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The Duchess of Cornwall depicted in stitches at Royal School of Needlework

By Mark Hayhurst 28 Aug 2019

Her Royal Highness The Duchess of Cornwall, Patron of the Royal School of Needlework (RSN), will come face to face with her stitched portrait on Thursday, September 5.

Launching the Royal School of Needlework’s new exhibition, Faces & Figures in Stitch, The Duchess will view the hand embroidered portrait for the first time. This special embroidery was created by the RSN’s expert Embroidery Studio using the historic Blackwork technique.

It will be on display with over 100 embroideries, including key figures in history and familiar faces of today such as Henry VIII, William Shakespeare, Nelson Mandela and David Bowie. The additional pieces on display are by RSN’s Students and from the RSN’s unique Textile Collection.

Blackwork is a form of tonal needlework using just one colour of thread to create different geometric patterns and stitches. The RSN Embroidery Studio stitched the dress in inverted Waffle; the face and neck in expanded Octagonal Square and the hair was a combination of interlocking Z’s and Zigzag stitch.

The textures and shading were created by using different thicknesses of threads. The Royal School of Needlework prides itself on its high standards and world class skills which enable them to work on a multitude of projects at any given time.

A total of three Studio embroiderers worked on the portrait of The Duchess of Cornwall and the transition between each embroiderer is seamless. Dr Susan Kay-Williams, Chief Executive of the Royal School of Needlework said: “Blackwork uses just one colour of thread which enables dramatic effects to be created and is ideal for depicting faces and figures. Our Embroidery Studio team worked hard on the preparation, firstly choosing the right image and then sampling the stitches beforehand. The image chosen was from a photograph taken of The Duchess during her first visit to us in November 2017. We are delighted that The Duchess of Cornwall is able to view the finished piece up close and that we can also share it with visitors to our new exhibition.”

The exhibition Faces & Figures in Stitch opens on September 24 and runs until March 19. The exhibition is in the RSN’s Embroidery Studios, based at Hampton Court Palace, so when visitors book their Tour, not only will they have the chance to see The Duchess’ portrait, but they may also meet the team who created it! Pre-booking is essential.

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