The University of Edinburgh’s Needlework Development Collection (NDS) is a unique group of 17-20th century textiles gifted to ECA in 1961. This historic teaching aid, was intended to incite interest in needlework and improve design standards; a legacy is still relevant today. The embroideries required specialist conservation methods to enable safe handling as an accessible collection for the 21st century and beyond.
Outreach was at the heart of the NDS. This project continued this legacy, promoting and sharing the scheme with a broader audience. In autumn 2016 NDS embroideries facilitated pilot projects to support this funding bid. These included The Scottish Prison Service, The Welcoming who work exclusively with refugees, and Artstop a Glasgow life project with young families in a designated area of deprivation. These demonstrated the value of handling collections as a mechanism for outreach, enticing learning and teaching through precious heritage, and engendering an understanding and thirst to preserve craft skills and protect the collection.
Activities within this project
The Embroiderers Guild participants,
The welcoming, Women Syrian refugees, 1 mixed group of individuals
Scottish Prison Service, women, men.
Re-mounting of samples
Stitch stories workshops with all participants
Supported by the core team, activities were designed to, involve all participants in a range of activities.
Visits to archives establish context for the project.
Practical workshops making mounts to preserve the pieces for future generations will afford a sense of shared ownership through contribution.
Participants subsequently learned embroidery stitches related to these historic examples in creative workshops.
Stitching their own stories, participants developed a fuller appreciation of the potential artistic and therapeutic benefits of embroidery.
Principal Investigator, research assistant, workshop assistant and amateur expert volunteers
Conservation and mount making Training sessions with conservator Tuula Pardoe
Stitch analysis of samples
To maintain the relevance of this collection as a teaching resource for the 21st century and beyond, sessions analysed samples and video recorded stitch techniques. These were attached to the project website, cross referenced with samples. www.embroideredstories.eca.ed.ac.uk
Legacy and impact
NDS samples in accessible mounts with annotated interpretation of stitch content.
The collection is better managed and recorded, with easier accessed
People involved have a better understanding of textiles conservation and have learned skills in craft and design
Links have been strengthened between academia and the wider community through research collections
Preservation of skills and knowledge of the craft of embroidery through hands on experience shared through the wider community.
Personal stories stitched by individuals.
Fully accessible illustrated blog and website of the full project
The exhibition and event to conclude the project brought all groups together as a celebration. This included the re-mounted historic pieces, the related publications and associated NDS archival material held at The University, the stitched stories of participants and live demonstrations of stitching techniques.
The legacy of the NDS was to encourage greater interest in needlework. This project promotes the art and craft to a broader audience through caring for, and learning from this precious archive, and taking inspiration from this toward the future. It is this premise that this project is grounded in. This project is only the beginning of what is hoped will be grander ambitions for this precious heritage.