Jenny is a Graduate Apprentice of the Royal School of Needlework, and she began her talk by giving us some history of the RSN. I was fascinated to learn that it had been set up by Lady Victoria Welby to create respectable employment for genteel women. The School started with 20 young girls who, after training, worked a 50 hour week. They produced amazing hand embroidered furnishings. The School was criticised for its eclecticism and lack of house style so designers, including Gertrude Jekyll, William Morris and Edward Burne-Jones, were commissioned.
The School was responsible for embroidering the Coronation trains for Queen Elizabeth, the Queen Mother, and also for the Queen. The Queen's train was made from specially woven silk velvet and took 10 women 2 and a half months to complete. The Queen is the current patron of the School.
When Jenny was an apprentice at the School she was trained in gold work to coronation standard, as well as learning crewel work, two kinds of silk shading and white work. The school teaches "both sides alike" embroidery, which was developed for regimental banners. At the time when she was training the School employed their students when their apprenticeship was completed, and Jenny worked for them spending 50% of her time teaching and 50% of her time stitching. Projects she worked on include stitching the tiny coat of arms on gloves for The Lord Chief Justice and, at the other end of the scale, the Royal Opera House Curtains. Other work by Jenny includes white work monogramming for Paul McCartney and alter frontals for Canterbury Cathedral.
Perhaps the most widely recognised piece of work Jenny has been involved with very recently is Kate Middleton's wedding dress. She was one of 70 women involved in stitching the lace motifs onto panels to create the dress. She also stitched the monogram on the cashmere baby gifts from Sarah Burton to Prince George.
Jenny is now a freelance specialist embroiderer and tutor. She undertakes bespoke commissions, designs, teaches groups and individuals, gives talks and lectures, and has a range of kits for sale on her website. If you ever get an opportunity to hear Jenny speak, or attend one of her classes, then grab it with both hands! The whole audience was captivated by her presentation. It is now my ambition to participate in one of her workshops - preferably in sunny France.