Finding a new purpose for loved ones’ clothes
A Keepsake Cushion is a way of still holding loved ones close
Back in 2006 when I was a Lecturer at an Art College, I decided to 'jump out of my comfort zone' and do some voluntary work, so I trained as a voluntary children's bereavement officer for a local charity. Part of the training was attending a residential camp with the children and their families.
This camp weekend was full of various activities but it was the 'candle time' experience, where groups of children sat in a circle holding a lit candle and talking about the loved one they missed that had the most profound effect on me.
When I returned home from that 'residential camp' I felt different, I can't quite put it into words, but I knew something extraordinary had happened and my path was going to change.
I also knew that somehow those two big black bags of my son and daughter's clothes up in the attic were part of this change.
I remember thinking about the scenario of when I die and the problem this ‘bag of stuff' may cause my husband and children. What to do with it all, this bag of children's clothes that Mum had kept all those years?
I decided to re-create my son's first soft dog (Scruff) and my daughter's first doll (Peaches) by making them out of their favourite clothes when they were young. I drew the clothes before I cut them up and made a little cloth book with the drawings of the item as well as a short comment on a memory inspired by the clothing.
I began with a drawing of each cherished toy and then selected the clothes, or the parts of, that I would use in the construction. Boy oh boy did my hand shake!! I was so nervous BUT instinctively I felt this was a good idea. A week later Scruff 2 and Peaches 2 were born and I can honestly say it was an incredible EUREKA moment.
On finishing the two keepsakes, I experienced that ultra special feeling when memory and meaning come together. This is where the idea of the Bespoke Cloth Keepsake was born.
Those keepsakes for my children were sort of heirlooms, if you like. After those, I began creating keepsakes that came about for a different reason. I began making keepsakes that were made out of cherished clothes that held on to the treasured memories of a loved one who had died.
On a personal level, it was the life-changing realisation of the power of the cloth keepsakes that I made for my beautiful dear friend Melanie whilst she was in our local hospice.
Melanie received the earth-shattering news, her diagnosis was terminal stomach cancer; it was a shocking and unbelievably devastating time for her and her family. Several weeks passed and I made her a 'medication driver bag' where I used a few of her late mum's headscarves and a couple of her late dad's silk ties. I wanted them to be with her on her wedding day, which was a few days later in the hospice chapel.
I knew Melanie, like myself, felt the power of the connection. The connection that exists when meaning and memory sit side by side and it blew me away.
A few weeks later, I found myself sitting in the funeral director's office; I couldn't believe my ears when he told me she had all three of my handmade keepsakes with her in the casket. I broke down and cried. Honestly, profound doesn't come close.
If you’re at a loss with what to do with your loved one’s clothes, a Keepsake Cushion is a way of still holding them close in a tactile, huggable form. They’re also ideal gifts for other family members, such as babies or children who may not have been old enough to have any or many memories of the person who has died.
Great care is taken with the items of clothing and anyone who commissions a Keepsake Cushion is consulted along the process of creating something that is truly special and as unique as the person you miss.
Dawn Ford is a Loss & Wellbeing Specialist. Dawn provides a Bespoke Keepsake Service, making usable items from cherished clothes you hold dear. Whether the Keepsake is to 'hold someone close' who has died, or to 'bridge the gap' for a child whose parent is regularly away, the Keepsakes bring enormous comfort. You can learn more about Dawn here.