Do you know your Turkey Rug from your Fishbone?

26 September 2021, by Babette Radclyffe-Thomas

In this week's blog, Emma Doggart the Project Manager at the Royal School of Needlework introduces the Royal School of Needlework's new groundbreaking project, the RSN Stitch Bank,

The Royal School of Needlework (RSN) was founded in 1872 and teaches the art of hand embroidery around the world.  For many years now, one particular project has been a key aspiration of the Royal School of Needlework, and thanks to a number of charitable trusts and many individual donors, this has now become possible.  This major project is RSN Stitch Bank, which aims to compile the world’s largest repository of stitches and to digitally conserve and preserve every stitch around the globe.

RSN Stitch Bank launched on Friday 24 September, initially with 150 core stitches to kick off celebrations of the RSN’s 150th anniversary taking place next year.

RSN Stitch Bank features videos, written instructions, illustrations, and photographs for each stitch.  It also includes a history of its use and images of the stitch on items from the RSN Textile Collection.  Stitches range from the well-known, Back Stitch and French Knots, to the more technical, Queen Stitch and Turkey Rug. Rarely used stitches will also be featured, such as Underside Couching and Battlement Couching Trellis.

Every year, stitches are lost as they fall out of use or through general wear and the age of the object. Textiles also continue to be threatened by changes in manufacturing processes and more aggressive issues such as war.  RSN Stitch Bank goes to the heart of the Royal School of Needlework’s core purpose. The RSN was founded to keep the techniques of hand embroidery alive and, implicitly, all their stitches. Its aim is to conserve every stitch digitally so they will be recorded and continue to be used by future generations.

RSN Stitch Bank will be online via the website and is a resource for all stitchers, teachers, curators, historians, researchers, and students. Stitchers will be able to find a new stitch to use in a project and learn how to work it.  Researchers, curators, historians, and students can use the site to learn about the use, structure, and history of each stitch, in a range of embroidery techniques, and to identify individual stitches on a textile.

The RSN is a registered charity.  If you would like to support the project, you can ‘Adopt a Stitch’, either as an individual, in memoriam, or as a group.  It costs between £135 and £228 for each stitch entry to be prepared.  If you pay for a whole stitch your name will be added as a Stitch Sponsor, but you can make a donation of any amount.   

The first 150 stitches are just the beginning and RSN Stitch Bank will continue to grow to ensure that each and every stitch around the globe is preserved and continues to be used by future generations. 

Read more about RSN Stitch Bank and the Royal School of Needlework here and follow the organisation on social media @royalneedlework

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