Threads of Feeling, The London Foundling Hospital's Textile Tokens, 1740-1770 by John Styles
When mothers left babies at London’s Foundling Hospital in the mid-eighteenth century, the Hospital often retained a small token as a means of identification, usually a piece of fabric. These swatches of fabric now form Britain’s largest collection of everyday textiles from the eighteenth century. They include the whole range of fabrics worn by ordinary women, along with ribbons, embroidery and even some baby clothes. Beautiful and poignant, each scrap of material reflects the life of an infant child and that of its absent parent. The enthralling stories the fabrics tell about textiles, fashion, women’s skills, infant clothing and maternal emotion are the material of Threads of Feeling.
The importance of the Foundling textiles – 5,000 rare, beautiful, mundane and moving scraps of fabric – lies in the fact that so few pieces of eighteenth-century clothing have otherwise survived that can be identified with any confidence as having belonged to the poor. Ordinary people’s clothes were worn and re-worn by a succession of owners until they fell into rags, or they were cut up and reused for quilts, baby clothes, and the like. If, by chance, they outlived the eighteenth century, they were unlikely to excite the attention of collectors or museums. The Foundling collection includes the whole range of textile fabrics worn by ordinary women – exposing a lost world of camblet and fustian, susy and cherryderry, calimanco and linsey-woolsey – along with ribbons, embroidery and even some baby clothes.
To purchase this item please contact the Foundling Museum Shop via +44 (0)207 841 3600 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.