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Embroidery Exhibitions and a Mid-term break

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The weather has turned decidedly cold here at Hampton Court Village with it being 4° C at 10 am this morning. I walk across the bridge over the Thames each morning on my way to the Palace, so I check how cold it is before I leave the house and the temperatures are definitely dropping. Thankfully my dear friend Narelle had knitted me some lovely scarves and I have been finding these very useful along with a warm coat to make the walk more comfortable. This week they started building the Ice Skating rink at the front of the palace, and with the remaining few leaves on the trees shivering in the wind, winter is certainly on the way.

Last week was mid-term break for the Future Tutors course, and I am amazed to find that we are half way through the first term already as the time is really flying past. The course keeps me so busy that I didn’t think I’d have time for breaks from stitching but as it happens, by stitching throughout the mid-term break, I have finished my Jacobean Crewelwork and have my Canvas Stitches piece well underway so I made time today to visit a couple of embroidery exhibitions in London.

The first exhibition was the ‘Society for Embroidered Work’ and their International Contemporary Stitched Art Exhibition at the Clerkenwell Gallery, and the other stop was the to see the fabulous traditional Goldwork pieces at the Museum of Freemasonry. I really want to make the most of any opportunities to see embroidery while I am here and both exhibitions were worth the journey, with many inspiring pieces. I have included a few snaps to give you a taste of the items I saw though unfortunately they are not the best pictures. I do find embroidery behind glass hard to take good pictures of.

I am hoping to get to the Hand and Lock Prize for Embroidery display next week, but this plan will be dependent on how much of my two canvas pieces I get stitched, so for now it is back to the embroidery frame for me after such an inspiring day out.

The Clerkenwell Galley – venue for the SEW International Contemporary Stitched Art Exhibition

Inside the SEW exhibition

Machine embroidered landscapes on wool felt by Sue Nicholls

Two pieces by Alison Wake – ‘Tideswell Dale’ and ‘Tipping Point, Monsal Weir’

Two pieces by Amanda Hartland – ‘Peek-A-Boo’ and ‘A Dogs Life’.

Beautiful needle lace by Bridget Steel-Jessop called ‘Sisters’.

Blackwork by Christina MacDonald

Traditional Goldwork from the Museum of Freemasonry exhibition.

Abundant Goldwork

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Jacobean Crewel module and a little Recreational Stitching.

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The RSN Future Tutors course has a very packed schedule and we are now well into the first term. We have received our marks and assessors comments for our first Basic Skills piece and I am very happy to get the feedback on this as we have already moved onto stitching our next assessed pieces. Must remember that I still need to pay attention to the rebate when Mounting!

Jacobean Crewelwork

The first assessed technique I have stitched is Jacobean Crewelwork. Our tutor has guided us through developing our design, choosing colours, applying the design to the fabric and then finally commencing the stitching. I developed a stitch plan and, using traditional Linen Twill fabric and Appleton’s crewel wools, I am now almost finished stitching the design. In my design I have tried to represent the elements I have seen in the parks around Hampton Court Palace and I think it is coming along fairly well.

Dogs everywhere!

Art and Design classes have also commenced – this is an area that I do not have very much confidence in. The exercises that our tutor has set will hopefully build on my very limited skills, and maybe one day I will be able to get a sketch design down on paper so that it actually looks like the design I have in mind. Until then I will practice and continue to trace and adapt.

Recreational Stitching

I love to try new stitch techniques so when I saw Jacquie McDonald‘s Stumpwork Vegetable Garden advertised on the RSN website, I had to make time to take this one day class – luckily for me it was on the weekend. It was a wonderful kit with all the supplies so nicely packaged and the fabric printed ready for us to commence. Jacqui took us through all of the vegetables one by one as we created our own gardens.

Lovely Kit

Here is my finished piece still in the hoop. I think I might use it in the top of a box when I find time to make one, or maybe I will be able to find a wooden box with the right sized opening. Love the Cauliflower!

Jacqui McDonald Vegetable Patch design, stitched by Sally Randle

Knitting and Stitching Show – Alexandra Palace.

