Students join international bonnet project

A group of South West university textile and fashion students have sewn and embroidered nearly 40 bonnets as part of a worldwide project to commemorate convict women sent to Australia.

The group, all first year university course students in Textiles, Fashion and Design at Somerset College, Taunton, are taking part in the international project Roses From The Heart, to sew 25,266 bonnets in memory of convict women.

The project invites people around the world to make a bonnet tribute to commemorate the value of a convict woman’s life, as well as consider themes of past and contemporary exploitation. Bonnet makers were invited to embroider something special – such as a rose or a heart, in memory of people uprooted from all that was familiar and dear to them.

The students each researched a particular woman convict, read out their stories to each other, and included the names on the bonnets they embroidered.

Their involvement came about after great-grandmother Anne Hughes of Evesham heard about the project from her daughter, Somerset textiles and fashion lecturer Imelda Hughes. Anne, 85, decided to sew three bonnets to commemorate convict Sarah Bellamy, transported from her nearby village of Belbroughton in 1787 at the age of 17 after being accused of stealing £15.

She sent them to her daughter to post off. “We were so inspired by my mother’s work and the story of the Belbroughton lass, we decided to take the project further with our students,” said Imelda Hughes, who is Head of university courses in Textiles, Fashion and Design at Somerset College, Taunton.

“It’s been a moving project for our students, and I’m very grateful to my mother who inspired our work with her own lovely sewing,” said Imelda.

The Roses from the Heart project has been started by conceptual artist Christina Henri from Hobart, Tasmania. It examines the exploitation of mainly white ‘slaves’ – convict women – and considers the contemporary exploitation of humans, especially women, in manufacturing industry sweat shops.

The brief asks people to sew a bonnet and be part of history. 25,266 bonnets made with empathy for convict women who endured much but received little recognition, although their economic and social contribution was enormous.

Sewers are asked to embroider something special, a rose for an English / Irish rose, uprooted from all that was familiar; a heart to show the tribute is made with empathy.
Caption: Students with their embroidered bonnets