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

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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 1
    Provides you with the underpinning research, visual and design skills necessary to inspire, inform and extend your hand embroidery practice.

    Introduction to RSN Technical Stitch
    Introduces you to the practice of hand embroidery, exploring a syllabus of formal stitch structures. These include canvas work, blackwork, crewelwork, silk shading and foundation goldwork. 

    There is a studio fee to ensure everyone has access to the same high quality materials for the Technical Stitch units. This is approximately £130 for first year students and approximately £60 for second year students.

    Textiles in Context 1
    Contextual frameworks for textiles within fashion, interiors and textile arts will be introduced in order to locate your practice within the wider cultural field. You'll also be introduced to some key resources for your understanding of the critical and contextual aspects of textiles, including London and UCA museums and archives.

    Application for Fashion, Interiors, Textile Art
    Introduces you to methods of structuring a 500 word personal research proposal in response to a set project brief. You'll be expected to utilise your knowledge of hand embroidery processes in relation to the disciplines of fashion, interiors or textile art.

  • 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 2
    Builds from the knowledge and experience you've gained. This unit enables you to develop and further your knowledge of visual research methodologies, design development processes and experimental approaches to stitch which will inform your evolving practice of hand embroidery and direct your work towards a defined outcome.

    RSN Technical Stitch for Fashion, Interiors, Textile Art
    Provides you with an advanced level of practical skills in hand embroidery. You'll explore a syllabus of stitch structures including whitework, raised work and advanced goldwork. 

    There is a studio fee to ensure everyone has access to the same high quality materials for the Technical Stitch units. This is approximately £130 for first year students and approximately £60 for second year students.

    Textiles in Context 2
    Encourages you to position your own practice in fashion, interiors and textile art by recourse to a variety of theories, contextual frameworks and critical evaluations. It introduces a variety of research methods to facilitate independent study towards coherent, self-reflective argument in written form.

    Live Project
    Provides you with the opportunity to develop a personal response to one or more 'live' or simulated project(s) to advance your knowledge of hand embroidery practice within the areas of fashion, interiors or textile art.

  • 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. 

    Research and Experimentation 3
    You'll begin this unit by preparing and presenting an illustrated PowerPoint proposal of 500 words with supporting bibliography/literature review. This will be presented to staff and peers and will communicate the key elements of your conceptual, practical, technical, aesthetic and theoretical intentions for the unit.

    Combined Dissertation or Critical Reflection
    A substantial period of sustained, individually negotiated research on a subject that's likely to be related to the contextual and/or theoretical concerns of your discipline or chosen area of practice, towards the provision of structured written argument.

    Major Project for Fashion, Interiors, Textile Art
    Your major project should be original, ambitious, and challenging, using concepts and techniques which are at the forefront of your discipline. The final outcome/collection/portfolio/artefact will be located within one of the following areas: fashion, interiors, textile art or a related area. You will conclude the unit by presenting a resolved and professionally presented outcome/collection/portfolio/artefact.

  • 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 via UCAS - 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.

Pick Your Country

Non-UK equivalent qualifications

English language requirements

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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