The other adventure I have been on recently is attending the Knitting and Stitching show at Alexandra Palace. This event is huge and I found it somewhat overwhelming to see so many stalls and traders – and so many goodies – all in one place.

I was lucky enough to be demonstrating on the RSN stand and also assisting in a Learning Curve class along with two of the other Future Tutors. The class was lots of fun and the students so eager to learn that the hour and a half just flew past. What a great experience. I will need to be more organised for it next year as I will get to lead one of the classes myself. So exciting!

I will also have to get my shopping list ready so I don’t get so distracted by all the shiny objects on sale. I mostly restricted myself to some interesting threads and needles this year. As Canvas Stitches is our next assessed module I was on the look out for interesting threads to include in my piece. I also found some curved Tapestry needles that might come in useful.

What a guy!

My other surprise from this event was that my husband purchased me a pair of handmade Ernest Wright embroidery scissors for our anniversary, which just happened to be right after the show. They are very beautiful, feel very good in the hand, cut superbly, and certainly are one of those tools to treasure for a lifetime then pass on. Ernest Wright have a Utube video on how they make their scissors that is worth watching.

Thanks for reading, now I must get back to stitching.

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Start with a solid foundation…

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As my journey on the RSN Future Tutors course gets underway Module One (the last two weeks) have focussed on building a solid foundation of Basic Skills. After the excitement of being handed a wonderful box of embroidery supplies we finally got down to the business of using them.

The 2019 intake of Future Tutors consists of six students with varied backgrounds and experiences, so we have spent our first Module focussing on the basic skills that we will all rely on to complete this course. When you bring together a new group of students it is a good idea to ensure that they all have the same basic understanding of the course that they are on, the standards that they will need to meet, and the guidance that will provided to help them along the way.

The RSN has this communication down to a fine art. With the assistance of a very calm, highly experienced, and patient tutor we were all taken through a planned series of steps – while working on a set Crewel embroidery design – with the aim of ensuring we fully understood the many components that work together to produce embroidery to the RSN expected standards.

During the Basic Skills Module we have reviewed:-

  • The style and history of the technique (Crewel)
  • Understanding the brief
  • Organising supplies and trestles
  • Discussing ground fabrics – Linen Twill
  • Reviewing the elements of the set design
  • Choosing colours and colour planning
  • Reviewing stitches
  • Framing up fabric onto a Slate frame
  • Applying the design
  • Threads and Needles
  • Commencing stitching – line & direction
  • Unpicking and restiching
  • Mounting and labelling
  • Preparation for assessment

My thoughts

This was a really great start to the course. I gained a good understanding of the steps and standards expected, and I know the purpose of each of our embroidery supplies. As a group of students commencing a three year journey we all got to know a little more about each other and the way we each like to work, and best of all we got to stitch!

Here are a few photos of my work in progress.

Framed up and ready to stitch.

First stitches go in

Happy with my colour choice

Gradually building up the stitching

. And then there is the mounting……..

Next Module

I have now moved onto developing my design for the first of the major assessed techniques – Jacobean Crewelwork.

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Finally – The Future Tutors course commences

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The Future Tutors course has finally commenced and over the past week I have attended the first 3 days. These first days were an organised orientation program introducing us (the new students) to the workings of Royal School of Needlework, its Staff, and more generally to Hampton Court Palace.

Future Tutors – Class of 2022

After security passes were issued there were 3 days of tours and introductions to various sections of the school and the many wonderful people who keep the whole place running. There was an interesting lecture on the history and goals of the school from the CEO, and an opportunity to see some beautiful historical embroidered items.

There was a seek peek at the new RSN Faces and Figures exhibition – just before the visit and opening by the Patron – The Duchess of Cornwall. The exhibition has many really spectacular embroideries and I was particularly taken by the detail in many of the Shaded Blackwork pieces.

This little Robin joined us for lunch on our first day.

