RSN Day Class: Needlelace at the Fashion Museum

As well as the more intensive embroidery qualifications, the Royal School of Needlework (RSN) runs regular day classes as a way for people to try new techniques or get an insight into what it is like to study with one of the world’s most prestigious hand embroidery schools. Occasionally, the RSN teams up with other organisations to put on special classes on either different themes or different skills.

Recently, the RSN ran a series of classes at the Fashion Museum in Bath, with designs based on items on exhibition there. I was lucky enough to be able to attend the Needlelace day class, stitching a small butterfly/dragonfly/questionable insect as inspired by a motif on an embroidered Elizabethan woman’s waistcoat.


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London Adventures II: Hampton Court Palace and RSN Exhibition

One of the main reasons for visiting London was getting the chance to see the Royal School of Needlework’s current exhibition, ‘Peacocks and Pomegranates’, which was also a good excuse to visit Hampton Court Palace as well.

The RSN has been based in Hampton Court Palace since 1987, having originally opened its first studio in 1872. It’s a fitting location for the organisation that does a significant amount of work for the Royal Family and is responsible for the restoration and conservation of many treasured pieces of textile history.

Hampton Court in the distance

Before you enter the palace though, you might want to take the time to visit Creative Quilting, a lovely little quilting shop just before the bridge to the Palace.


It has a great selection of fabrics, patchworking and quilting books and all the assorted paraphernalia you might need. They are also happy to cut fabric from 10 cm widths, so you can get exactly how much you need. I was relatively restrained with purchasing a few Batiks for a scrappy quilt but I couldn’t help but leave with some of this absolutely fabulous Robert Kaufman fabric. Not sure what I’m going to use it for just yet, but it deserves a special project.

15713 Robert Kaufman Japan

If anyone knows a UK retailer with a good range of Robert Kaufman fabrics, please let me know! Having seen Peggy Toole’s Lumia collections, I do want to get my hands on some.

Hampton Court Palace was one of the palaces belonging to the infamous English king, Henry VIII. Although it was originally intended for Cardinal Thomas Wolsey, Archbishop of York, when he fell afoul of Henry’s fickle affections, gifted it back to the king, perhaps hoping he could avoid his downfall.


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RSN Silk Shading Day Class

Silk shading is a wonderful technique, often better known as ‘thread painting’ for the huge complexity of colours and shading it can involves, for creating very lifelike pictures. Typical subjects are the obligatory twee flowers and wildlife. Bonus points if they wouldn’t look out of place in an English country garden.

Although silk shading is one of the techniques covered in the RSN’s Certificate course, I had already signed up for this day course before I’d decided to do the Certificate and figured there’s no such thing as too much stitching!

Just getting started.

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Starting out with the RSN

We are very lucky in the UK to be home to the Royal School of Needlework (RSN), an organisation which describes itself as an ‘international centre of excellence for the art of hand embroidery.’ As well as being responsible for a huge amount of textile conservation, what this also means is they offer a mindboggling amount of courses on everything from how to sew tassels to study days on underwear. Very tasteful monogrammed underwear of course.

I suffer very much with ‘gotta try it all’ Crafter’s Syndrome.  Spinning, sewing, silversmithing, anything that involves messing around with fibre or colour, I love doing. When I went on an RSN day course a few months ago, I was instantly hooked and very interested in having the opportunity to continue developing my stitching with such excellent teachers. One frustration I often find with picking up new crafts is that it can be hard to find regular tuition to keep pushing and challenging those skills.

Somehow, one thing led to another and I found myself enrolled on the RSN’s Certificate course, looking ahead to endless gruelling hours, trapped at a slate frame.

There’s a lot of fantastic craft work on the internet, more than enough to fill a lifetime’s worth of Pinterest boards but you don’t often see the other end of the process, where French knots bear more resemblance to crushed blowflies than flowers and knitted socks come with extraneous holes as a ‘design feature.’

Trying so many crafts means that I spend a lot of time being a beginner, in the frustrating realm of stitches that never sit quite right. I wanted a chance to document the learning process of my time at the trestles and share a bit of what I’ve learnt, and my misadventures in other crafting media, along the way. At least then there will be something on the internet you can point at and go ‘well at least mine doesn’t look like that!’

A Splash of Colour

First of all, thank you for your very lovely comments last week. I am very lucky to have such kind readers! I’m afraid I don’t have perhaps the prettiest of posts today, but it is on one of my favourite subjects, colour. One of the joys of playing with embroidery is not just playing with threads, textures and shapes but also playing with colours. Machine embroidery threads come in a really dazzling array of choices and I will say I have been building up quite the collection, but it’s still never really enough…

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Free-standing Lace and Writer’s Block

Well, I had rather hoped that my last post would mark a return to a regular schedule of blogging fun but it seems that was too optimistic. Normally, I find writing here very straightforward and a lot of fun as it’s the one place I just get to ‘write’ without worrying about briefs, absolute technical precision and everything everyone else has written on a topic in the last hundred years. Recently, though it feels like I’ve been suffering with a bit of ‘writer’s block’ which is very unusual!

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Beads, shiny beads

This is a great shot of how my coffee table currently looks. Beads, beads, beads, a marked-up temari, embroidery cases and the V&A’s latest magazine that I thoroughly blame for causing the bead situation in the first place. They have a Fabergé exhibition coming up soon and so had the most wonderful jewel-encrusted piece on the front cover which left my inner magpie hankering for shiny things…

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