Half a C and no D

I really enjoy the Royal School of Needlework’s classes. Years ago I started out with some of their one-hour workshops at the Knitting & Stitching Show (blackwork, silk shading, goldwork [twice] and crewelwork). I then did some day classes (goldwork [twice] and Shisha). Then a one-on-one goldwork tutorial. The Opus Anglicanum retreat sort of counts as well, as the tutors were both RSN-trained. And I’m signed up for a three-day goldwork class this summer (the only one of the pictures below that’s not my stitching, as I haven’t actually done it yet). Did I mention I enjoy their classes?

RSN workshop kits Finished workshop projects RSN day classes
RSN one-on-one tutorial Opus Anglicanum retreat RSN 3-day goldwork class - the tutor's stitched model, not mine!

It’s not surprising, therefore, that over the years I’ve considered (in a rather vague, unfocused sort of way) the RSN’s more formal teaching programmes. There have been some changes in the range they offer (the apprenticeship, for example, doesn’t exist any more) but there is still a fairly bewildering variety of options. The ones I looked at are the Certificate & Diploma, the Future Tutor Programme, and the Degree course, and I found it quite difficult to work out which was best for what. I decided to ask them.

They replied: The easiest way to explain the difference between our three distinct programmes is to look at where graduates can go when they’re finished. The Degree is a springboard to a creative career in fashion, interiors or textile art. The Certificate/Diploma enables you to develop solid skills and become part of a long tradition of maintaining the highest standards in hand embroidery. The Future Tutor Programme is your route into teaching for the RSN (on Day Classes, Degree and Certificate/Diploma Programmes) and into the commercial Studio, specialising in bespoke commissions, conservation and restoration of historic embroideries. Freelance business skills are also taught on this course, as we anticipate graduates will branch out in their own professional practice as well as becoming part of the RSN team.

Well, that made things a lot clearer as to what each course was for. But what exactly did I want? I worked out that I definitely did not want a career in fashion, interiors or textile art, so the Degree was out. And although I enjoy teaching, the Future Tutor programme is probably a little over the top for what I am likely to want to do; unless you’re going to make a career out of teaching and possibly studio work, three years of full-time study at a cost of a little under £35,000 is rather too much of an investment in both time and money. When my husband retires I would like to develop Mabel’s Fancies a bit more, but not to that extent. That left the C & D, which would give me a more solid grounding for any teaching I would like to do in the future – and also undoubtedly benefit my designing – without taking over three years of my life and requiring a second mortgage.

The Certificate consists of four modules, the Diploma of six; and in those modules you learn all about the various embroidery techniques. Surely that sounds ideal? Add to that the fact that my one-on-one goldwork tutor had suggested that the C & D might be just the thing for me and you may wonder why I didn’t immediately sign up. Well, two things kept me back. One was cost. When I first looked into this programme, it gave the overall cost as a little over £10,000 in tuition fees. Modest compared to the Future Tutor programme, perhaps, but still far beyond what funds I am willing to allocate to this. The other factor was the techniques taught in the various modules. I greatly admire blackwork and the stunning pieces of embroidery people produce with it – but I have no desire whatsoever to learn it in great detail myself. Likewise canvas work or appliqué. I’d be spending a lot of time on things I was greatly interested in, like goldwork, and things I was quite interested in, like Jacobean embroidery, but I’d also spend a lot of time, and money, on things that don’t really do it for me. And so I relegated the programme to the back of my mind and booked another day class.

Enter Jo.

I’ve known Jo for years through the Cross Stitch Forum, and she came to a few of my workshops (Hardanger and goldwork, I think). And one day she announced on the Forum that she had signed up for the Certificate, at the RSN satellite location in Rugby. Rugby. Three miles from where I live. And she mentioned that you could do the modules on a pay-as-you-go basis, per tuition day. It was the nudge I needed.

I contacted the RSN and asked whether it would be possible to do certain modules only, preferably the Certificate and Diploma in goldwork and possibly the Certificate in Jacobean embroidery. Hari Sparkes, the Education Manager, explained to me that I was quite at liberty to do only the modules I wanted, with a few provisos. Everyone starts with Jacobean crewelwork. And learns to work on a slate frame (something I would happily have omitted if possible). And although I could then go on to goldwork (which is usually the fourth module), I would not be able to do the Diploma goldwork module unless I completed the entire Certificate first. Also, if I decided to do the two modules only, I would not get a physical certificate to show I had successfully completed them, although I could still have my assignments officially assessed. Well, one module of goldwork is better than none; and a piece of paper is nice but not essential for my future activities – I’m happy to do without that.

So. I’ve done it. I’ve signed up for the Royal School of Needlework Certificate in Technical Hand Embroidery, which is as daunting as it sounds. My first tuition day will be on 22nd May.

I will enjoy it!


3 comments on “Half a C and no D

  1. Hello. Just thought I’d let you know that I too have been considering all the courses the RSN provide, and I found your info interesting thanks.
    Like you are decided the degree and tutor too expensive as I’m retired so won’t need a career. I looked at the individual classes to attended but felt travelling all the way to Hampton Court too far. Then early this year I heard about the online classes, costs about £130 each unit and provides all materials and classes that you can view at anytime, so you can learn at your own speed.
    Well I searched online and found the courses in Sew and Sew but then also found there are individual books of each type of needlework published; they give you a step-by-step guide. Nearly bought a couple of them, but found a better option the RSN Book of Embroidery its a compendium of all the units. So I bought this and have almost finished my first crewel work piece.
    I think this is the best way for me because I like to design my own pieces and stray from strict rules, just a bit ?.

  2. Glad it was helpful! Yes, the RSN book on all those techniques looks like a great resource; I’ve got several of the smaller ones it is made up of and they are very informative.
    The online courses are an interesting addition, and they can be great if you can’t easily get to classes or like to take things at your own pace – but I do find that the face-to-face tuition does add something extra, so although I am very much a teach-myself-something-from-books person I like to do that every now and then.
    Another possible drawback to the online classes (but that may just be my problem) is to get round to them once you’ve bought them. If a class is on next Saturday, then you do it next Saturday. If the online class just sits on your computer, being available, it may be harder to get down to doing them, as I found with an extremely interesting-looking goldwork class I purchased on Craftsy some time ago.
    I agree travelling to Hampton Court Palace, beautiful though the location is, can add just too much in the way of stress and expenses – but they have numerous satellite locations throughout the UK and even some in America and Japan; they only reason I can even contemplate doing the Certificate is because one of those satellite locations is practically on my doorstep.
    As for straying from the rules, I do that as well, and will no doubt do it in the future in spite of RSN training 🙂 . But I do find it useful to have a certain grounding in the rules so I know what I’m breaking/straying from, and it’s that grouding I’m hoping to strengthen and build on in the Certificate modules.

  3. Yes I agree to all of your responses, I really would love to attend a few sessions and might get round to it one day. As for the online purchases classes I too have crafty classes that I haven’t even looked at yet! So much easier to attend a session!

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