One particular highlight of the week for me was collecting our crate of Embroidery supplies, as these are the items we will be using for each of our embroidered pieces over the next three years. The crate was full of all sorts of items that any embroiderer would treasure such as slate frames and hoops, scissors and art supplies, tools such as a screwdriver and a stanly knife along with tweezers, mellor, stiletto, pins, and lots of needles. I had a relaxing afternoon unpacking and labelling every item before storing them all away in my allocated work crate.

Needle Books at the ready…

In preparation for the course we had been asked to make ourselves a Needlebook with at least ten pages, and after seeing the package of needles provided in our supplies crate I understood the reason for needing such a large needle book.

In designing my needlebook, I decided to use a book binding technique with a folded fabric spine, in order to accomodate the thickness of the ten wool felt pages. I used a cranberry coloured 28 count linen for the cover and a coordinating batik cotton for the lining and folded spine. Six of my pages are made are made from a pack of Sue Spargo felted wool pieces and I added in 4 more pages from wool fabrics in my stash to make the required 10 pages.

For some reason I had decided to decorate my Needlebook with Caselguidi embroidery. I have no idea why I choose this though I do like the combination of the pulled background ( in foursided stitch) and raised surface work that creates the Caselguidi look – however the embroidery does take a considerable time to complete. The design is my own, though it is based on traditional motifs.

Once I had completed the embroidery on the front, I made up the cardboard book binding, and inserted the pages and linings. I then added labels to each of the pages to help me identify the needles. I had obtained these woven labels a few years ago from ‘Plays with Needles’ on Etsy, though I am not sure if they are available any longer. A magnetic closure, which I found at a local bead shop, finishes of the needlebook and hopefully keeps my needles safe.

Caselguidi design on the front cover

Magnetic closure

Each page labelled.

After a few wonderful introductory days, the coursework starts in earnest this week!

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Boxing up the Whitework Ship

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The second RSN short course that I had enrolled in – just for a little recreational holiday stitching – was Advanced Box Making with Heather Lewis. This 2 day course was conducted over a Saturday and Sunday in mid August at Hampton Court Palace.

Creating fabric covered boxes – usually incorporating embroidery – is one of the techniques that the RSN offers as an option on their Diploma. Heather Lewis, our tutor, has been working at the RSN for almost 20 years in a variety of roles across both Studio work and tutoring, and she has significant experience in box making. She is actually now in the final stages of preparing to release a book on Box Making, and she brought along a number of her beautiful boxes to inspire us.

Fabric hinge on Purple box by Heather Lewis.

This was my first attempt at making this type of stitched box and for this advanced class we were encouraged to design our own box that would incorporate both a drawer and a hinge. I decided that I would also like to incorporate the Whitework piece that I had worked earlier in the month. The little Ship motif in Rachel Doyle’s design led me to selecting a navy coloured outer fabric with small anchors printed on it.

My fabric choices

The fabrics we used for our boxes were standard quilting cottons, as these hold up well to being firmly pulled and stitched around the cardboard forms. There was a lot of curved needle stitching in this piece, and lots of math/calculations working out exactly how to make all the pieces fit together.

My box making in progress

I am happy with how the whole box eventually came together – though I do need to pay more attention to mitred corners and ensuring to that the drawer fabric pattern matches and fits seamlessly into the front.

I was really happy when I found these really cute little Anchor charms in a bead shop in Kingston to use as drawer pulls which I think helped to finish the piece off nicely.

The Future Tutor course starts this week – Can’t wait for the adventure to start!

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Day trip to Exeter Cathedral for a special Embroidery exhibition

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With our little cottage is starting to feel more like home, we decided that the time had come to plan a day trip to get to see a little more of this part of England, especially with my course commencing in less than two weeks. The RSN had advised that some of their collection pieces were on display at Exeter Cathedral – alongside a display of some of the Cathedrals own vestments – so a day trip by train to Exeter was planned.

Exeter Cathedral is a stunningly beautiful building, commenced in medieval times, added to over centuries, with some elements repaired after bombing in WW2. There was an Organ recital underway as we made our way around the embroidery exhibition and the sounds were heavenly.

