Hand Embroidery

BA (Hons) - Royal School of Needlework - 2019, 2020

BA (Hons) Hand Embroidery is a world-renowned course delivered by the Royal School of Needlework (RSN) in dedicated studios at Hampton Court Palace.

As the only full-time specialist degree in Hand Embroidery, you’ll be fully immersed within this specialist discipline, exploring traditional techniques within a contemporary context and learning about the industry and the career opportunities within it.

Study is in small groups with close support and guidance from experienced academics and professional RSN embroidery tutors, with vital connections to a variety of high-profile brands, names and companies which will give you the opportunity to network with your work.

You’ll also have access to the RSN art and design library and its unique textile archive and handling collection. 

You’ll explore creative approaches to drawing, design and practice-based research to inform your evolving stitch practice. Through a series of thematic-led projects, you’ll be encouraged to develop your own identity as a creative practitioner.

You’ll have the opportunity to develop portfolio collections of embroidery and to prototype and produce works for fashion, interiors and textile art, as well as work on high-profile live projects.

You’ll study traditional hand embroidery techniques which you then develop and translate into contemporary outcomes. Preparing you for a successful career in the creative industries is a key focus, and you’ll be encouraged to involve yourself in professional opportunities – deepening your awareness of your current practice within your chosen area of specialism.

The Royal School of Needlework has long-established and international industry links which provide opportunities to enagage with live projects, as well as industry insight from an extensive guest lecturer and professional development programme.

Renowned for the creative expertise of its students and graduates, RSN’s Studio creates bespoke hand embroidery for private commissions. Our connections have included work with Sarah Burton for Alexander McQueen: hand embroidery for the wedding dress of HRH The Duchess of Cambridge; and Red Carpet Green Dress: hand embroidery for the Oscar dress worn by actress Naomie Harris.

RSN students have collaborated with high profile clients within the fashion, interiors and gallery sectors including Alexander McQueen, Burberry for Makers House, Hussein Chalayan, Jasper Conran, Nicholas Oakwell Couture for the GREAT Britain campaign, HBO/Game of Thrones, Luxury Made for 100% Design, The New Craftsmen, Devon Guild of Craftsmen, Hand & Lock, and Cockpit Arts.

Hand embroidery is such a diverse and specialist subject that it opens up a wide range of career opportunities. Degree graduates have progressed to roles such as embroidery artisans for couture and fashion, studio embroiderers for film and TV costume, freelance embroidery designers, studio designers for interior design companies, and independent designer-makers. Many have also progressed onto postgraduate study.

Thanks to generous supporters, RSN is able to make bursary awards to some of its Hand Embroidery students.

Please note for 2019 entry this course is titled: BA (Hons) Hand Embroidery for Fashion, Interiors, Textiles Art

Length of study:

Three years full-time


Royal School of Needlework

Start month:


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Entry year(s):

2019, 2020

Entry requirements:

112 UCAS tariff points

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Book an Open Day

To find out more about studying at the RSN our Open Days at Hampton Court Palace are the perfect opportunity. You'll meet members of academic staff and get a chance to ask any questions about the course. We would love to welcome to one of our Open Days, to find out forthcoming dates and to book your place, please visit the RSN website.

Book a place via the RSN website

Course details

  • Year 1

    The first year introduces you to art and design practices, learning specialist hand embroidery techniques and skills. As the year progresses, you'll work on set projects to explore contemporary approaches to the subject, including theory work to place your studies into context. 

    Research and Experimentation One
    This introductory unit will enable you to explore a range of visual research methodologies, design processes and experimental approaches to drawing, fabric manipulation and mixed media materials; to inform your emerging practice of hand embroidery.

    RSN Technical Hand Embroidery
    This unit will introduce you to the practice of hand embroidery, exploring a syllabus of Royal School of Needlework formal stitch structures and technical processes. This practical knowledge and learning will underpin all your future hand embroidery practice and directly inform the subsequent application to contemporary contexts. The unit is taught by RSN trained Tutors and you will learn specialist hand embroidery stitches, techniques and processes.

