Rediscovered embroidery collection to go on display after 50 years in cupboard

An archive of needlework left lying in a cupboard for 50 years is to go on display.

The embroidery collection includes birds, an elaborate Chinese headdress and the striking image of an angel adorned with gold thread.

Other items to be displayed at the University of Edinburgh from Friday are the remnants of a 400-year-old Italian bed hanging, an ornate replica of a 19th century man’s wedding smock and a vibrant shroud dedicated to the patron saint of embroidery, St Clair.


Co-curator Francesca Baseby said: “The exhibition puts the scheme in context, outlines its history and how we care for it, and showcases recent initiatives that have extended its influence.”

The Touching Stitches exhibition will go on display in the university’s main library, having been part of the Needlework Development Scheme (NDS), which now belongs to Edinburgh College of Art (ECA).

When the scheme was disbanded in 1961, the collection was dispersed to the National Museums of Scotland, the Victoria and Albert Museum and four art colleges.

Since being rediscovered in 2011, it has been used by ECA’s programme director of textiles Lindy Richardson to help teach students, embroiderers’ guilds, refugee groups and prisoners.


She said: “The NDS had a widespread impact on embroidery design and education in the 20th century.

“Handling, close analysis and practical exploration was always at its heart.”

Touching Stitches runs every Monday to Saturday, 10am-5pm, until February 29 at the University of Edinburgh’s main library.

The exhibition is closed between December 25 and January 3.