Start of an RSN Journey

30th August 2019

By Nancy Williams 

It doesn’t seem that long ago when Nicola Jarvis convinced me to enrol for the Certificate Course at The Royal School of Needlework in London. While taking her class at the needlework convention ‘Beating Around the Bush’ in 2018, Nicola enthusiastically assured me it would be one of the best things I could do for my career, and more importantly, that I would absolutely love it. I got home that night, booked my place and started saving for the airfare. The months passed quickly and before long, June arrived and I was on my way.

Hampton Court Palace, UK

Most readers will probably be familiar with the Royal School of Needlework, or RSN for short. It started life as The School of Art Needlework in 1872, being granted Royal patronage three years later. Right from its inception, its purpose was to revive the art of needlework and provide employment for educated women who might otherwise find themselves in poverty.

Today, the RSN teaches students from all over the world, and continues to produce hand embroidered commissions for the likes of the Duchess of Cambridge and the Royal Family.

With such hallowed beginnings, I couldn’t help but be excited when I arrived at Hampton Court Palace in the UK on a beautiful summer’s day at the end of June. The students waiting with me were from every part of the globe, and we soon separated into groups and were introduced to our tutors.

I was under the expert guidance of Helen Jones and Chrissy Mann, the latter whom many of you will know as the winner of the Raised Embroidery section of the Stitch Your Heart Out needlework competition in 2018. After climbing a set of ancient stairs, we arrived at the room which would be our studio for the following two weeks, and our journey began.

My stitching seat

Although I was confident with the techniques of crewel embroidery, there was a great deal to learn in the design and preparation process which was new to me. The first couple of days were filled with coloured pencils, stitch plans and learning the intricacies of lacing linen twill on to a slate frame and transferring our designs by the prick and pounce technique. It was only then that we picked up our needles to begin.

The design process

The joy of arriving at the Palace each day and climbing the stairs to the School never grew old.

The stitching was intense – non-stop from 9.00 till 5.00 each day and then homework in the evening. We were instructed not to unpick, and with the time pressure it was good advice. There was a moment early in the second week when Helen looked at me seriously and asked if I had a back-up plan in case I didn’t finish. “I’ll finish” I said with determination, and I did. But I wasn’t the only student who had a lot of late nights.

When our stitching was finally complete, we learnt to mount our work and handed it in, bringing to an end my first ever visit to the RSN.

I was very sad to say goodbye to my tutors, classmates and the School itself. But already I’m excited about returning next year to do my next module. As for how I did? Well, I have to wait until September until I find out, but the truth is, I don’t really mind. I was thrilled with my piece, and I loved every second of the experience at the RSN. 2020, here I come.

The completed piece

Start Your Own RSN Journey…

If Nancy’s story about her RSN journey has inspired you, now is a great time to start your own RSN journey, and it may be easier than you think!

The Royal School of Needlework teaches across 5 locations in the UK, including the magnificent Hampton Court Palace and internationally in the USA and Japan.

Day Classes

A one-day class is the perfect way to start your journey with the Royal School of Needlework. They hold over 150 classes each year offering many different designs and for all levels from beginners to advanced. So, whether you’re a local or visiting from afar, clear a day in your calendar to stitch with the RSN.

Certificate & Diploma in Technical Hand Embroidery

For those looking to take their needlework journey to the next level, the RSN’s Certificate & Diploma in Technical Hand Embroidery is for you.  This a flexible course that enables students to reach the highest standards of this long-standing tradition. There are also Intensive Courses which are perfect for international students.

To learn more about learning more, check out the RSN website or email them HERE

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