The Royal School of Needlework – and me!

Something rather exciting happened this week.  On Thursday, I went to Hampton Court Palace. Not to go and see this wonderful, grand and historic playground of King Henry VIII, but for something entirely different.  You see, tucked away in an upstairs apartment off the Fountain Court resides the headquarters of the Royal School of Needlework.  Anyone can visit, by prior arrangement, and they frequently have exhibitions of embroidered work from their huge collection of archived and donated work.  But my visit was for more personal reasons.  For a while now I have been pondering the question “how do I make the leap from enthusiastic amateur to professional level embroiderer?”  Many people have been very kind about my work and my designs, but I know I need to step it up a gear so that I can set about designing (and taking commissions!) with more confidence.  over two years ago at the Knitting and Stitching Show at Alexandra Palace, I found myself at the stall of the RSN, and the lovely lady there gave me a leaflet about their courses, and showed me some of the exquisite work of their certificate and diploma students.  My first thought was “too expensive” followed by “I could never be that good”.  I bought a book from them and went on my way.  In the year that followed, I got increasingly itchy-fingered as regards the embroidery vocation idea.  I tried out different ways of honing my skills, with books and practice and workshops, not to mention other people’s blogs (like Mary Corbet over on Needle n Thread) and YouTube tutorials, but it was very slow going.  Without some sort of structure or critical assessment it feels a bit like stumbling around in the dark.

In search of the perfect techniqe: satin stitch
In search of the perfect technique: satin stitch

The following October found me at the knitting and stitching show again, and yes, there I was again, looking wistfully at the RSN brochure.  But somehow, this time, the cost didn’t put me off quite so much, to the point I was wondering if it could be somehow managed. Also looking at the work on display made me think “I want to stitch like that” instead of “I could never stitch like that”.

So that is how I came to be visiting the RSN last Thursday, with a head full of questions and ideas and the inevitable self-doubt.  After surmounting the inevitable challenges of accessing a second floor apartment in a historic royal palace with my thoroughly 21st century wheelchair, I was shown into a smallish room where around 10 people were sitting around the walls facing into the room, each one in their own little work space pod of embroidery heaven.  All of them were embroidering amazing projects, all completely different.  Two tutors moved between them, and there was a quietly productive, friendly sort of a atmosphere.  The tutors assured me that they would help me with everything step by step, so that I could start producing the work that I wanted to be able to achieve.  The course is four modules : Jacobean crewel work, silk shading, gold work (yay!), and a choice of canvas stitches or blackwork.  Each module includes 8 teaching days that can be booked as convenient, so it is completely flexible, and will fit with my current job and family commitments.

Did I sign up? Of course I did – there and then!  My first teaching days are booked in early March, and I will soon be totally immersed in Jacobean crewel work, very busy, and hatching schemes to fund my next module.  Excited just doesn’t cover it!

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This excited post is dedicated to mum, who not only encouraged me to go for it, but also put up actual cash to help with the cost.  Thanks mum!


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