That soaring ceiling

Carved Acorns

Exeter Cathedral

Ecclesiastical Embroideries

The RSN pieces on display had been chosen with an Ecclesiastical theme – with many samplers of church related motifs, a few stoles, and some beautiful silkshading and goldwork on banners and alter frontals. It was wonderful to be able to see the fine detail in many of these pieces, which were displayed throughout the cathedral.

Exhibition Highlight

For me the real highlight of the exhibition was seeing six of the Litany of Loreto Embroideries. These pieces are very finely worked gold and silk framed embroideries, and seeing them in person surpassed anything I had read about them. I was able to closely observe the stitching and the work on most of the pieces. Photos of embroideries – particularly of Goldwork – simply do not give you a true representation of the beauty of the glistening gold and shining silk, however I thought I might share a few of my photos with you. I hope you enjoy them as much as I have.

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Moving in and getting on with Embroidery

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From my last blog post you will be aware that I was super excited to have been offered a place by the Royal School of Needlework (RSN) on their 3 year Future Tutors course, and that taking up this offer involved packing up my life in Australia and moving to the U.K. to follow my dream. The planning and preparation for the move had taken over from everything else in my life for the last few months, and has been a huge effort, greatly supported by family and friends, with lots of tedious admin, some sheer physical hard work, and a little luck, but now its done.

As of this week we have finally settled into a cute little cottage in the village near Hampton Court Palace. The Future Tutors course will actually commence in early September so, just to keep my embroidery hand in, I decided to take a couple of recreational stitching day classes at the RSN during the second half of August. Fortunately this plan allowed me to have a break from assembling all the Ikea bits and pieces we purchased to furnish the cottage in order to make it our home for the next 3 years!

Being at the RSN also enabled me to catch up during lunch time with some of the lovely girls I had met in class last year – they were there all completing their Goldwork intensive classes. Really lucky to see the beautiful Goldwork work being done by Sonja, Louisa, Marlous and Caitlin.

Rachel Doyle – Sailing kit

My first RSN day class was with the lovely tutor and designer Rachel Doyle. The class piece was her gorgeous little “Sailing” boat design in Pulled Whitework. I first saw this design pop up on the RSN Facebook site when they were advertising the next batch of day classes and immediately knew that this was one I would love to try. I was also fortunate to have had Rachel as a tutor previously when doing Canvas Stitches classes, and I knew her designs and kits were really special. I briefly in a previous post about another of Rachel Doyle’s kits ‘ The Wool Rack’ that I completed last summer.

It was a lovely day to be at the Palace with the summer sun shining after a few grey days. For me it felt like I was returning home – the lovely RSN course managers Noleen and Hari are so welcoming – and Rachel had the room beautifully set up ready for the class of 12 eager students. See all those Purple bags!

In Class at RSN Hampton Court Palace

The best thing about taking a day class at the RSN is that you can simply turn up and everything is supplied – however I still need to remember to take my close up stitching glasses!

My stitched pulled work – Rachel Doyle’s design and kit

I did manage to get this piece finished and in my next post I will show you what I plan to do with it.

I am loving being back in the U.K.

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My Amazing news – which hopefully explains why I haven’t been posting for a while.

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I realise that it has been some time since I updated my ongoing embroidery story. I have been doing some stitching however a couple of other activities have kept me from posting for the last couple of months and I now have some Really Good News that I am very excited about.

What have I been up to?

After returning home from such a wonderful stitching experience at the Royal School of Needlework, I realised that what I really wanted to do was return to the RSN to do more – that is more embroidery classes, more designing, more fun with threads, and most especially more learning in that beautiful setting at Hampton Court Palace – it really is a magical place.

While at the RSN I had investigated the Future Tutors course – which is the full time 3 year course that trains students to become tutors in all of the techniques taught by the RSN. The course was described to me by current students as ‘intense’, ‘demanding’ and ‘like doing the intensive classes for three years straight’, and a real emotional, physical and mental challenge.

