Their work lives on, as does their story.

Happy stitching, 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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