The embroidered silk postcard is a common souvenir of the First World War. They are blank postcards with an intricate design hand-embroidered in coloured thread. Silk postcards were a unique war-time industry, created by French and Belgian women to sell as souvenirs to soldiers posted on the Western Front.
Strips of silk organza were originally hand-embroidered by women and girls in their homes or at refugee camps, but as demand increased, production was moved to Parisian factories. Batches of embroidered strips were sent for cutting and mounting onto postcards, which were made available to purchase for a few francs each. They were hugely popular with British and American soldiers, who bought the cards as mementos to send home to loved ones. It is estimated that 10 million silk embroidered postcards were made.
Doncaster Museum and Art Gallery
Images found on the cards include; forget-me-not and pansy flowers, bluebirds, patriotic messages and symbols such as the flags of the allies, regimental crests and badges. These beautiful greetings would have been sent home giving no indication of what the soldiers were experiencing, sparing mothers and wives from the true horrors of war.
Because many were proudly displayed for years on mantle shelves and bedsides, silk embroidered cards are often sun-bleached and faded, or stained from exposure to coal dust and nicotine. Known also by collectors as “WW1 silks”, silk embroidered postcards are highly collectable. The most sought-after and valuable cards today are those that are relatively clean with brightly coloured silks, or display unusual or unique images.