    There is a studio fee to ensure everyone has access to the same high quality materials for the Technical Stitch units. This will be approximately £180 for first year students and approximately £225 for second year students.

    Hand Embroidery in Context
    In this unit, you'll study hand embroidery within the wider cultural field. You will also be introduced to some key resources for hand embroidery including visits to galleries, museums and archives.  Using key methodologies including critical reviews of exhibitions and material culture analysis you will be able to build your skills in observation, investigation and enquiry.

    Hand Embroidery Practice
    The unit will introduce you to contemporary hand embroidery and textile processes taught through a series of practical workshops and studio based projects. This unit will enable you to fully utilise a range of new visual research and design methods for a series of designated project briefs; you will be expected to experiment widely.

  • Year 2

    The second year is an opportunity to direct your practice towards a specialist area of interest. You'll progress onto more advanced techniques, including Tambour embroidery, and work towards external competitions and projects. Your theory work will enable you to explore the wider area of textile practice.

    Research and Experimentation Two
    This unit will enable you to create a portfolio of ambitious and original visual and practice based research and experimentation. You'll be expected to further your knowledge of visual research methodologies, design development processes and experimental approaches to hand embroidery. This will inform your evolving practice of hand embroidery and enable you to begin to establish a context for your practice.

    RSN Advanced Technical Hand Embroidery
    This unit aims to provide you with an advanced vocabulary of RSN hand embroidery, exploring a syllabus of hand embroidery techniques for a defined context. Building from the unit RSN Technical Hand Embroidery, this unit will teach you advanced RSN hand embroidery processes using specialist materials and equipment. The syllabus will be delivered through taught practical workshops with technical support during supervised time in studio/ workshop.

    There is a studio fee to ensure everyone has access to the same high quality materials for the Technical Stitch units. This will be approximately £180 for first year students and approximately £225 for second year students.

    Textiles in Context
    This unit enables you to position your own hand embroidery practice in relation to the wider textiles context. The unit addresses a variety of textile practices with regard to design and conceptual methodologies, design trends, textile production, mediation and consumption.  

    Live Project
    Provides you with the opportunity to develop a personal response to one or more ‘live’ or simulated project briefs which enable you to further advance your knowledge of hand embroidery.

  • Year 3

    In your third year, you'll engage with practice-based research led by proposal. You will complete a dissertation, whilst also developing a major project supported by professional practice. Your final collection and portfolio will be showcased in a selected exhibition. 

    Contextualising Practice
    This unit consists of a period of sustained, individually negotiated academic research which directly informs and is informed by your hand embroidery practice.

    Research and Experimentation for Major Project
    The unit provides you with the opportunity to critically examine and advance your practice and define the context of your practice in preparation for the double Unit ‘Major Project’. You will be required to complete a Student Learning Agreement (SLA) for this unit.

    Major Project
    Your Major Project written proposal will be defined by the outcomes which have been produced and critically evaluated in the unit Research and Experimentation for Major Project. Your Major Project should be original, ambitious, and challenging, using concepts and techniques, which are at the forefront of your practice. This is a double unit and comprises 50% of the overall unit credits of Year Three.

  • Fees and additional course costs

    Tuition fees
    The course fees per year for 2019 entry are:

    • UK and EU students - £9,250 
    • International students - £15,500 (standard fee)
    • International students - £14,880 (full early payment fee)

    The fees for 2020 entry have not been confirmed but will be listed here as soon as possible.

    Additional course costs
    For students studying at the Royal School of Needlework, there is a studio fee to make sure everyone has access to the same high-quality materials for the Technical Stitch units. This will be approximately £180 for first year students and approximately £225 for second year students. For more details please see the additional course costs for 2019 entry.

    Further information
    Find out more about our course fees and any financial support you may be entitled to:

    These fees are correct for the stated academic year only. Costs may increase each year during a student’s period of continued registration on course in line with inflation (subject to any maximum regulated tuition fee limit). Any adjustment for continuing students will be at or below the RPI-X forecast rate.


