Hand embroidery worthy of an Oscar

We spoke to Hand Embroidery graduate, Laura Baverstock, about her experience working on “Mary Queen of Scots”.

29 Jan 2019

Having previously worked on costumes for star-studded films including Murder on the Orient Express and Marvel’s Doctor Strange, 2016 Hand Embroidery graduates Laura Baverstock and Hattie McGill are no strangers to the big screen.

Their most recent project, embroidering for Josie Rourke’s Mary Queen of Scots, is arguably their most successful yet, receiving an Oscar nomination for Costume Design.

Laura: “I’ve always found hand embroidery very interesting. It’s an art medium and a traditional craft that can be used in a variety of ways, which I find hugely inspiring.

The wardrobe department was headed up by esteemed costume designer, Alexandra Byrne. Renowned for her beautifully developed concepts and contextual precision, it’s no surprise that this isn’t her first Oscar.

For Mary Queen of Scots, a lot of the designs featured denim — which is a curious choice for period costume and hand embroidery.

Laura said:  “The use of denim in the costumes for the film was quite unusual, and added such a wonderful twist to the historical silhouette. I really enjoyed developing leather cording designs and embellishments for Mary’s denim jackets as the two materials together formed a very structured finish.

“For Queen Elizabeth, I embellished her green denim dress with mythical creatures in the tiniest of metallic sequins. These techniques are both very different and create interesting variety to the finish of the denim. Using other fabrics, I also hand embroidered flossing details onto corsets for Mary, and embellished Elizabeth’s circular standing collar veil with black jet beads.” 

The film has been nominated for Best Costume Design at the Academy Awards alongside other top-billed films including Mary Poppins Returns and Black Panther. The winner will be announced at the end of February.

Laura said: “I was absolutely thrilled to hear about the Best Costume Design nomination. The stylistic approach within the historical framework was so special to be a part of and see develop over the course of pre-production and filming. It’s wonderful to see the appreciation for the film in awards season.

“Working with Alexandra Byrne is always so exciting and it’s a huge joy to be a part of her team. I’ve worked with her now on a few different historical time periods, which is fantastic as each film requires a very different mindset as well as different textile and embroidery skills for the era.

“We’ve already finished working together on our next film, The Aeronauts, set in the Victorian era and starring Eddie Redmayne and Felicity Jones. It’s due for release later this year, so watch this space!” 


Both Hattie and Laura were trained at the Royal School of Needlework and graduated in 2016.

Laura said: “I studied a Foundation Diploma at UCA Epsom before progressing onto the Royal School of Needlework. I always enjoyed developing embroidery and embellishment as part of my creative work and knew I wanted to take it further by studying the full degree.

“The technical teaching at RSN, alongside the development of my own creative practice, helped me to build skills within a variety of embroidery and textile forms, which are crucial within the film industry.”

Find out more about our Hand Embroidery course on our website.

Images courtesy of Focus Features.