Starting the RSN Certificate

When I started looking into the Royal School of Needlework (RSN) I quickly became intrigued by their Certificate and Diploma course. After a couple of their day and online classes (posted about here and here) I was confident that I wanted to learn much more so enrolled on the course.

If you are not familiar with the RSN Certificate and Diploma, full details can be found on their site.

But let me give you a quick overview…

The full name of the course is The Certificate and Diploma in Technical Hand Embroidery. You study the Certificate first which consists of 4 modules. Then you can choose to progress onto the Diploma which is a further 6 modules. There is also an Advanced Diploma if you are really keen!

Each module covers a specific technique. You learn by designing, working and mounting a single piece of embroidery to meet the module’s brief. Your work is then assessed by the experts at the RSN. Standards are high!

As well as having the opportunity to learn all these amazing embroidery skills and techniques from the experts, I was very attracted to the flexibility of the course. Basically, you are in complete control of when and how often you attend the tuition days. So if life gets busy and you need to slow down or take a break, you can.

Quick intro over, let’s move on to my preparation for the course…

The first module is Jacobean Crewelwork. The embroidery technique is crewelwork (crewel means wool) and your design needs to fit with the Jacobean tree of life style.

Ahead of my first class, I spent some time researching Jacobean embroidery. This was helpful to give me a better idea of the style required. I had some grand ideas about the amount of prep I was going to do around design ideas. But in typical student fashion, I left most of it to the night before class!

To be honest, while looking forward to the course I was also kinda nervous. Was I starting too soon? Would I fit in? Would my work be up to scratch?

However by the end of the first class I felt WAY better! I loved it and felt super excited and energised that evening.

The morning of my first class was focused on the design. The RSN has lots of reference material, so you look through that for motifs that you like. They provide you with tracing paper, so you are fine if you are not confident drawing. However I didn’t want to do any direct copies, so instead I did my own drawn versions of the motifs I liked.

RSN certificate Jacobean crewelwork design process, drawing motifs that I like
Some of my drawings to record the design motifs that I liked and might want to use in my design.

Then you start thinking about how you want to pull everything together into a design. I started with the shape of the main stem as the infinity symbol. Keen to get in my animals, I added them next. And finally added in the flora and fauna to create a cohesive design.

RSN certificate Jacobean crewelwork 1st draft of design
My design at the end of the first class. There were lot of elements that I liked, but I knew it needed refinement and more flora and fauna.

I didn’t want to rush the design so after lunch the tutors suggested that I finished it at home. This meant that they could take me through the process of framing up my fabric during the afternoon. There’s quite a few steps involved! But once done, it is a really nice way to work the embroidery. I just focused on enjoying the process and saw the stitching as meditative 🙂

I was very glad to have the extra time at home to refine my design as I did make quite a few tweaks to what I had at the end of day one.

RSN certificate Jacobean crewelwork design repositioning the different elements to create a more pleasing design.
To improve the layout of the design, I cut out the elements I liked and moved them around until I found a placement that felt balanced.
Experimenting with colour plans for my RSN certificate Jacobean crewelwork design
I did a few variations of colour plans to see what I liked best. This also helped me check that I was happy with all the elements of the design before I finalised it.
Final design for my RSN certificate Jacobean crewelwork module
This is my final design. When experimenting with colour I realised the owl felt too cartoony so I altered her to ensure she fit with the Jacobean style.

Spending extra time on the design allowed me to create one that I was really happy with and excited to start stitching!

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