Royal School of Needlework

Royal School of Needlework

Over at Hampton Court Palace, the fabulous Monica Wright, External Relations Manager for the Royal School of Needlework is moving on after 14 years, leaving a vacancy at this prestigious institution.

I’d like to thank Monica for all her help over the years – she’s been  a great person to work with.

Stitching at the Royal School of Needlework

If you’re reading this, you’ve got PR experience and you’re in the UK, you might be interested in applying for the role. It’ll be a great role, helping the world’s best embroidery school with promotion and growth, and you get to work in a palace!

Deadline for applications is Monday 20th July. Download the RSN External Relations Manager Job Description here.


Royal School of Needlework

Royal School of Needlework student’s hand embroidery achieves art-world acclaim as one of the exhibits at this year’s London Royal Academy Summer Exhibition.

Kate Barlow 'Smuggler' Silk Shaded Embroidery

Selected from over 12,000  entries and displayed in the Summer Exhibition’s Mixed Media Category, successful Royal School of Needlework Future Tutor Kate Barlow has hand-stitched a life-like budgerigar, using 50 shades of thread, worked one strand at a time, to create a stunning embroidery using a traditional technique called silk shading.

Kate Barlow 'Smuggler' Silk Shaded Embroidery

Using a tiny needle to help create the highly-skilled ‘painting with a needle’ effect, the bird’s delicate feathers have been reproduced in an amazing ‘selfie-like’ representation of this budgerigar’s head.  Called ‘Smuggler’, the piece measures just 10cm high by 8cm wide and took 140 hours to complete.  ‘Smuggler’ is set against this year’s on-trend hot pink neon silk fabric background and is sure to draw the crowds.

Kate Barlow 'Smuggler' Silk Shaded Embroidery

Kate Barlow says “I wanted ‘Smuggler’ to have a humorous, contemporary feeling, and so I offset the blue of the feathers against a hot pink neon silk background.  Being selected for the Royal Academy’s Summer Exhibition means so much. It proves that hand embroidery can be judged on a par with other fine art techniques, and I’m thrilled that the Academy deemed him good enough.”

Kate Barlow 'Smuggler' Silk Shaded Embroidery

Kate Barlow is a second year student on the Royal School of Needlework’s (RSN) Future Tutor Programme.  When she graduates she will be qualified to teach for the RSN.  Originally from North Wales, Kate has a degree in theatre costume from the Royal Welsh College of Music and Drama in Cardiff.  Kate worked as a wardrobe assistant at the Welsh National Opera before making the career-change to hand embroidery.

Kate Barlow 'Smuggler' Silk Shaded Embroidery

Dr Susan Kay-Williams, Chief Executive of the Royal School of Needlework says, “Kate’s achievement reminds us of our earliest days when our founder Lady Welby stated that she wanted to see high quality hand embroidery in galleries along-side fine art.  It is a great achievement to be included in the Royal Academy Summer Exhibition.

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Royal School of Needlework

Delicate antique collars, sleeves and cuffs; christening robes and baby caps; fine underwear and Sunday-best table linen and handkerchiefs exemplify some of the most intricate pieces of Whitework embroideries to form part of the Royal School of Needlework (RSN) exhibition from its Collection from May to December 2015.

Whitework Example from the Royal School of Needlework exhibition

Co-curated by Dr Clare Rose (RSN Degree Contextual Studies Lecturer) and Dr Susan Kay-Williams (RSN Chief Executive) this exhibition demonstrates how Whitework was once part of everyday life with women and young girls spending hours creating these intricate works of art for very practical uses.

Dr Clare Rose comments, “In the past, Whitework embroidery was big business, with professionals producing monogrammed underwear sets for Princesses – and for lesser mortals. Ayrshirework christening gowns and women’s accessories were worked on by teams of embroiderers, with apprentices doing the edging and the most highly skilled doing the delicate needlelace fillings. The value of Whitework can also be seen in the care that was taken to maintain it, from starch glazing and ironing after every wash, to meticulous darns to repair torn muslin ruffles. Whitework is one of the most international techniques, and the exhibition will feature pieces from Bengal and the Philippines.”

