Discover more about the RSN and find out why we’ve been the international centre of excellence for the Art of Hand Embroidery for 150 years in our fascinating live Talks. Easily accessed via Zoom, all our Talks are embellished by captivating images and are followed by Q&A sessions.

Thank you for supporting our Online Talks this year! We will be back in 2024 with more fascinating lectures about hand embroidery, craft  and our amazing Collection of objects.

In January, RSN Chief Executive, Dr Susan Kay-Williams, will take you on a journey through the many roles of Fine Whitework embroidery. We also invite you to join our FREE Online Talk with a panel of experts and users who will discuss RSN Stitch Bank, the world directory of stitches.

In February we welcome back RSN Curator, Dr Isabella Rosner, who will reveal some of our Collection’s most unique and surprising items, spanning centuries and continents.

We are also delighted to introduce you to new guest speakers, Dress Historian and TV presenter, Amber Butchart, and Founder of Common Threads Press, Laura Moseley. Amber will explore the potential of fashion as a tool for forensic science and Laura will map queer identity in needlework practices since the mid-20th century.

Please note that these Talks are LIVE ONLINE EVENTS and are not available to watch immediately afterwards. If you cannot watch a live event, or want to watch again in the future, we do re-release popular talks at a later date for a small fee On Demand. Bookings for RSN Live Online Talks close at 3pm on the day of the event and are NON-REFUNDABLE. After booking, you will receive your unique Zoom invite by email 24-48 hours before each event (3 hours if booked on the day). Each booking and subsequent Zoom link is unique to ONE customer and ONE device only, so please let us know if you are booking additional places for our Talks. Thank you.

Upcoming Talks

Whitework: The Versatile Enhancement

Dr. Susan Kay-Williams, Wednesday 17 January 2024. 7pm UK

This fascinating talk begins with looking at the fabric of Whitework, initially linen and then cotton and then we take a journey through the various roles of this fine embroidery technique as adornment, as accessory, as domestic enhancement to its role in the church.

Susan will explain how Whitework was worn by men, women and children and we will see some fascinating examples not just from extant textiles in the RSN Collection but also in art.


RSN Stitch Bank: Exploring the World Directory of Stitches (RSN Free Talk)

Dr. Susan Kay-Williams and Special Guests, Wednesday 24 January 2024. 7pm UK

Want to learn more about the RSN Stitch Bank and how it can help you?

RSN Stitch Bank, launched in September 2021, now features 350 stitches and has been used by researchers, curators, historians, teachers and students all around the world.

During this round table discussion, RSN Chief Executive, Dr Susan Kay-Williams, will welcome a panel of experts and users of the RSN Stitch Bank who refer to it to inform their work.  You will have the opportunity to pose questions to the panel and to learn how this wonderful free resource will contribute to your own world of stitch.


Queer Needlework Practices of Past and Present

Laura Moseley, Wednesday 7 February 2024. 7pm UK

In this captivating talk, craft researcher and founder of Common Threads Press, Laura Moseley, will map the different articulations of queer identity in needlework practices since the mid-20th century. By analysing fabric, colour, technique and processes of making, Laura will look at the different ways in which queer artists have deployed embroidery and quilting in their work.

Departing from the work of second-wave feminists that worked to reinstate needlework as an emblem of ‘women’s work’, Laura will discuss how textile crafts have since  become a central focus for queer artists working with similar themes of inheritance, identity and memory.


Surprising Objects from the RSN Collection

Dr. Isabella Rosner, Wednesday 13 March 2024. 7pm UK

The RSN Collection comprises objects from all around the world representing 1,000 years of embroidery and textiles. In it are some unexpected treasures, ranging from Native American quillwork using porcupine quills to a 17th century embroidered mirror surround and the oldest known medallion sampler from an important Quaker school.

Join Isabella on a virtual tour through some of the Collection’s most unique and surprising items, spanning centuries and continents.


Forensic Fashion: Investigating Old Clothes from the Rag Trade to the Lab

Amber Butchart, Wednesday 27 March 2024. 7pm UK

What can the clothes of the dead teach us about the lives of the living? Dress historian, curator and forensic garment analyst Amber Butchart has spent two decades investigating old clothes and their stories, from working as the buyer for an international vintage clothing company, to broadcasting for the BBC and most recently, working with Crime Scene Investigators as a consultant in forensic garment analysis.

In this intriguing illustrated talk, Amber considers the power of old clothes in storytelling across literature and myth, the history of second-hand style, and the potential of fashion as a tool for forensic science



Previous Talks

The Wardrobes of King Henry VIII’s Wives

Eleri Lynn, Wednesday 6 December 2023. 7pm UKEmily Mitchell in front of multiple shades of thread

In this special online talk, fashion historian and author, Eleri Lynn, explores the wardrobes of King Henry VIII’s six wives. Henry was keen to showcase the royal family’s wealth by funding extravagant clothing for his wives and each woman used clothing and embroidery to create her own unique style and communicate messages of power, loyalty and love.

