Future Tutors in the Embroidery Studio

30th June, 2020

As we look forward to another cohort of Future Tutors (FTs) graduating later this summer, we take time to reflect on their year in the RSN Embroidery Studio, the commercial arm of the RSN. Despite this not being a ‘normal’ academic year, the students have still managed to cover a great many techniques across a large variety of pieces.

Anita Harrison and Matthew Cayton covering the fringe of a church banner with conservation net

Anita Harrison stitching down conservation net along the edge of the cord


The Studio module takes place during the Future Tutors third year and provides a foundation of current Studio Restoration and Conservation practices, along with alternative framing up and mounting methods. A few of the techniques are worked on customer commissions under close supervision, particularly if it is a rare opportunity for them to experience a process we cannot provide in another way. Otherwise, collection pieces or donations are the main source of textiles used to provide this period of invaluable experience. With the current disruption to the FTs third year, we are planning to welcome them back in to complete the missing techniques, to ensure we send them into the world with the most knowledge we can give them in the time we have.

(Left to right:) Sarah de Rousset-Hall, Martha Blackburn and Jessica Ingram working on an urgent commission

Whilst in the Studio, the FTs are assigned a Studio Embroiderer to oversee the piece they are either training on or working on, to consolidate their learning. It is important that the FTs see themselves as part of the Studio team so, wherever possible, we will include them to work on large pieces or urgently required commissions . This involvement also includes general housekeeping undertaken by all, such as the washing and learning to keep their working area tidy so that it is a safe working environment for everyone. During their time with us, we aim for them to experience a true sense of the way the Studio operates. It is important as one of the team, to be willing and able to take on different jobs and duties in order to support colleagues.

Matthew Cayton unpicking the lining from a church banner


We expect the FTs to keep a record of all the taught processes in the Studio, actively encouraging them to ensure the records they keep will become a working document for future reference. Some close up images of the processes learnt are made available to illustrate their files. They also make samples, such as slots for hangings and net repairs, which will also be added to their files.

Martha Blackburn and Anita Harrison making up an Altar Frontal


The Studio module totals 90 days (3 days a week for 3 terms) and the FTs are encouraged to improve their speed by being set a specific number of hours per technique, as it is very much ‘time is money’ in the Studio. They are shown how to complete necessary Studio documentation, to record their hours and list the materials used, as it is from these records that the customer is invoiced.


The techniques that are covered are as follows

  • Framing up – variety of methods
  • Estimating and Condition Reports
  • Textile Support
  • Transfer of Embroidery
  • Conservation Net
  • Cleaning and Humidifying
  • Whitework: Christening gowns, veils and table linen
  • Canvas Re-weave and Canvas Beading
  • Slots
  • Vestments – miniature set
  • Mounting – different methods


This year’s cohort have had the opportunity to add to the above list by being involved with mounting a very large altar frontal onto a wooden stretcher that holds the piece rigid.


Also, two FTs completed designs worked by the previous cohort for computer tablet covers to go to the Forge Mill Needle Museum in Redditch, Worcestershire, working in conjunction with the Worshipful Company of Needlemakers. They have also been photographed for magazines and filmed for TV – this is all in a days’ work for the Embroidery Studio!

Computer tablet covers for the Worshipful Company of Needlemakers

The Team work together to get a lining on the back of a mounted Altar Frontal