The Sam­pler Sleuth

Op­por­tu­ni­ties for Needle­work Ed­u­ca­tion Abound

Just Cross Stitch - - Contents - Knowl­edge, His­tory & Tech­nique Vickie LoPic­colo Jen­nett

Find­ing needle­work ed­u­ca­tion and tu­tor­ing has never been eas­ier. Most any­one can hop on so­cial me­dia, do a quick in­ter­net search, or ask a trusted friend. While much has changed from the days when “dame schools”—a term used in the 17th–19th cen­turies for a pri­vate school led by a fe­male teacher— ad­ver­tised “pro­fi­ciency in plain sew­ing and needle­work,” much has stayed the same.

For the most part, needle­work in the 21st cen­tury is con­sid­ered more of a leisure pur­suit than a nec­es­sary skill. Most of us no longer em­broi­der ini­tials on our linens to iden­tify them, and if we do, we have ma­chines that can do that. Few of us seek em­ploy­ment cre­at­ing elab­o­rate embroidered ta­pes­tries or ec­cle­sial vest­ments. But there are many of us to­day who take quite se­ri­ously the task of pass­ing on needle­work skills to chil­dren and adults alike.

Take for ex­am­ple The Royal School of Needle­work (RSN) in the U.K. Founded in 1872 dur­ing the reign of Queen Vic­to­ria, this ven­er­a­ble in­sti­tu­tion wel­comes stu­dents from across the globe to its ex­ten­sive ar­ray of ed­u­ca­tional op­por­tu­ni­ties for ev­ery­one from be­gin­ner through ad­vanced. RSN tu­tors “a wealth of ex­pe­ri­ence, tech­ni­cal knowl­edge, and en­thu­si­asm to each stu­dent.” The school’s link to roy­alty con­tin­ues to­day with the Duchess of Corn­wall as a pa­tron. The school re­ceives no govern­ment fund­ing and re­lies on char­i­ta­ble trusts, friends and busi­nesses as sup­port­ers.

Theresa Bai­ley is in the midst of a three-year bach­e­lor’s de­gree pro­gram in Hand Embroidery for Fash­ion and In­te­ri­ors at the RSN. Her in­tro­duc­tion to stitch­ing came early in life, “I was about 3 years old when I was first in­tro­duced to needle­work by my mother. She cross stitched and taught me. I worked on blue plas­tic can­vas and used a large plas­tic nee­dle. She wouldn’t even al­low me to use safety scis­sors yet. I did put it down and pick it up pe­ri­od­i­cally through­out my child­hood. It wasn’t un­til high school that I be­gan to stitch con­sis­tently.”

Shortly af­ter grad­u­at­ing from high school, Theresa started at­tend­ing The Em­broi­der­ers’ Guild of Amer­ica (EGA) meet­ings. She was hooked on needle­work.

Cel­e­brat­ing its 60th an­niver­sary this year, EGA was formed for “the ex­press pur­pose of fos­ter­ing the art of needle­work and as­so­ci­ated arts. EGA seeks to pro­mote co­op­er­a­tion and the ex­change

of ideas among those who are en­gaged in needle­work through­out the world by en­cour­ag­ing a high stan­dard of de­sign and tech­nique in embroidery. ... It is our pur­pose to con­duct in­struc­tion and re­search in the art of needle­work and to dis­trib­ute re­lated ma­te­ri­als and pub­li­ca­tions to mem­bers and to the pub­lic.” Ini­tially, EGA was a branch of the Em­broi­der­ers’ Guild of Lon­don, es­tab­lished in 1906. The cur­rent or­ga­ni­za­tion is com­prised of 13 re­gions across the United States and Canada, 280 chap­ters and three on­line chap­ters. The 8,800 mem­bers hail from across the globe.

EGA mem­ber­ship is open to any­one in­ter­ested in embroidery—from be­gin­ner to pro­fes­sional. The or­ga­ni­za­tion and in­di­vid­ual mem­bers are in­volved with mu­se­ums for ed­u­ca­tion and preser­va­tion pur­poses.

A new but for­mi­da­ble en­try into for­mal­ized needle­work ed­u­ca­tion is the San Fran­cisco School of Needle­work & De­sign. Founded in 2015 by pas­sion­ate em­broi­der­ers, the school seeks “to in­spire the next gen­er­a­tion of hand-embroidery ar­ti­sans, build­ing on tra­di­tional knowl­edge with up­dated skill sets, ex­panded tech­ni­cal abil­i­ties, and a flu­ent un­der­stand­ing of the vast meth­ods.” Rec­og­niz­ing that needle­work is pur­sued for art, fash­ion and leisure, the school of­fers both for­mal and drop-in classes in a col­le­gial en­vi­ron­ment. The school’s vi­sion state­ments in­clude the goal of “spread­ing the en­joy­ment of the ev­ery­day cog­ni­tive and cre­ative ben­e­fits of prac­tic­ing a slow craft in a hy­per-fast world.”

To that end, many guilds, needle­work shops, or­ga­ni­za­tions and mu­se­ums of­fer a va­ri­ety of ed­u­ca­tion op­por­tu­ni­ties through­out the year, in­clud­ing An­nie’s Nee­dle Arts Fes­ti­val: Christ­mas in Wil­liams­burg.

For ad­di­tional re­sources, see these web­sites: www.royal-needle­ www.sfneedle­workand­de­­i­nar

Class­room in­struc­tion pro­vides an op­por­tu­nity not only for needle­work en­thu­si­asts to learn new skills, but also to meet new friends with the same pas­sion for cre­at­ing art­work with nee­dle and thread.

A Re­ward of Merit card that was given to stu­dents for suc­cess­ful com­ple­tion of their stud­ies in the 19th cen­tury.

An im­age from the cover of an early 20th cen­tury is­sue of The School Arts Mag­a­zine.

Through the years, needle­work ed­u­ca­tion has taken many forms. This 19th cen­tury hand­ker­chief shows young school chil­dren learn­ing to ply their nee­dles while learn­ing their ABCs.

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