Royal School of Needlework

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Tambour Embroidery Sampler

2013

Done with a tiny hook needle tambour embroidery is used mostly to attach beads and sequins quickly and with beautiful results. I was first introduced to this technique while studying abroad last spring in London. I took an introductory tambour embroidery class at the Royal School of Needlework at Hampton Court Palace with an american instructor Robert Haven.

I instantly loved the technique and was excited to pick it up again for my independent study this semester. I chose to do an art deco inspired sequin butterfly for this sampler and used clear and iridescent green sequins on baby blue silk organza.

photos and text © Bianca Esposito 2013

I’m really not crazy about ITV’s Victoria tbh. Why go out of the way to present Victoria as a proto-feminist, which she definitely was not, when you could write an accurate show about how interesting her daughters were:

Victoria “Vicky”: Married Frederick “Fritz”, Crown Prince of Prussia and tried to influence politics in a more liberal direction. She read and took an interest in the works of both Marx and Darwin, her mother was appalled that she gave their ideas any credence whatsoever. She advocated for better education of women and founded schools for girls. Vicky and Fritz were both vocally opposed to Antisemitism and personally interceded on behalf of persecuted German Jews. Unfortunately their son was Kaiser Wilhelm II.

Alice: Acted as her mother’s private secretary after the death of Prince Albert. She married Grand Duke Louis of Hesse and had seven children, all of whome she breast fed. Alice was in favor of breast feeding and had a strong interest in gynecology, neither of which were ever discussed. Queen Victoria was so disgusted with this that she was barely on speaking terms with Alice, She also took up nursing and managed a hospital during the Austro-Prussian War while heavily pregnant. 

Helena “Lenchen”: Usually the forgotten sister. She was quite a tomboy as a child and bested her brothers at sports. Lenchen also had a keen interest in engineering, but was almost immediately discouraged by her parents because it was not a suitable interest for girls. She had an arranged marriage to a prince 15 years her senior, but stayed in England under Victoria’s eye. She went on to become president of the Royal British Nurses’ Association and the Royal School of Needlework, both of which she supported because it gave young women the chance to support themselves.

Louise: If any of Victoria’s daughters can be considered truly rebellious it’s little Louise. Nearly everything she did in life, her mother disapproved of. She was an accomplished artist but was not satisfied with just painting. Instead Louise pursued the unladylike art of sculpture. This required her to attend art school, which she did. Louise went to the National Art Training School, making her the first ever British royal to attend a public school. She later married John Campbell, Marquess of Lorne, who was said to have been gay. Her husband was made Viceroy of Canada, which means that Louise got to escape her mother for a while. She did not like being seen as royal and often went by the name of Mrs. Campbell. Louise had no children, but a rumor persists that she had an illegitimate son well before her marriage.

Beatrice: She was the youngest of Queen Victoria’s nine children, and perhaps the only one whom Victoria truly liked. Beatrice was known as “Baby” from birth. When Prince Albert died, Victoria developed an uncomfortably strong attachment to Beatrice. She had “Baby” sleep in the same bed with her and in a way, used Beatrice as a coping mechanism against the psychological damage done by Albert’s death. Victoria discouraged Beatrice from marriage and wouldn’t allow the subject to be discussed in an attempt to keep Beatrice in a perpetual childhood. Beatrice’s act of rebellion was to marry for love. She married Prince Henry of Battenberg at the age of 28, which was rather old for the standards of the day. But she remained close by Victoria for the rest of her mother’s life. 

Embroidery Boot Camp: Last Post

Oh man, what a week. My fingertips are sore and calloused, I’ve had way too little sleep,and overall it’s been GREAT. In addition to all the sewing I managed to slip away long enough to see the Chinese Terracotta Army exhibit (hopefully more on that later) and Cinderella at the San Francisco Ballet.

Now, everything has wrapped up, the embroideries are mounted (which is a much longer, more arduous process than you would suspect and it makes your hands and thumbs hate you ten times as much as they already do from your stabbing them all the time), and tomorrow I fly to my family reunion.