Another daunting aspect of this course is the application process – I would need to submit a written application accompanied by a portfolio of my work, and from the application pool a limited number of applicants would be selected for a stage one interview – which would be a full day, group work interview. After this a smaller number of candidates would be offered a second round interview. Following the second interviews approximately 4 candidates would be offered a place on the course.

So, after much dithering about my ability to actually do this, I adopted a ‘nothing ventured nothing gained’ attitude and decided to apply. I sent off the submission and portfolio in February and found out in late March that I had been successful in gaining a first round interview – in the U.K. After a very quick trip over to the RSN – the gardens were beautiful as spring was just bursting out – and a full day group interview, I came back to Australia hoping to hear that I made the second round. The notification did come for a second interview and following this, in the most amazing email, I was offered a place on the 2019 course!

So I will be commencing on the Future Tutors course in early September 2019, and I hope to be able to continue to post occasional updates on this blog as I progress on the course.

Spring Daffodils in the Wilderness Garden.

Recent Stitching

My recent stitch work has been exploring Slow Stitching in a class led by Lisa Mattock. I have turned the larger piece I made into a zipped compendium, and the second piece into a needlework tool folder. I had a fun weekend assembling and stitching these pieces which had started the day as bits of damaged doilies and hand made lace. The workshop was hosted in a beautiful new venue (Lewington Studio) in the countryside near Brisbane. This was a delightful and very relaxing weekend with great company and amazing food.

Needlework tool folder.

Prior to this I had taken two classes organised through my local Embroiderers Guild with the wonderful Alison Snepp. Alison is a very professional and personable tutor and her classes are brilliant, so I am sad to hear that after many years she will finish teaching embroidery later this year, though hopefully this will give her the opportunity follow some of her other interests. I have promised myself to finish both the Couturiers Chatelaine and the Mamluk purse in the next couple of months.

So for now it is back to the sorting, disposing, downsizing, planning and packing as we hope to depart for the U.K. in early August. So much to do …..

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Resuming real life, with space for stitching.

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End of Year Update

Since arriving back in Australia after the most wonderful 3 1/2 months on the  2018 RSN Stitching adventure and then enjoying an additional month in the USA touring and generally unwinding, I have been hit hard with the reality of returning to real life. Getting back into the routine of my job with early mornings and late evenings and frequent interstate travel has been interesting and I have had to have some stern talks to myself to build enthusiasm. The short Christmas break that I am currently enjoying has been very timely as I am using the space to think about how to incorporate more stitching time into 2019.

Back to Stitching

On the embroidery front I have been busy setting up a space where I can continue to stitch in the way I became familiar with during my RSN classes – that is using a strecher frame across sturdy trestles, with a good light and my tools within easy reach. My first task has been to build a set of trestles. I used some of the ideas posted by Marlous over at Stitching Sheep  along with some of the experience I gained by using various styles of trestles at the RSN over the Summer. I have now completed the build and just have to do a final coat of paint. I am so happy to have these trestles that I have already started to use them for stitching.

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Latest Embroidery

I have been embroidering  some Goldwork pieces to take to the end of year breakup at my local Embroiderers Guild. For a Challenge we had been asked to create a card to celebrate a Golden 50th, using a challenge pack that included small pieces of goldwork metal threads and gold Lame fabric. We could add extra to the pack but had to include the elements in the pack. The included fabric was particularly difficult as it started fraying as soon as you touched it. 

I designed two cards, one a goldwork dragonfly and one a butterfly and flower, as I wanted to try using the Lame in two different ways – as a border and as part of the design. In the end I think the Dragonfly where I fused down the fabric was the more successful use of the Lame.

My guild had also asked members, as part of our 50 year celebrations, to interpret a design by one of our founders Mabel McAllister – a piece called Mabels Cat. Since I had my goldwork supplies out, I decided to also do this piece in Goldwork techniques while also taking the opportunity to try out some coloured metal purls. I was happy with the interpretation though my cutwork needs more practice. 