Join Eleri to hear more about Henry’s wives including Catherine of Aragon who popularised Spanish embroidery and Anne Boleyn who introduced French fashions to England which were later banned by Jane Seymour.

An expert on Tudor dress, Eleri is the author of Tudor Fashion (Yale University Press, 2017: winner of the 2019 Historians of British Art Award for exemplary scholarship pre-1600), and Tudor Textiles (Yale University Press, 2020).

Coming soon to On Demand

Inside the RSN Embroidery Studio

Anne Butcher and Gemma Murray, Wednesday 22 November 2023. 7pm UK 

The RSN Embroidery Studio was founded in 1872 and is renowned for its exquisite hand embroidery for a range of clients from royalty, interior designers and fashion houses to individuals and families.

Join our Head of Studio, Anne Butcher and our Studio Manager, Gemma Murray to hear about the day to day running of the Studio and the wide variety of pieces that come through our doors, including the expected but also the unforeseen and unique.

watch on demand

Opus Anglicanum – The Finest English Embroidery

Dr Susan Kay-Williams, Wednesday 8 November 2023. 7pm UK

Opus Anglicanum literally means English work. It was made for royalty and the Church in the 13th to 15th centuries by professional embroiderers, both men and women, based in the City of London. Today most of what remains are the pieces for the Church which were collected by Popes – one Pope had collected 40 pieces by the time of his death.

The hallmarks of Opus Anglicanum are the Goldwork technique of underside couching and the individuality given to each of the figures depicted in all of the pieces. Susan’s talk will highlight the stitching and the individual copes and chasubles that still remain, along with some insight into the colours used.

watch on demand


Quilts and Quilted Objects in the RSN Collection

Dr. Isabella Rosner, Wednesday 25 October 2023. 7pm UK

Did you know that the RSN Collection includes not only embroidery but also a sizeable collection of quilts and other quilted objects?

Quilted pieces range from 18th century babies’ caps and panels, to 19th century patchwork quilts and 20th century samplers made at the RSN. Join RSN Curator, Dr. Isabella Rosner to learn more about quilting in the RSN Collection as she explores the use of quilting for both clothing and the home.

watch on demand

The History of English Sampler Making

Dr. Isabella Rosner, Wednesday 4 October 2023. 7pm UK

For centuries, English girls were taught to embroider by stitching samplers. Studying these samplers reveals rich stories of girls and women and the world in which they lived.

Meet the RSN’s new Curator, Dr. Isabella Rosner and join her on a journey through four centuries of English sampler making. This will be a unique tour of the RSN’s large sampler collection, put into conversation with samplers in major museums in the UK and the USA.

Isabella has successfully completed her PhD, entitled ‘Women Professing Godliness with Good Works: Quaker Women’s Art Before Ackworth and Westtown c. 1650-1800‘.

watch on demand

More Secrets from the Grove Book

Dr Susan Kay-Williams, Wednesday 27 September 2023. 7pm UK

In 2022 our Chief Executive, Dr Susan Kay-Williams, introduced us to the Grove Book, the wonderful textile cornucopia that was collected by Mrs Georgina Anne Grove and was donated to the RSN by her husband in 1924.

So filled with fantastic samples is this book, that one session was not enough to cover it all and our audience demanded more! So in this talk, Susan will reveal more about Mrs Grove as a collector and show us the many samples in the book she was not able to cover last year, from samplers to woven fabrics from Europe, China and North Africa. You do not have to have seen part one to enjoy this talk, but it is still available to view on the RSN website here

watch on demand

The RSN and the Coronation of His Majesty King Charles III

Dr. Susan Kay-Williams and Anne Butcher, Wednesday 17 May 2023. 7pm

The Royal School of Needlework is honoured to have worked on the Coronation of His Majesty King Charles.

The RSN Embroidery Studio conserved the Robe of State of The King, which was worn by His Majesty on arrival at Westminster Abbey. The RSN Studio also designed and hand embroidered the Robe of Estate for Her Majesty The Queen Consort, which was worn on departure from Westminster Abbey. The embroidered design of the train draws on the themes of nature and the environment, featuring the national emblems of the United Kingdom, as well as paying tribute to His Majesty The King.

We were also delighted to have worked on the Anointing Screen used at the most sacred moment of the Coronation, the Anointing of His Majesty The King. The screen combines traditional and contemporary sustainable embroidery practices to produce a design which speaks to His Majesty The King’s deep affection for the Commonwealth.

Further RSN work was carried out on the Chairs of Estate and Throne Chairs (Chairs of State) that were used by The King and The Queen Consort at different points during the Coronation Service on 6 May.