I’m not going to post all of them, but here are several process shots…

And finally, the completed piece! We’ll get them back in a couple of weeks after they’ve been graded.

And my personal favorite part…I love how my little blue unicorn turned out! (“HE’S SO FLUFFY!!!!”)

So many thanks to the people at RSN for everything they’ve taught me over the last ten days!

HAMPTON COURT EMBROIDERY EXHIBITION

I’m so happy!!

The embroidery piece I created back in April with the Royal School of Needlework (San Francisco satellite school) was sent to England for an external evaluation…I’ve just learned that it was also selected as one of the RSN students’ pieces to go on display at Hampton Court Palace’s annual Flower Show!

I leave for England tomorrow for a three-week tailoring course at Arts University of Bournemouth, so I’m both looking forward to that and keeping my fingers crossed I can get a day off to go up and visit Hampton Court before the flower show ends on the 14th!

One thing I’ve marveled at since getting to costuming is my change of opinion on certain aspects of the trade. When I was in my tweens, pretty much every young adult fantasy/history book I read had a heroine who hated embroidery because it was the Stupid Boring Pointless Task people forced her to do when she could be Out Having Adventures! I was also firmly convinced that corsets were an Evil Torture Device Imposed on Independent Expressive Women by the Oppressive Patriarchy. It wasn’t until college and my roommate asked me to help her lace into one for a costumed event that I considered that women would willingly put one on.

So here I am, more than a decade later. Even before I started the RSN school I had become a major sucker for embroidered fabric, and I had an absolute blast during my intensive Jacobean crewelwork course. Over the 10-day course I naturally gained a lot more respect for just how much work and skill goes into embroidery.

I also now consider it a personal point of shame that I have never actually made a corset, despite doing this work for five or six years. Granted, I have made boned period bodices for Renaissance gowns, but I’ve never made a corset as a separate undergarment. One of my first goals in graduate school is to rectify this problem.

In the interim, however, I’m off to study English tailoring! I’ll try my best to do Tumblr updates as I go along ^_^.

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Catherine Duchess of Cambridge’s wedding gown designed by Sarah Burton for Alexander McQueen.

The ivory satin bodice was padded slightly at the hips and narrowed at the waist, and was inspired by the Victorian tradition of corsetry that is a particular Alexander McQueen hallmark. The bodice incorporated floral motifs cut from machine-made lace, which were then appliquéd on to silk net (tulle) by workers from the Royal School of Needlework. On the back were 58 buttons of gazar and organza, which fasten by means of rouleau loops. The skirt, underskirt trim and bridal train (which measured 270 cm — 110in) also incorporated lace appliquéd in a similar manner. The main body of the dress was made in ivory and white satin gazar, using UK fabrics which had been specially sourced by Sarah Burton, with a long, full skirt designed to echo an opening flower, with soft pleats which unfolded to the floor, forming a Victorian-style semi-bustle at the back, and finishing in a short train measuring just under three meters in length. To partially fulfill the ‘something blue’ portion of the British wedding tradition, a blue ribbon was sewn inside the dress. The design for the bodice of the dress featuring lace in the style of the 19th Century was the ‘something old’ - wikipedia 

Kate’s earrings - A gift from her parents, Carole and Michael Middleton they were custom made by Robinson Pelham. The official description reads: “Diamond set stylized oak leaves with a pear shaped diamond set drop and a pave set diamond acorn suspended in the center” The stylized leaves resemble the scroll work in the Cartier Halo Tiara also worn on her wedding day.

