Sawdust Hearts

Images from Pinterest



The Sawdust Hearts Project  organised Helen Birmingham from Untangled Threads aimed to highlight the benefits of Occupational Therapy and the power of craft in healing. It involved the co-ordination and creation of 1,568 replica, embroidered and pinned WW1 sawdust filled hearts. This was one for every day of the First World War.


In November 2018 the hearts were displayed in an ambitious artwork which formed the centrepiece of a commemorative exhibition and public event held on the centenary of Armistice Day 2018 at Woodend Creative Workspace in Scarborough.

5% of all sales related to this project were donated to Combat Stress a charity which supports former servicemen and women to deal with issues like trauma, anxiety, depression and post-traumatic stress disorder.


I was drawn to this project as soon as I stumbled upon it whilst doing research for the 100 Hearts project and wanted to take part. It was an exciting moment when the box and all its contents arrived and I spent a happy half hour or so watching all of the information "how to" videos on Helen's website which gave such a great overview of the whole process.


I had a sample of gesso, acrylic and free machine embroidery I wanted to incorporate and that along with a green velvet fabric and beads from my stash formed the starting point.

I was pleased with the fabric which was left over from when I made my daughter and her partner dragon wings and ears for a festival a year or so ago. It was perfect to cover the heart and made a vibrant background for the embroidery.



Military pin stuck pin cushions were made during the first world war and injured soldiers made them for their sweethearts, wives and mothers. The therapeutic effect a wounded soldier gained by making and sending a sawdust heart was immense and the practice of Occupational Therapy can be traced back to this time in history.

You can read all about the history of the military sweetheart pincushions in Diane Grant's book Forget me not.

I found the pinning of this heart very therapeutic and can quite understand how it would have helped with the recovery of injured service men, especially if they were making a heart for a special woman in their lives.


On the ww1hearts website, you can read all about the inside stories of many of the hearts, take a virtual tour of the exhibition and buy a copy of the Sawdust Hearts Commemorative Catalogue.


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