Please join RSN Chief Executive, Dr Susan Kay-Williams and Head of the RSN Embroidery Studio, Anne Butcher for this special Online Talk on 17 May to find out more about our work on the Coronation.

watch on demand


A Mantle, Canopies, Robes and endless Chairs: RSN and Coronations of the 20th Century

Dr Susan Kay-Williams, Wednesday 10 May 2023. 7pm UK

In this talk, RSN Chief Executive, Dr Susan Kay-Williams will reveal some of the items that the RSN made for the coronations of 1902, 1911, 1937 and 1953 referenced by what remains in our archives that we are still discovering today, as much of the archive is uncatalogued.

In addition to objects made directly for the coronations, you will see examples of samplers, cushions and other souvenirs of the events, including pieces that even our most regular talks attenders will not have seen before.  Susan will also talk about the serendipitous way that some of the pieces came back to the RSN. Please join us as there is much to see!

watch on demand

The Power and Meaning of Embroidery at the Court of Elizabeth I

Eleri Lynn, Wednesday 7 December 2022. 7pm UK

Eleri Lynn smiling

At the Tudor royal court, textiles and embroidery were more highly esteemed than paintings and other forms of decorative art. Tapestries, embroideries, carpets and hangings were used to convey status and magnificence, but also to express personal loyalty or even courtly romance.

In this special lecture, historian and RSN Trustee, Eleri Lynn, will explore the role that embroidery played within the house of Tudor, with particular focus on the court of Queen Elizabeth I, for whom the codified motifs and emblems of embroidered hangings and garments had significant – and sometimes secret – meaning. Even today, these extraordinary works provide a fascinating insight into Tudor society and the projection of wealth, taste, and ultimately, power.

Watch on demand 

The Red Dress Embroidery

Kirstie Macleod, Wednesday 26 October 2022. 7pm UK

Kirstie Macleod's red dress

The Red Dress is a 13-year, award winning global, collaborative embroidery project 2009 to 2022 conceived by British artist Kirstie Macleod. The initiative provides an artistic platform for women around the world, many of whom are marginalised and live in poverty, to tell their personal stories through embroidery.

Join Kirstie to hear how from 2009 to 2022, pieces of the Red Dress have travelled the globe being continuously embroidered onto. Constructed out of 84 pieces of burgundy silk dupion, the garment has been worked on by 336 women and 7 men, from 46 countries, with all 136 commissioned artisans paid for their work. The rest of the embroidery was added by willing audiences at various exhibitions and events. The Red Dress was also on display at our 150th Anniversary exhibition at the Fashion & Textile Museum in 2022.

Initially the project sought to generate a dialogue of identity through embroidery, merging diverse cultures, with no borders. However, over the 13 years the dress has also become a platform for self-expression and an opportunity for voices to be amplified and heard.  Get inspired by Kirstie’s Red Dress Embroidery here.

watch on demand

The Needle has a Point

Jamie “Mr X Stitch” Chalmers, RSN Anniversary Ambassador, Wednesday 6 July 2022, 7pm UK

Jamie Chalmers - Kingpin Ain't easy stitch

Jamie “Mr X Stitch” Chalmers is one of the world’s most well-known male embroiderers and an internationally exhibited textile artist and curator. Jamie is a creative stitcher, who not only brings boundless positive energy to the world of needlework, but also helps break down the misconceptions of the craft.

Join Jamie for his exclusive presentation exploring modern needlework and its role in examining the world we live in. Far from being a cute craft, needlework remains a powerful tool for expression. During the evening Jamie will showcase artists who push at the preconceptions of the form, whether in their content or their use of the medium. It’ll be both fascinating and fun.

WATCH On Demand

The Bacton Altar Cloth: The Lost Dress of Elizabeth I

Eleri Lynn and Anne Butcher, Wednesday 9 February 2022, 7pm UK

Examining old work laid out Eleri Lynn is the former  Curator of the Royal Ceremonial Dress Collection at Hampton Court Palace. Whilst researching a history of Tudor royal fashion, she identified a cloth that had been used as an altar hanging but which, on closer inspection, suggested an even more prestigious and historic origin.

Eleri will tell you about her research and findings, and the conservation undertaken by Historic Royal Palaces for the exciting exhibition of the altar cloth in 2019/20. Then Anne Butcher, Head of the RSN Embroidery Studio & Teaching, will talk about the work we did to create three replica flowers from the cloth for the exhibition and ultimately the stunning kits that we now teach across the world.

Image credit: Historic Royal Palaces, David Jenson

Watch On Demand


Caring For The Royal Collection

Guest Speaker: Caroline de Guitaut,
Wednesday 1 December 2021, 7pm UK GMT

Caroline de Guitaut showcasing dress

Join Caroline de Guitaut, Deputy Surveyor of The Queen’s Works of Art at the Royal Collection Trust, for an illustrated talk about this fabulous Collection and hear about some of the challenges of looking after a myriad of fascinating objects.

Caroline has been responsible for many exhibitions at Buckingham Palace and other royal residences, including the Coronation Exhibition of 2013 which featured three items made by the RSN, one of which was the Robe of State.

Watch on demand