Wednesday, 10 July 2013

Royal School of Needlework - update

At the end of March I promised to let you know how I got on at the Royal School of Needlework on my 'Introduction to Embroidery' course, and here it is (finally).
Initially, I was a little disappointed as I'd interpreted the title differently and was expecting to have a little bit of everything else they offer, a sort of 'taster course'.  But the 'Introduction' is really that - and introduction to a few of the 'traditional' embroidery stitches like you may have learned at school or from your grandmother, such as chain stitch, back-stitch, french knots etc.
We were a group of seven, smaller than usual for RSN courses aparently (usually about 12), as this was an additional date, but in my opinion, the size of the group was just right as we all had the opportunity for some one-to-one and were all able to ask questions.  Our tutor, Heather, was lovely.  She is a freelance embroiderer - lucky lady! and regular tutor at RSN.  At the beginning of the day we all introduced ourselves and gave a little of our 'embroidery background'.  I was a little surprised that I was the only Friend of RSN on the course and also the only one who'd done much embroidery, although quite a few had done a little with their grandmothers when they were small.
We were all given a kit for a 'leaf' motif with each leaf being done in a different stitch and Heather demonstrated each different stitch by starting one of us off while the rest of us gathered round to watch.  As the day progressed and some of us stitched at a different pace, she showed us in smaller groups as we became ready to move on.  We had a tea-break mid-morning and were able to take a quick look at some of the school's library and their complete range of both DMC and Anchor threads and at lunchtime we were taken to the RSN shop ("child" and "sweet shop" are the words that spring to mind!) to pay for our supplies (and anything else that took our fancy, which was quite a lot really, but I managed to resist and 'only' bought 7 skeins of DMC and a pair of super-duper embroidery scissors so that my beloved Swiss army knife can retire).


There were five leaves in the original kit - one each for chain stitch, fly stitch, blanket and slip stitch, Van Dyke stitch and threaded back stitch - with some goldwork couching and french knots to boot.  Three of us got a bit enthusiastic and used the 'prick and pounce' method to add an extra leaf to our design and we chose to try trellis stitch (which I finished at home).

It was a brilliant day.  I was so enthusiastic and excited about my embroidery at the end of it and I can't wait to go back again and try another.  I think the natural follow-on would be crewel work, and I am tempted, but I really fancy blackwork.  It was the first time I'd actually be taught embroidery, as I'm self-taught really and it was such a privilege being taught by such an expert.  It was wonderful being surrounded by examples of fantastic embroidery too (some of Heather's and some apprentice pieces).  At the end of the day Heather also took us to see an amazing embroidered screen (middle row, right in link) in an adjacent room.  It is about 6 feet high and was completely covered in beatiful crewel work (loads of trellis stitch and millions of french knots, which actually looked like velvet or chenille). Being inside Hampton Court Palace was fantastic too, and although you couldn't really tell from the room we were in - climbing up the old stairs and peering out of the window at the Palace gardens made the day all the more special.  I wonder what Cardinal Wolsey, Henry VIII etc would think of us all wandering around 'their' palace in our modern get-up and picnicking on their lawn?!

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