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The Duchess of Cambridge’s wedding dress was designed by the London-based designer, Sarah Burton for Alexander McQueen

THE DRESS & VEIL:The corseted bodice - featuring narrow lace sleeves - and padded skirt, pleated into a bustle effect, are signature McQueen. It harked back to the Victorian era. Designer Sarah Burton sourced a series of lace motifs to create a unique design, including thistles, roses, shamrocks and daffodils.
THE TIARAKate’s head was adorned by an exquisite Cartier “Halo” tiara instead of a garland of flowers. Made of platinum and diamonds, it was lent to her by the Queen - signifying “something borrowed”. It was made by the French jewellers in 1936 and was originally given to the Monarch for her 18th birthday.
THE TRAIN:The train, measuring just under 9ft, was modest in comparison to the almost 25ft train worn by Diana. It was pieced together like petals on a blossoming flower. It was made of layers of soft, ivory silk netting with a trim of hand-embroidered flowers made by the Royal School of Needlework.

Embroidery Boot Camp, Day 1

Today was my first day at the Royal School of Needlework Certificate Course! For the next ten days I will be taking a crash course in the art of Jacobean Crewelwork embroidery. Crewelwork uses wool threads, and has been around long enough that it was used for the Bayeux Tapestry. “Jacobean” is the artistic style that was popular in the early 1600s. 

The Royal School of Needlework is based out of Hampton Court in the U.K. but I discovered they offer the ten-day certificate courses here in San Francisco.

Day 1 in a nutshell: Prep. Embroidery hoops? What embroidery hoops?

We use slate frames!

We spent most of the day doing two things. 1. Getting the linen twill (what we’re embroidering on) set up on the slate frame.

A view from the top. Oh, and that long curved thing in the lower left corner? Well, since we are doing delicate, intricate thread art, obviously the first thing we are going to use is…

A needle the size of your hand (it’s what we use to get that nice, thick string that’s pulling everything tight through the fabric). I have already lost track of how many warnings we’ve gotten to not impale ourselves.

The second big thing we did today was to sketch out our basic design. Then we move it onto tracing paper, then prick holes all along the design.

Next, we place the tracing paper on the fabric, and rub charcoal dust through the holes to form the design. Then we paint over the charcoal dust.

We start stitching tomorrow!

Hampton Court's lost apartment foundations uncovered

A routine maintenance job at Hampton Court palace has uncovered the lost foundations of the splendid royal apartments of two ill-fated queens, Anne Boleyn and Jane Seymour.

Just before Christmas, the squeaky floorboards in one of the Georgian rooms, used by the Royal School of Needlework at the time, had become positively bouncy. When the builders looked under them, they saw a maze of battered Tudor brickwork , realised they had stumbled on something exceptional, and called in the archaeologists.

“It was the best possible Christmas present,” said Dan Jackson, curator of buildings at Hampton Court. “It is really interesting and important evidence for a part of the building of which we know very little.” Read more.

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The Royal Wedding in Detail -Catherine’s wedding dress

The wedding dress of the Duchess of Cambridge was designed by Sarah Burton of Alexander McQueen. The ivory satin bodice was padded slightly at the hips and narrowed at the waist, and was inspired by the Victorian tradition of corsetry that is a particular Alexander McQueen hallmark. The bodice incorporated floral motifs cut from machine-made lace, which were then appliquéd on to silk net (tulle) by workers from the Royal School of Needlework, based at Hampton Court Palace. On the back were 58 buttons of gazar and organza, which fasten by means of rouleau loops. The skirt, underskirt trim and bridal train (which measured 270 cm — 110in) also incorporated lace appliquéd in a similar manner. The main body of the dress was made in ivory and white satin gazar, using UK fabrics which had been specially sourced by Sarah Burton, with a long, full skirt designed to echo an opening flower, with soft pleats which unfolded to the floor, forming a Victorian-style semi-bustle at the back, and finishing in a short train measuring just under three metres in length. To partially fulfill the ‘something blue’ portion of the British wedding tradition, a blue ribbon was sewn inside the dress. The design for the bodice of the dress featuring lace in the style of the 19th Century was the ‘something old’. The Duchess wore the Queens ‘Halo’ tiara as her ‘something borrowed’ and earrings her parents bought as her 'something new’. Her bouquet was designed to reflect with the victorian language of flowers which included 'sweet William’,'lily of the valley’ and 'ivy’.