Saturday, 9 October 2010

Threads of Feeling - The Foundling Museum

Worckt with flowers - Linen or cotton embroidered with flowers© Coram - seen here

An exhibition at The Foundling Museum in London's Bloomsbury called Threads of Feeling opens on 14 October. The Foundling Museum tells the story of the Foundling Hospital which was established adjacent to the current museum and demolished in 1928. The hospital came into being as London's first home for abandoned children, a place where unmarried mothers could leave their babies if they were unable to take care of them. 

Between 1741 and 1759 the children admitted to the hospital were left with a token, often a small scrap of fabric which identified them with the mother. Perhaps taken from the mother's clothing - a pocket or a cuff - it served to identify the baby but also the mother should she be able at some future time to come back for her child; but sadly this was apparently a relatively rare occurrence. The little swatches were pinned into a billet book along with a written record of the fabric and possessions of the child.

Threads of Feeling is an exhibition of these little scraps which are usually held in London Metropolitan Archive being too fragile for permanent display. This archive actually constitutes one of the country's most comprehensive collection of 18th Century textiles and gives a particular insight into the fabrics worn by everyday women of the period.

The incredible poignancy of these little tokens, the emotions that must have been invested at that moment of farewell; in that decision to give a child into another's care, are hard to look to. I am sure that the exhibition will be an emotional experience. The show continues until March 2011. 

Flowered all over with cards - Cotton or linen   
printed with a playing card pattern © Coram - seen here


  1. I read about this in Selvedge magazine this month and would love to see it. I find those fragments are so emotive.

  2. I hope I'll get along to it - I'm sure it's a very memorable show. Thanks for commenting!

  3. You always have the best posts!


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