Tag Archives: Textile Art

Military history, family keepsake

Goodness – it’s been a while! I’m not sure where the summer holidays have gone, but they are certainly winding down now.  Those of you who follow my facebook page will know I’ve been busy over the summer …. to those of you who don’t, I apologise for the long absence, and promise to share some of those pieces with you over the next few weeks.

I was honoured to be asked to create a keepsake piece around one family’s history – a military history around two brave and distinguished officers in both World Wars.

Joseph Weston Coyle was born in 1884 and died in 1967, having served in the British Army in both World Wars and received the Military Cross in WWI.

1918 Military Cross

Denis Weston Coyle was born in 1917 and died in 1995. He served in WWII, and received an MBE and DFC (Distinguished Flying Cross) for his actions in Burma.

1945 MBE, DFC (Distinguished Flying Cross)

I was asked to create a memory piece to display their war medals … something simple, but that would allow the family to see and remember an important part of their history.

Along with the medals, I had all the family papers relating to these two men, and a small box of military memorabilia that had belonged to them both. It was absolutely fascinating to read through it all, to get a sense of what they had both done with their lives, and I felt very humble afterwards, and privileged to be entrusted with this piece of work.

It seemed obvious to me that the medals, and the photos, should take centre stage of this piece ….when I was planning the layout, it immediately struck me that I could scan and print the photos onto fabric …. and that some text should document exactly what the decorations meant.

I had a beautiful piece of antique, heavy linen with a simple grid pattern woven into it which made the perfect background, but it was clear even before I started that it wasn’t going to be strong enough to take the weight of the medals and badge, so I stretched the  it over an artists canvas box frame, with a thin layer of quilt batting in between the linen and the canvas.

I kept the embroidery very, very simple – no more than was needed to attached the fabric-printed photographs, and the text – I wanted it to look as much like script as possible … and no more than names, dates, and the decorations.

The cap badges and other memorabilia went down the side …. apparently this has opened up another round of family questions as they try to unearth the identity of the military gentleman in the little locket.

Finishing and framing are all part of the service …. there’s no glass, so that the medals can still be touched.

I am so glad I was commissioned to create this family keepsake … not only to have the chance to set some very precious memories for this family out where they can become a part of their daily life, but also because it’s made me reflect back on my own grandfathers, and the part they played in WWII – and made me thankful that all they did means that neither my husband, nor my son, are likely to be dragged into the sort of conflict that can destroy a generation.

Wednesday: works in progress …

With the children back at school, I’ve tidied and reorganised the workroom, and taken stock of the various works in progress. I’ve been a bit of a butterfly over the holidays, so I’ve got several pieces on the go at once …

There’s the elemental quilt: ‘earth’ is finished, and ‘air’ is started – but I’m having a dither about what stitch to use, so it’s sitting to one side for a moment …

And there’s the Aqua boro quilt, which is calling me to finish it:

It will probably only stay on the hoop until I finish the diamonds in the centre … once I move outside of them, I think I’ll abandon it. I am pleased with the way the convention of stitches is reversed in this, with running stitch for decoration and cross stitch for hemming. The cross stitch is amazingly functional, in this context …

And, of course, there is the white pieces for the Embroider, Embellish, Create course … I’m happy with the stitching, but need to recover from the tailor’s chalk episode.


And then there’s the what-iffing rail … almost projects – ideas, sketches, beginnings, reworks – some of it may never become any more than this, some of it may become something else … I don’t know at this stage:


It is difficult not to feel overwhelmed, as though time is my enemy and that I have to rush through to complete, complete, complete.

But it’s not about volume, or quantity … it’s about working the piece through to its natural conclusion, and that can’t be rushed. Hand-embroidery is what I love most, and that takes time.

A time for each piece, and each piece in its own time.

image courtesy of Brad Vetter Design