The course is taught in bespoke apartments at Hampton Court Palace with views of the stunning gardens. There are studio and exhibition spaces with specialist hand embroidery tools and equipment, sewing machines, embellisher and heat transfer press. There is also a specialist library and magazine archive onsite with IT suite and design software. You’ll also have access to exquisite and rarely seem embroideries to support your learning and inform your practice research.

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Course connections

On this course, you'll be exposed to a world of opportunities

  • Industry links

    Renowned for the creative expertise of its students and graduates, the Royal School of Needlework degree students have been selected to work on a number of high-profile commissions. 

    Our recent connections have included:

    • Sarah Burton for Alexander McQueen: hand embroidery for the wedding dress of HRH The Duchess of Cambridge
    • Red Carpet Green Dress: hand embroidery for the Oscar dress worn by actress Naomie Harris
    • Nicholas Oakwell Couture for the GREAT Britain campaign, an ostrich feather embellished couture gown modelled by Erin O’Connor and worn by Cheryl Versini-Fernandez at the UK X-Factor Live finals
    • Hussein Chalayan for Paris Fashion Week
    • Patrick Grant and E.Tautz for London Collections Men
    • Giles Deacon for London Fashion Week
    • Jasper Conran for London Fashion Week
    • Liberty Art Fabrics Interiors and the V&A Museum of Childhood’s ‘Small Stories: At Home in a Doll’s House’
    • Marks & Spencer and Oxfam ‘Love Mum – Shwop’ campaign.
  • Careers

    Hand embroidery is both a diverse and specialist subject but it opens up a wide range of career opportunities. Degree graduates from the Royal School of Needlework have progressed to roles as: 

    • Embroidery artisans for couture and fashion
    • Studio embroiderers for Film and TV costume
    • Freelance embroidery designers
    • Studio designer-makers for interior design companies
    • Independent designer-makers
    • Hand embroidery and textile tutors for Higher Education and Further Education
    • Teachers
    • Postgraduate researchers and academics.
  • Further study

    You may also like to consider further study at postgraduate level.


How to apply - 2019 entry

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How to apply - 2020 entry

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When to apply:

We are still accepting applications for 2019 entry - get your application in now.
If applying directly to us, you can apply throughout the year but we recommend you apply as early as possible so you have time to arrange accommodation and visas.

More information:

Go to our how to apply pages

Entry requirements

UK entry requirements

Along with your portfolio, the standard entry requirements* for this course are:

One of the following:

  • 112 new UCAS tariff points, see accepted qualifications
  • Pass at Foundation Diploma in Art & Design (Level 3 or 4)
  • Distinction, Merit, Merit at BTEC Extended Diploma
  • Merit at UAL Extended Diploma
  • 112 new UCAS tariff points from an accredited Access to Higher Education Diploma in appropriate subject
  • 27-30 total points in the International Baccalaureate Diploma with at least 15 IB points at Higher level, see more information about IB entry requirements.

And four GCSE passes at grade A*-C and/or grade 4-9 including English (or Functional Skills English/Key Skills Communication Level 2).

Other relevant and equivalent Level 3 UK and international qualifications are considered on an individual basis, and we encourage students from diverse educational backgrounds to apply.

*We occasionally make offers which are lower than the standard entry criteria, to students who have faced difficulties that have affected their performance and who were expected to achieve higher results. We consider the strength of our applicants’ portfolios, as well as their grades - in these cases, a strong portfolio is especially important.

International entry requirements

To view the equivalent entry requirements for your country please select it in the list below.

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Non-UK equivalent qualifications

English language requirements

Don't meet the international entry requirements or english language requirements?

You may be able to enter the course through the UCA International College

Learn more about the UCA International College

Your portfolio

For this course we will require you to attend an Applicant Day and bring your portfolio for assessment. Your portfolio should include an edited selection of your best work. Ideally we will want to see evidence of visual research including a range of approaches to drawing from primary and secondary sources; an exploration of your research developed through design sheets, sketchbooks and maquettes; evidence of practical exploration through materials which may include textiles and embroidery. Sketchbooks which show your research methods and critical thinking skills, essays and contextual research including gallery visits are all important components of your portfolio. Further information on how to compile a portfolio and the specific requirements for examples of work to be included will be provided on the Applicant Portal after you apply.

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