Mary Corbet

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I learned to embroider when I was a kid, when everyone was really into cross stitch (remember the '80s?). Eventually, I migrated to surface embroidery, teaching myself with whatever I could get my hands on...read more

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Day Tripping, Day Classing, Day Dreaming


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If you haven’t visited the website of the Royal School of Needlework lately, you should! The RSN is located in London, at Hampton Court. The institution has an interesting and unique history (book review coming up on the subject…), and has been a huge source of influence on the development and continuation of the needle arts in the past hundred years.

Royal School of Needlework

The Royal School of Needlework continues to influence and promote needlework today, and one of the best ways that they do this is by making classes available to folks who are not able to put loads of time into learning at the RSN. Sure, they have degree programs and the like, but most stitchers in the world can’t devote years to pursuing a degree or certification in stitchery, textiles and so forth. Stitching, for most us, is not our livelihood, but rather our hobby, with our livelihoods coming from different tracks of life. So the RSN offers day classes for those who wish to get some training in specific types of embroidery. These day classes, focusing on very specific embroidery techniques or projects, extend anywhere from a day to two or three, and they are small enough that the individual stitcher gets good, focused instruction in an area that is of specific interest to the stitcher.

Royal School of Needlework

The gorgeous brochure for the RSN day classes (PDF) shows an amazing list of short classes offered this year. Over the last couple years, this list has expanded to include some really enticing titles.

If you happen to be heading to London for anything in the next year, or if you happen to live in the area already, why not consider setting aside a day or two for a class at the RSN? My guess is that the atmosphere alone (Hampton Court and its surrounds, plus a place completely and voraciously devoted to the needle arts!) would make the visit an unforgettable experience.

And if nothing else, you can do what I do – browse the Royal School of Needlework website, read their day classes brochures, and continue to dream of travel! You know, once spring gets here and those daffodils start popping up and the sky goes crystal blue and the sweet breezes of Kansas sweep over the prairies as they come to life, this travel itch will pass.

But in the meantime, I keep adding pennies to my jar and travel dreams to that Great List of Things-Stitchery That I Will Do Someday.

You do have one of those lists, don’t you?



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(14) Comments

  1. Hi Mary,

    Just wanted to let you know those of us in the San Francisco Bay Area are lucky enough to have a gifted RSN graduate, Lucy Barter, living in the area. She and RSN do offer day class and certification programs in the SF Bay Area once or twice each year. I have friends involved in the certification programs and they have learned much and produced lovely work. It’s an alternative to traveling to London. However, we do need an excuse to get there don’t we. I missed the V&A when I was there AND RSN so I will need to visit again.

  2. I took two private whitework classes spanning an entire day at the RSN in 2000. Jenny Adin-Christie was my tutor. We sat in the principal’s office where the light was streaming in and stitched. The experience was FANTASTIC! She was so patient and imparted so much information as we worked. I highly recommend the classes to anyone who stitches. I would love to take more courses if our travels allow.

  3. Mary–Thanks for the reminder about RSN classes! This is a fabulous resource & not nearly as expensive as one might think. The staff is very helpful & in the past, provided a list of B&B type accommodations nearby. When I attended, my host’s house was one block from the Thames & about a 10 minute brisk walk, over the bridge & thru the Hampton Park grounds, to class. IMHO, it was about the same expense as attending a national seminar but with international flavor! Sack lunches (corner deli) & tasty tea breaks help keep the cost down. RSN does offer some classes in the US for those who wish to stay on this side of the pond.

  4. Mary,

    I lived in London for a year and completely missed this opportunity *bangs head on desk*.

    Regardless, London is not as expensive as people think. Public transportation, afternoon tea at the corner shop and lodging for students make it an affordable city to visit.

    I LOVED my time there.

  5. There is definetly something on my list of stitchery-things: I applied for the foundation degree in hand embroidery at the RSN a few weeks ago 😀 The application just went their way from the university, so I’m reaaally excited..here’s to hoping I get accepted! <3

    I went to Hampton Court Palace last summer and really, even the grounds are a reason enough to visit! So beautiful, so inspiring. It is worth the trip, and I think anyone who might come along but is not interested in hand embroidery will enjoy themselves in the gardens

    They(the RSN, I mean)are also coming to two needlework festivals in Europe coming weeks, one in France and one in the Netherlands. I believe they are teaching short workshops, take embroidery from their collection and from their students and you can enroll for short courses..I live in the Netherlands, so excited to go! 😀 May be a nice headsup for anyone from France or the Netherlands! I read the info on their Facebook page, I'm not sure if it's on the website as well.

  6. I visited there once at the end of a business trip, it was amazing. They didn’t have any classes that week, so I’m just going to have to go back!

  7. I live about an hours drive away from there and finally got to do a goldwork course at the end of January, the Diamond Jubilee crown. It was a fabulous experience and one I shall repeat at a later date. I have my eye on another goldwork course later on and I am also booked for a tour of the school which I am looking forward to. I have also done 2 goldwork courses at historic Parham Park in Sussex (http://www.parhaminsussex.co.uk/) with 2 RSN tutors Owen Davis & Nicola Jarvis. The projects were inspired by the beautiful surroundings a wonderful experience.

  8. I took a whitework class there last October. It was an amazing experience, not only for the class, but for the atmosphere. Our classroom was on the third floor of Hampton Court, and when everyone was quiet and concentrating, you could hear the clip-clop of the horse drawn carriages. Wonderful!

  9. My mother did some classes there in the 1970s until my Dad stuffed up by changing his shifts so she couldn’t go. (I’m surprised he didn’t end up buried under the apple tree for that one).

    The other day she rang me to say she still had all her old threads and patterns from that, and would I be interested in them?

    So next Friday, when I fly up to visit, I have a suitcase that will go up empty and come back filled with gold threads and patterns and silk and linen. The things I do to help my mother…

  10. At least one class at the RSN is definitely on my list of things to do. I would love to take a degree there, but so far haven’t been able to talk my spouse and six children into relocating to London for three years. I’ll keep working on them. 🙂

  11. My list is so long, that even if I won a huge lottery and retired today, I’d need to live to 200 to get them all done.

    Gillian – you’re a good daughter to help your mother with such difficult tasks 🙂 !

  12. Things may very well have changed since I was there last (after all, it’s been nearly 8 years!), but if this is one of your life goals, you should probably plan ahead and correspond with the Royal School of Needlework directly.

    When I was lucky enough to hop across the pond and explore Hampton Court Palace (and I suckered my companion into spending two days there, since the place is so vast and the scope of history so engrossing), I was very disappointed to realize that the Royal School is not a part of any of the official tours (which, as any needleworker worth her pin money should know is just plain WRONG).

    At that time, there was a very small shop that sold what appeared to be leftover materials (that’s how I glommed onto the silver purl I still haven’t decided how to use — and which somehow is still untarnished!?!) and a few odd hanks of Appleton wool. I don’t know if the shop is still accessible, or if one needs an appointment — but that’s my main point. Make plans and make appointments instead of just showing up and assuming that, because it’s part of a palace that’s open to the public that the Royal School will be equally open.

    Ah, well, the pleasures of the garden did, in fact, give me enough inspiration for a lifetime, as did the ornaments in every part of the palace….

    But I’d give up copyright on each and every photo I took for a chance to go back!!!

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