Our Pockets Project from 2022

Creative Studio

I invite you to grab a cuppa and some tissues for this week’s blog, as it’s a little longer than usual, contains some sad, yet poignant stories shared by our members and has some really good articles to explore further at the end should you choose to.

We’ve headed back in time this week in three ways, one is back to last year sharing a wonderful in-house project, which was inspired by the humble pocket. The second way we’ve time travelled is tracing back in time, discovering the very interesting history of such a simple but valued item as a pocket. Thirdly we’ve got some memories to share in our member’s comments.

It’s a lovely paradox that a day gone by subject has taken our members into the present moment in meditative stitching.

I wasn’t personally involved in this project so I’ve been growing up, reading as many articles as I could find about pockets, it’s quite a fascinating subject.

Here’s what I read.

Bespoke Tailors King and Allen of Surbiton, Surrey shared a wealth of knowledge.  “We don’t know the exact date that pockets were invented, but they’ve been around (in one form or another) for a very long time. ‘The Iceman’, a perfectly preserved mummy, discovered in the Ötztal Alps, was found with a pouch, containing valuable items, which was strapped to his belt. Indeed, the word pocket comes from the Old French word ‘poke’ or ‘bouquet,’ meaning pouch”

We chose to introduce our members to the pouch type of pocket.  “A similar version of this pouch-type pocket persisted for millennia but it was in the 16th Century that we see them fashioned to wearer’s girdles or belts. This design was the same for both men and women. These pockets could be concealed underneath clothing – such as a coat or jerkin, to keep valuables safe from cutpurses and pickpockets”

I looked up what a cutpurse means cutpurse (n.) also cut-purse, “one who steals by the method of cutting purses, a common practice when men wore their purses at their girdles”

Taken from the online etymology dictionary:   We learnt that “In the 17th Century, pockets began being sewn into men’s garments but not women’s. Instead, women had to fasten a pouch to a belt, which would be under layers of skirts and petticoats. These pockets would often be ornate in design and would match the outer layers of skirts. But while men’s pockets were functional and helpful, women’s were impractical and not easily accessible”

Some of our pockets have been created with this belt too.

The above excerpts were taken from this source https://kingandallen.co.uk/journal/2020/the-surprising-history-of-pockets/

Our Studio Team shared much of this information with our members, which made the project an informative history lesson as well as a relaxing process.  The making of these pockets for our members has inspired some very deeply personal and poignant stories, which we share with you now.  “When I first came to the Studio at Designs in Mind I wouldn’t sit with any of the other members, I felt too shy and although it took me time to come out of my shell, now I sit with others and call them my friends. I’ve progressed to attend the Walk and Talk, Reading and Singing groups too!  

The Pockets Project became a very personal piece for me as I chose to do a Yellow Rose in memory of my fiancé John who sadly drowned while we were young sweethearts working in France over 40 years ago.  The last gift John gave to me was a Yellow Rose, the colour a symbol of True Love as Red roses are for Passion.

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I was working as a Nanny while John. worked on the oil rigs as a Chef for the 135 hardworking teams of Riggers.  One tragic day one of the legs of the rig broke and John drowned in the North Sea.  During the process of making my pocket, it gave me fond memories of John and I enjoyed doing my pocket in honour of his life” Pat Studio Member

Carl shared, “I had a massive resistance to doing pockets then I got involved”.

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Another member said “I loved working on the pockets project as it’s steeped in such a rich history which I found fascinating. Although they were everyday items, it was interesting to discover what people would keep in them, such as coins, snuff and other personal effects. It was exciting to be part of the process and great to see them exhibited together at our shop launch.  There was such individuality in each piece made. During the making of mine, I found sewing the embroidery very meditative, it was beautiful to feel like I was connected to what I was doing.  The design I came up with was a single Silver Birch Tree with a Full Moon. I chose gold thread for the Silver Birch as the material was a Royal Blue taffeta so it was a very fitting contrast to that material and its colour “.

I chatted with more members and they shared that their pockets were further dedicated to loved ones, designed in an act of remembrance.  “I chose my design from 3 drawings of flowers as I love flowers, plus I had someone in mind as I worked on my ideas.  This was Liz, a family member who was my ex-sister-in-law” As I was creating it this was done to remember her. I loved drawing freehand and learning about pockets, seeing the amazing work and designs of others too. My flower is now coming into spring with its texture and colours”  

 
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I was fascinated by how much this project meant to our members and how it sparked so much within each participant.  So I went on to ask more members to share, here’s what Jasmin said “I enjoyed making the screenprint design to then embroider over. Also enjoyed learning to use the sewing machine.  Until the knowledge was shared I had not realised there was so much history surrounding pockets, how women didn’t have them in garments for a long time due to them not ‘needing’ them as men did.

I kept asking, Ros one of the Team to do that last bit of sewing for me. However she encouraged me, saying I could do it, so then it would be all my work.  This made me feel like I accomplished something, even though I wanted to give up doing it towards the end, as didn’t think I could sew it neat enough, it was nice to finish it”.

Lori gave her thoughts too, “I knew I wanted to include flowers in my design as they are something I love. At the time of starting our pockets project I had some hedgehogs that had been visiting our garden which I would pop some water and food out for at night. So I decided it would be a nice little addition to the design as they are one of my favourite animals.  The flowers I chose have the most meaning behind them in my pocket. One of the first flowers I love to use in designs is the fuchsia, it was my grandad’s favourite flower and now is one of mine as well. I also wanted to incorporate them into my pocket to symbolise starting a new job where I work with lots of different flowers”.  Lori also went on to share what she enjoyed most about making her pocket, “Probably creating all the little details on the pocket. I first started with a screen printed base and then embroidered on top of this, the little finishing touches such as the tiny caterpillar and ladybug are my favourites as I think even though they are just small details they bring the design together”

When I enquired further about any Mental health benefits she said “I think embroidery is great for mental health as you can just sit down and stitch away whenever you are feeling a bit stressed or overwhelmed with worries, it’s good to have something else to focus on instead”.

Chris S did her pocket as a tribute to her Nan “I enjoyed doing my pocket my Nan made the iron on tranfer years go for me to embroidery Is didn’t get to do it in her lifetime as she passed away age 99 years and 9mth so I decided to do pocket in her memory every stitch I did, I thought of my Nan, completing this pocket made me feel proud. Thank you Designs in Mind for your helping me back on the road to recovery”.

 
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Thank you to all our members who participated, with thanks to those who shared what the project inspired and meant to them, with big thanks to our Team for sharing such an interesting project.  Some of our member’s pockets are hanging up on display in the studio beyond our shop in Oswestry Town Centre, if you’re passing by Cross Street pop into the shop and take a look, just ask the shop staff to give you a sneak peek.

My personal 3 favourites are Lori’s, Tracey’s and Nic’s pictured below

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Lori’s Pocket
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Tracey’s Pocket

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Nicki’s Pocket

 

Not long after we completed the pockets project The Guardian newspaper shared articles on the resurgence of women asking for pockets, not handbags.  The final article is about wearing pockets big enough to hold a bottle of wine.

https://www.theguardian.com/fashion/2023/jan/20/the-key-to-empowerment-could-be-in-your-pocket

https://www.theguardian.com/fashion/2018/aug/28/give-women-pockets-not-handbags

https://www.theguardian.com/lifeandstyle/2023/jan/18/moment-that-changed-me-i-began-wearing-skirts-with-pockets-big-enough-to-hold-wine-bottle

Blog Written & researched by Willow, Member & Social Media Coordinator