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Mabels cat – photo of original and my Goldwork interpretation


Now I will enjoy Christmas and immerse myself in reading my new Embroidery books that my husband saw on my very obvious Christmas wish list, and get ready for the New Year.

Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year to you all.


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RSN Diploma – Module 2 – Appliqué

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Appliqué is a technique that many embroiderers will be familiar with, especially if quilting also features in your stitching repertoire, however the RSN Diploma Appliqué Module takes this technique further into some specific elements and focuses on dimension and edges.

The brief for the Appliqué module explains that the RSN is looking for the embroiderer to be able to smoothly apply fabrics over a variety of padding types e.g. carpet felt, string padding, pelmet vilene, wool felt etc and then deliver finished edges on each element of the design. The embroiderer is free to embellish their work with threads, beads and wires etc. but needs to be careful that they are delivering an Appliqué piece and not a stumpwork. The use of a wide variety of materials is encouraged.

With all of the above in mind I approached this Appliqué module with some trepidation as I had a limited time, along with a determination to enjoy the freedom to use a range of fabrics, fibres and techniques. For my design I wanted to still incorporate the signature Oak leaves and Acorns and so my version of a Green Man was born.

Background

While many RSN students piece their background for this module, often using applique edges, I had taken a photo of a special tree during my visit to France and I wanted to incorporate this photo into my piece. The tree was growing in the military cemetery near Lille where my husbands Great Uncle was buried during WW1, and I imagined that I could see a face in the bark of the tree. I was able to find a business in the U.K. called  PRINTFAB who printed my photo onto a fat quarter of good quality cotton fabric and this became the background to my appliqué. I love how this turned out and hope I can use the approach again in a future work!

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Face in the tree. Background print.

Padding

Working out the layers and types of padding and where to use each was the next step. Carpet Felt padding was new to me and I found there were really good instructions in the RSN Applique book by Kate Cross. Building up the carpet felt, which I did on a seperate hoop, gave the nose and eyebrows good height. String padding the lips was a little more challenging, though in the end I was happy with how they shaped up. Layers of wool felt brought dimension into his face, and additional wadding elevated some of the leaves across his cheeks and forehead.

Edges

One of the key requirements of RSN Appliqué is that there must be a variety of edge finishes used. I was able to use some of the leftover background fabric with the tree trunk print to make turned edges over the nose, lips and eyebrows. The leaves gave me the space to do embroidered edges such as buttonhole and long and short (his beard). Some of the fabric leaves have couched and corded edges, while leather and vinyl leaves allowed me to have raw edges.

Embellishments

I found some wonderful large and slightly oval shaped beads during that same visit to France and, after wrapping the tops with gold twist, these became the large acorns which I sewed to the piece. Other small beads were added, along with stitched tufting and french knots, and all combined to give his face texture.

Finishing

I felt that I could have continued to add a lot more embellishment to this work however time was against me as our boxes had to be packed so they could be shipped back to Australia, and the frame this piece was worked on was one of the things that had to go, so I had to get it off the frame and mounted. Also I had to keep reminding myself appliqué not stumpwork!

The RSN allows you to choose how you would like to present your Appliqué – either via traditional mounting over card or as a soft wall hanging – I chose traditional mounting. I did think later that this decision was shortsighted as this piece is 32cm on each side and took ages to mount via the RSN required method. I am however very happy with how the finished piece has come together, and I think it looks somewhat like my original design drawing .

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End of the 2018 Embroidery Adventure 

My appliqué piece was finished and submitted less than 24 hours before we flew out of the U.K. and this also brings my 2018 RSN Embroidery adventure to an end. Completing 6 RSN Certificate & Diploma pieces in 12 weeks has been an effort, and something I never thought I would have the opportunity to do, and it has also the most wonderful time ever.

Thanks must be given to my wonderful husband for his support, meals, washing, ironing, packing my lunch, carrying my bags and generally keeping me sane.

I do hope to get back to the Royal School of Needlework next year so keep your fingers crossed for me – I still have 4 more Diploma subjects to do!.  In the intervening time I will continue to embroider and update you on progress via this blog.

Now holidaying in the USA!