My name is Kay Allan; I was born in Northumberland but moved to County Durham when I got married.
Having a mother who was trained in dressmaking and machine embroidery at a London fashion house, my early childhood memories are of her making clothes, embroidering or knitting. It was therefore not surprising that as I got older I wanted to try these things for myself. Over time, I came to the conclusion that, where a sewing machine would definitely always have a place in my home, what I enjoyed most of all was hand embroidery. After trying Free Style, Cross Stitch and Hardanger embroidery for a number of years, I wanted to learn more, to increase my knowledge of design, colour and techniques but, most of all, how to be a better hand embroiderer.
This is when the Royal School of Needlework came into my life. I had known of the RSN for many years, mainly through reading magazine articles and visiting stitching shows. I put doing a course with them on my wish list and carried on with life. Fortunately, in about 2012, I attended an Embroiderers’ Guild course in Goldwork, taught by RSN Tutor Tracy Franklin. The rest, as they say, is history!
I hung back after the class finished so that I could chat with Tracy about what the RSN could offer me and the following week I visited her Studio in Durham City. We talked about the RSN Certificate in Technical Hand Embroidery and, although a little daunted by the fabulous work produced by her students, I knew that this is what I wanted to achieve.
Within two years of starting, I had completed all four RSN Certificate modules. Not only did I gain my Certificate with a Distinction but, to my great surprise, I was awarded the Hilda Watson Prize for Silk Shading in the RSN Certificate & Diploma Awards 2014! My work was of Fly Agaric, Toadstools.
With the confidence and knowledge I had gained from completing the Certificate course, I went straight on to start the Diploma course which I completed last autumn. Apart from learning new techniques and using different materials, I was not sure how much I would get from the Diploma. As it turned out, however, it gave me so much more. It gave me the confidence to experiment with shapes, design and colour, to mix things up just to see how it turned out. I feel my skills are now so much more rounded.
I feel very fortunate to live close to Tracy Franklin’s Studio in Durham City where the RSN courses are taught. For me, the benefit of doing all my RSN training in Durham is having the continuity of one, very good Tutor. The Studio is a lovely environment to work in, where all the students help, support and encourage each other.
The reason I chose to study with the RSN was because I thought it would give me the best training and offer me a good range of techniques. I can honestly say I have enjoyed the experience enormously, although it has not been without its challenges. Having completed all 10 modules, my favourite and most rewarding, has to be Silk Shading. My Advanced Silk Shading piece of a badger was chosen to be part of the RSN’s exhibition ‘Animals in Embroidery’ in 2018 at Hampton Court Palace. I loved this image as soon as I saw it! You can almost see the mischievous thoughts going on in this young badger’s head, behind those big eyes that follow you everywhere you go.
Whilst I decide if I want to go further with the RSN, I am continuing my studies with Tracy. I am currently an active member of the local Embroiderers’ Guild as well as a member of several stitching groups where I try to use the skills I have learned to encourage others to try new techniques.
I have enjoyed the whole learning experience during my RSN Certificate and Diploma courses and cannot speak highly enough of Tracy Franklin, my RSN Tutor. Tracy is so knowledgeable and encouraging she has helped me attain a standard in hand embroidery I could only dream possible before I started my training.