Charlie Ellis, BA (Hons) Hand Embroidery, RSN

Hand Embroidery BA (Hons)

Hand Embroidery BA (Hons)

Course overview

Unique, prestigious, world-renowned - BA (Hons) Hand Embroidery is a course like no other that will give you advanced specialist skills, which can be applied in a wide range of careers.

Taught in dedicated studios at the picturesque Hampton Court Palace, this course is delivered by the Royal School of Needlework (RSN), with expert teaching support from experienced academics, industry professionals and RSN embroidery tutors. You'll study in small groups to learn the specialist craft of hand embroidery within a creative context.

Hand embroidery is a dynamic subject that opens up a wide range of exciting career opportunities. Graduates work as hand embroidery artisans for Haute Couture, costume embroiderers for film and TV, embroidery designers for interiors and exhibiting textile artists. Many move on to postgraduate study.

RSN students have collaborated with high profile clients including Alexander McQueen, Burberry for Makers House, Hussein Chalayan, Jasper Conran, Zandra Rhodes, M-Industry, Nicholas Oakwell Couture for the GREAT Britain campaign, HBO/Game of Thrones, Luxury Made for 100% Design, The New Craftsmen, Hand & Lock, Susan Aldworth and Cockpit Arts.

For more information, please visit the RSN website

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Length of study 3 years full-time
Campus Royal School of Needlework
Entry requirements 112 UCAS tariff points
Course entry options Sept 2021
UCAS institution code C93
UCAS code W740
Course details

Course details

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.

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.

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
The unit consists of a period of individually negotiated research which directly supports your hand embroidery practice during your third year. Employing a wide range of research methods, you will be able to locate your hand embroidery practice within a wider context.

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.

Tuition fees
The course fees per year for 2021 entry are:

  • UK students - £9,250 
  • EU students - £9,250 (see fee discount information)
  • International students - £16,950 (standard fee)
  • International students - £16,270 (full early payment fee)

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 £250 for first year students and approximately £350 for second year students. For more information please see the additional course costs for 2021 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.

Course specifications

Please note, syllabus content indicated is provided as a guide. The content of the course may be subject to change in line with our Student Terms and Conditions for example, as required by external professional bodies or to improve the quality of the course.


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.


Hampton Court Palace


Studios at Hampton Court Palace


Digital Media suite, Hampton Court Palace


Studios at Hampton Court Palace

Course connections

Course connections

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.

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.

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

Explore our Gradshow

Visit our 2021 grad show site to see the incredible work created by our graduating students

Visit the 2021 Gradshow
Lottie Small
Lottie Small

"My time at the RSN has been extremely special, studying in such a beautiful setting surrounded by fantastic people. We are encouraged to try other skills, use different tools and materials. We explore embroidery from all angles."

Entry requirements

Entry requirements

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 / BTEC National 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.

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

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

You may be able to enter the course through the following entry courses:

Pre-sessional English courses in the UK or China

UCA International Foundation courses

The UCA International College

For this course, you’ll be required to submit an online portfolio via your UCA Applicant Portal. Further information on how to compile and upload your portfolio will be provided once you have applied. Once your portfolio has been received, you’ll be invited to attend an online interview to discuss your portfolio of work with the academic team. During the interview you’ll also meet the course team and learn more about the course. Students from diverse educational backgrounds are encouraged to apply. We welcome students with a broad range of A-level subjects, as well as students with appropriate Art & Design Foundations or BTEC/UALAB diplomas which allow you to demonstrate your ability to research, evaluate and produce creative solutions.

More portfolio advice

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UK applications

International & EU applications

Due to visa requirements, this course is not available to students that require a Tier 4 (General) visa.
If you have another category of visa please contact us: to find out if you are eligible to study.

If you're interested in joining Year 3 of this course, please contact our International Admissions Team on +44 (0) 1252 892838 or

When to apply:

We are still accepting applications for 2021 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.

For more information visit our how to apply pages

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