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Visit to Royal School of Needlework

On a most beautiful, sunny Tuesday, 26th February 2019, a party of twenty-two Livery Needlemakers and their guests arrived at Hampton Court Palace for the Master’s Day visit to the Royal School of Needlework (RSN) for a tour of the RSN and the current ‘Embroidered Home’ exhibition. The Royal School of Needlework guides and co-ordinator Natalie Thew kindly greeted our small gathering at the main entrance. There was much to chat about and catch up on in the glorious sunshine, whilst we waited for everyone to arrive; especially to compare notes on the transport and typical delays and cancellations caused by the train services and motorway traffic. However, we were soon all gathered in the Royal School of Needlework (RSN) classroom to enjoy the curator Susan Kay-Williams fascinating talk on the history of the RSN.

Susan briefed the group about the history of the school, which was founded in 1872 by Lady Victoria Welby with Princess Helena as the President. In 1875 the school was granted Royal patronage and became the Royal School of Art Needlework.

There are several courses for students such as:

The Certificate & Diploma in Technical Hand Embroidery is based at Hampton Court Palace and taught in other UK satellites across the country, internationally in Japan and in the USA.

The BA (Hons) Hand Embroidery for Fashion, Interiors and Textile Art taught at the RSN.

The Future Tutors programme, for those that want a career in teaching qualification.

On-line and Day courses are also available.

Susan had hand-picked some special antiquities to show us: The Irish Lord Chancellors purse from the 1850s; a chess piece made from silver metal thread work; American grain/flour sacks from the mid 20th century; pillow cases and tray covers.

The RSN is commissioned sometimes for the most secret of work for royalty and celebrities – only the actual stitchers know for whom, where and when!

The tour of the Embroidered Home was introduced comparing the changes in soft furnishings through the ages from Tudor, Georgian and Victorian to the 20th century. Susan then talked us round the Embroidered Home display, which was beautifully curated, and we were also introduced to the students (who also benefit from the Needlemakers’ charitable payments) and samples of their work in the 2nd year of their course.

We were also introduced by volunteer Janice Williams to other fine work displayed within the RSN; some of which was quite breath-taking, especially a huge Japanese abstract of flowers in gold thread – it was stunning.

Following such an informative morning, we then made our way to the Italian restaurant La Fiamma for a wonderful 3 course lunch. This was much appreciated, as we were starving.

For those who were really making a day of it, a tour of the Hampton Court Palace followed in the late afternoon but with a warm sun to spur them on.

All in all, a lovely day.