The Story Behind The Piece: Textile Tokens

Love Tokens

You have no conception just how much I miss you.

Meet Jimmy & Peggy

‘I just wish each and every hour away, and yet still they drag’

I was utterly captivated the very first time I read these words and I became a bit smitten with the author and her husband. They’re lifted from a small collection of Jimmy & Peggy’s personal letters that came into my possession a few years ago. The letters were the inspiration behind my series ‘Stolen Stories’. I’ve written about my thought and making process behind these pieces, in an article for TextileArtist. org. – ‘From Conception to Creation’. Do grab a cuppa and have a wee read if you’ve got a minute!

‘Stolen Stories’ Fragments of private emotion pinned out for all to see

So who are Jimmy & Peggy?

To be honest I know very little about them except that they are a young (I assume) fairly newly married couple living in wartime Britain. I have five letters dated between 1942 & 1946. Where the rest of their letters are, I have no idea but as they wrote to each other several times a week there must be many! They were both based in this country but separated by circumstance for the most part. I only have tiny glimpses into their story and the rest is purely in my mind. I’m not quite sure why they fascinate me so much, the letters are pretty mundane but that’s what I love about them.

Every-day people, ordinary lives, extraordinary times!

Your sweet voice is a comfort to me

Then 2020 happened!

So then last year happened and like everyone my world turned upside down when we went into ‘lockdown’ – a word that most of us had no previous use of. I noticed that my regular phone conversations with my 87 year old mum inevitably led to her recollecting her childhood years living through WWII. She’d end each conversation  with the words:

‘at least we don’t have bombs dropping all around us’.

I can always rely on my mum for putting my own troubles back in perspective! However these conversations led me once more back to Jimmy & Peggy and their words to one another. Returning  to their letters, so many words and phrases struck a chord with me. This time I didn’t feel as if I was the outsider looking in to their private world, instead it felt like they could see right into mine and were reading the thoughts and emotions that were tumbling around inside me.

So I started stitching.

Captivated by their letters once more, I started working on a couple of bigger pieces inspired by Peggy & Jimmy’s story. With workshops (my income) being cancelled and money being refunded I found it strangely calming and there was something rather lovely about having the time (oh so much time) to work on bigger pieces again.

‘Missing You” Work in progress

Funnily enough these pieces were never finished. They came to an abrupt halt for some reason and I can’t even remember why. With hours and days of stitching behind me, I just suddenly stopped – maybe that was when the gorgeous weather came our way and my rather frenzied attention turned to the garden. Who knows – but they’re in my thoughts again so I’ll turn back to them soon.

Textile Tokens

When the bigger pieces became daunting, my attention turned to working small, very small. I’ve been fascinated by the idea of making Textile Tokens ever since visiting the Threads of Feeling exhibition at The Foundling Museum in London back in 2010. No time to tell the story of that here but that one afternoon played a pivotal role in the clarity and direction of my own textile practice.

I remember standing silently looking at each exhibit with tears rolling down my face, and I wasn’t alone. I’ve no idea how much time I spent there as each piece claimed my full presence and attention. So much emotion, so many stories held in these little scraps of fabric. The stories remained hidden but the emotion was raw and real and felt by very visitor there.

Darling keep your spirits up and just be patient

So I decided to combine the energy of scraps of old fabric – mostly from a piece of 1940s feed sack quilt that was so washed and worn that I could tear it into fragments with my hands – and the energy of Peggy & Jimmy’s words, suddenly so relevant.    I chose whatever phrase spoke to me at the time and stitched it on silk organza and these tiny scraps of homely fabrics. Stitched intuitively with vintage threads, they became my soothing activity – comforting and healing as my heart ached with missing my special people. I picked them up and set them down just as the mood took me.

I gave some away and the others are now pinned into a little sketchbook. I know that they will become part of something bigger but I’m not quite sure what yet. Having harboured a sense of guilt over lifting words out of context in my series Stolen Stories I have a notion that I want to put the story straight and perhaps create a display case containing the real loving energy of this couple.

God bless you my love and keep you from harm

I became busy with other projects at the end of last summer and didn’t do any more until that brutal Saturday just before Christmas when our longed for plans were wiped off the table. Once more we had to re-adjust, re-compose and re-gather our energies.

So stitching started again.

Love Tokens

Having found a level of acceptance again I’ve been spending peaceful evenings, contentedly stitching once more. I’d had a few enquiries about my tokens whenever I posted them on Facebook & Instagram so I decided to stitch a very small collection and offer them for sale.

These ones have fewer words but focussing on love as it’s the force that’s holding us together at this time, when everything that we are wishing for still seems so far away.

My sweet darling

The words are hand stitched on silk organza, on a background of 1940s quilt and fragments of antique French textiles. They’re worn, torn and marked (aren’t we all?) and each one is decorate with tiny stitches in vintage threads. They’re individually made, I don’t work on a few at a time for speed, and they’re stitched with a contented heart in front of the fire, safe at home (with no bombs dropping round about us).

I just wish

The tokens themselves are small – each one measuring about 9cm x 7 cm and they’re stitched onto a square cream cardboard mount. Exact sizes will be given on individual listings. The tokens can easily be removed from the card to display as you wish – I personally love them displayed in a gorgeous Nkuku zinc & glass frame (5 x 7 landscape is perfect).

My dearest

These Love Tokens will be offered for sale on my Facebook & Instagram pages from Thursday 28th.

There are currently only seven available.

The cost is £45 plus postage.

Do contact me if you would like one to makes it way into your home.

I’m so sorry but I’m only posting to the UK at this time.

Miss you terribly