Images from the Design Archives, Knitting Collections at University of Southampton, Museum of Design in Plastics, and University of the Arts London

Royal School of Needlework

The Royal School of Needlework is the international centre for teaching hand embroidery. It runs the unique Foundation Degree in hand embroidery; Certificate and Diploma in technical hand embroidery and short courses open to all. It also houses an embroidery studio which undertakes bespoke commissions. The School was established in 1872 and is now based at Hampton Court Palace in south-west London.

The Royal School of Needlework has amassed a collection of embroidered textiles and archive materials comprising some 60,000 items, dating back to the early fifteenth century. The collection is particularly rich in designs commissioned by the School from the leaders of the Arts and Crafts and Aesthetic movements: Walter Crane, William Morris, Edward Burne-Jones, Rev Selwyn Image, George Aitcheson, Gertrude Jekyll and many others.

The collection also contains the School's own early business records which show the history and development of art embroidery, and especially the School's leading role in the development of art embroidery in the UK and the US. The archive contains a very full record of work done by the School and sent to Philadelphia in 1876 for the International Centennial Exhibition. It was this room-sized display which launched art embroidery in the US and was very influential on the work of Candace Wheeler.

As a non-profit organisation which has moved to smaller rooms than it once occupied, the collection is mostly in storage and the School is actively seeking sponsorship to enable it to catalogue these embroideries, textiles, and designs and to digitise and make them accessible online.

Dr Susan Kay-Williams, Chief Executive -