Whitework Example from the Royal School of Needlework exhibition

Although the exhibition features one embroidery technique there is a great variety in the pieces on show, for example, an exceptionally fine handkerchief from the Paris Exhibition of 1867 representing the Egyptian Pavilion; a set of miniature garments made in 1844 comprising skirt, boned bodice, bloomers, petticoat, nightdress, shirt and socks; a toddler gown featuring the Prince of Wales Feathers and Ayrshirework, a tea cosy in pulled thread work and bedding featuring a cottage scene.

Whitework Example from the Royal School of Needlework exhibition

Dr Susan Kay-Williams says, “The quality of work is exquisite and features several of the Whitework techniques including Carrickmacross, Hollie Point, Cutwork, Pulled threads, Hardanger and Ayrshirework.”

Contemporary applications of Whitework will be represented by examples from RSN Diploma students and graduates showing how these delicate techniques can be used to create an amazing variety of patterns, textures and designs all without any colour.

Whitework Example from the Royal School of Needlework exhibition

The exhibition takes place at the RSN’s base at Hampton Court Palace in Surrey on set days each month and pre-booking in advance is essential. Tours are 1.5 hours and cost £16 per person and groups are welcome too. You’ll listen to a short illustrated lecture on the RSN and Whitework and then be shown around the exhibition by volunteer tour guides.

To book for the RSN Whitework Exhibition visit or telephone +44(0)20 3166 6941.

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Hello, Mr X Stitch here. I thought I’d tell you about my recent Xploits. It is a life less ordinary.

Two weeks ago today the Spring Knitting & Stitching Show started at Olympia in London. Organised by Upper Street Events, it is a great show for fans of needlecraft with a wealth of stalls selling all the materials you might need to get your stitch on.

New cross stitch learners at the Inspiration Station

It was my fifth year with a space there, and the second year that I was hosting an Inspiration Station with close support from the Royal School of Needlework and the Young Embroiderers Guild.

Young Embroiderers' work in the Mr X Stitch Inspiration Station at the 2015 Spring Knitting & Stitching Show

We had a great selection of competition entries for this year’s Young Embroiderers De Denne competition – the theme was All That Glistens Is Not Gold and we had a range of ideas. One of my personal favourites was Laura Clough’s “Dew in the Morning”:

Dew in the Morning by Laura Clough

As well as these fantastic Young Embroiderer pieces we also had the World’s Longest Embroidery draped all over the stand and people were invited to add a motif to it.

Stitching on the World's Longest Embroidery


We had the amazing goldwork of Charlotte “Hanging By A Thread” Bailey which was arguably the finest embroidery in the building. It was Charlotte’s first proper exhibition and great to see her receiving the praise she deserves from needlework fans of all ages.

Charlotte Bailey explains her goldwork to a rapt audience at the Spring Knitting & Stitching Show

All in all, it was a great show. We spent four days chatting with people, teaching cross stitch to children and adults from all walks of life. We met some interesting amateur stitchers, including the super-fast Powerjen, and also spent a lot of time promoting lovely cross stitch designers like Bobo Stitch and Hannah Bass.

RSN Degree Students Teaching Cross Stitch in the Mr X Stitch Inspiration Station at the 2015 Spring Knitting & Stitching Show

The show had the usual mix of stitchy sellers and knitting names, and I enjoyed catching up with Jane Greenoff, Sue and Heather from the Knitting Hut, the guys from Black Sheep, and the mighty Toft Alpaca Farm, whose Crochet Jungle was a magnificent installation.

Toft Alpaca's Crochet Jungle at the 2015 Spring Knitting & Stitching Show


The Show was over before it began and the four days flew by, but everyone involved had a great time and we managed to create a whole new bunch of needlecraft ninjas as well. Thanks to everyone who helped out – we’ll see you at the next event!

Young Embroiderers In Action

Were you there? What was the show like for you?


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