Wednesday, November 5, 2014

Scottish Needlework at the Wemyss School

Wemyss School of Needlework Collection
Chair Cover from the collection of the Wemyss School of Needlework 
A reader commented on her mother’s needlework skills and her lesson sample book from the 1930s and 40s full of “button holes and buttons, collars, French seams fun and fell. using hemming tape, herringbone stitch pin tucks and smocking.”  If memory serves, this reader has some connection to Scotland, which triggered a remembrance of the Wemyss School of Needlework in Coaltown-of-Wemyss Fife, Scotland. Founded in 1877 a scant five years after its more famous cousin the Royal School of Needlework in London was founded. (The Royal School is currently at Hampton Court.)   This section of Fife has produced coal for centuries and so the need tor full family employment cannot be overstated. Wemyss was founded to help the daughters of colliers and farmers find employment through needlework skills. The Wemyss family and the school’s seamstresses maintained the school until 2011. Currently (2015) the school is overseen by Fiona Wemyss and Louise Dawson.
Kit developed from the collection of theWemyss School of Needlework 
Close-up of needlework

In a new century, it is now in the process of preparing a catologue of its collection and moving forward with improved facilities.  It is worth reflecting that no craft thrives without education and the Wemyss School maintains that tradition with a newly instituted selection of classes, including Jacobean Crewelwork, Goldwork, Whitework, and silk shading.  While the school existed and helped needle workers throughout its history, these are the first classes since the late 1940s.  The school is located in Fife, Scotland (see above) and is currently open Wednesday, Thursday and Saturday from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. If you enjoy needlework go and see it, keep these treasures alive! I do not foresee making it there any time soon, but I look forward to seeing the catalogue when it is finished. Helen McCook of the Royal School of Needle teaches at the school on a freelance basis. 
Close-up of needlework

This post was ammended on 2 February 2015 to correctly name the overseers, Fiona Wemyss and Louise Dawson and the role of Helen McCook as a freelance instructor. 

Jeff Hopper is a consultant, historic house steward and social historian.

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