relocating the Needle Forward

This short article originally appeared in the September 2017 worry of Needle art magazine.

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Written by Ellice Sperber

I met Lucy Barter in 2012 when I enrolled in the royal School that Needlework (RSN) Certificate and also Diploma Program. After decades of stitching, I decided to difficulty my expertise by advancing my technical skills and exploring my creative thinking in developing my very own needlework pieces. A friendship developed between Barter, my tutor, and me once we uncovered that we mutual a dream to happen embroidery on come future generations.

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From left, Lucy Barter confers through a student

Participating in the RSN Certificate and also Diploma regime over 2 years gave me the chance to not only discover my own needs as an embroiderer, however to listen to the wishes and also expectations of various other pupils together my peers. From a tutor’s perspective, Barter competent the passions of individual students and the nuances of just how each course impacted students’ creative expression and their personal and an imaginative goals. Over time, our conversations grew to encompass the birth of a needlework school built approximately our shared experiences and also our desire to provide exemplary instruction come students.In 2015, we started the san Francisco school of Needlework & design (SNAD). Through coursework, substantial library, exhibitions, and also community events, ours mission is come ensure a future for needlework by sharing the knowledge and history of hand embroidery and needlework.

We officially opened the institution in June 2016. Every day we find out from ours growing community of intergenerational college student to develop both timeless and modern-day works from historic examples and also methods.

Barter and also I pertained to embroidery in different ways, but it has served together a continuous thread throughout both our lives. Increased in southerly California in the 1960s, I fell in love through bargello patterns in mine mother’s books, making and designing pillows prior to I to be twelve year old. In my teens, I started dancing v an international folk ensemble and was trained to restore and reproduce embroidery in the company’s collection of intricately embroidered imported costumes. (Continue analysis below)


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While ns planned to have a career as an embroiderer, i ventured into the theater arts and also spent most of my professional life functioning as an American authorize Language interpreter. I’ve additionally served on the plank of directors for many nonprofits in the fields of handicap rights and education. An avid embroiderer while elevating my 2 daughters, ns studied with plenty of excellent teachers approximately the unified States and also opened a little embroidery repair business, ERS Hand Embroidery, in 2014.

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From left, Annalee Levin and students in the design Room

Barter is indigenous Suffolk, England, and additionally began embroidering as a child. Motivated by watching her mommy stitch, she started her own embroidery jobs with an easy kits the she was given for holidays and also birthdays. She attended Northumbria University, earning a BA Honours in Fashion Design.

She climate designed and also embroidered clothing and bedding for children’s brands in san Francisco, but her interest in embroidery took her ago to the united kingdom to enroll in the RSN Apprenticeship Programme. She i graduated with distinction at the top of her class in 2006.

When Barter returned to the U.S., she started an independent embroidery business, Forever Embroidery Studio, out of her home in mountain Francisco and also spent eight year coordinating the U.S.-based courses for the RSN.

Barter is a famous embroidery teacher, finest known for she flexible to teach style, technical expertise, and also unique capacity to enable students come find their own voice. While I have studied with countless embroidery teachers, Barter raised my technical skills in a method no various other instructor had before, but, most importantly, she permitted me to trust my instincts top top color, texture, and design.

Having constructed our friendship native time spent embroidering together, Barter and I knew that neighborhood would it is in intrinsic to our mission and also vision. The setting in our college is warm, collaborative, and joyful—it even extends come our enthusiastic pendant on society media. (Continue reading below)


Every Wednesday and the 2nd Saturday of each month, we organize a cost-free stitch-in. Us also carry out a Stitch ‘n’ Lunch, a $5 class during having lunch hour as soon as we teach a few stitches on a an easy pattern. Every week throughout these classes, us see new students who room eager to dip their toes right into embroidery. Numerous of castle then pick to enroll in our introductory classes or volunteer your time through us.

For the 21- to 35-year-old audience, us offer stitching evenings through wine and snacks. Sometimes teens come v their mothers. Our denim occasion with Marie-Sophie Lockhart, who works v fashion brands prefer Stella McCartney and Marc Jacobs, was our most famous stitching night to date. Both the Lockhart’s classes marketed out. From her large social media following, Lockhart helped bring in brand-new students that were eager to fulfill others through a common interest. They external inspection over customizing their denim, later modeling their newly embroidered jeans. We space pleased to have actually several students from this events proceeding to take classes and also use our library as catalyst for design. Us are additionally working to attribute classes because that young adults, age fourteen and up.

Three times a year we carry out a Stitch-At-Home Challenge. These obstacles sprang native an off-the-cuff idea, as soon as we were keeping in psychic our plenty of faraway friends and also family that couldn’t attend our grand opening. We determined we would exhibit the work of those that entered, sending each a limited-edition canvas gift bag indigenous the opening party.

The success of our first challenge brought in new collaborations. Through a partnership through Nest, a new York nonprofit that helps ladies handcrafters construct businesses, Swarovski sponsored our 2nd Challenge. The agency donated 4,000 up-cycled crystals for our attendees to incorporate in their designs. Us have likewise gained collaborations for our spring and summer Challenges: Anna Garris Goiser, the designer behind Talliaferro standard Needleart, donated two floral fads for ours Talliaferro Challenge, and DMC donated object packs for our Summer of Love Challenge, which will certainly be exhibited in September 2017.

We space thrilled with the number of participants and the enthusiasm because that our obstacles thus far. An ext than six hundred have gone into from twenty-five countries, consisting of Malaysia, brand-new Zealand, south Africa, and Ecuador. If not part of our initial vision, the difficulties have offered us a global reach through artists varying in age from fifteen come ninety year old. (Continue reading below)


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Collaboration through individuals, corporations, and also other nonprofits are crucial part the the ar that we proceed to build at SNAD. The EGA mountain Francisco thing holds their monthly work meetings in ~ our school, and also we offer exclusive instruction and also create practice classes for guilds and also other interested groups based upon their unique interests. One recent instance is a course us designed in needlelace techniques on canvas for a local American Needlepoint Guild chapter. We likewise offer private events for family members wishing to do something special to mark crucial life events. The first bridal shower that we organized was because that a bride who loves robots and also dinosaurs. Us designed a set of dinosaur dinner napkins for the shower guests to embroider as gifts for the wedding couple. Producing unique projects and events for bridal and also baby showers is our means of help today’s busy civilization create what may come to be future heirlooms.

Barter and I felt it was crucial for SNAD to establish a heritage for future generations. Because that this reason, we determined to do the institution a nonprofit entity. Obtaining ours 501(c)(3) to be much simpler than us thought—we acquired it within 6 weeks the applying—and assisted us define our mission.

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The SNAD library

But the wasn’t every smooth sailing. We struggled because that eighteen month to find a space for the school, scouring san Francisco through Barter’s 2 babies in tow. Us were lucky to land in ~ our existing location top top Union Square, in the love of the city’s downtown.

Since our founding, we’ve developed a board of Directors, which in enhancement to Barter and also me, is composed of Meryl Macklin, an attorney who actively practices a wide range of arts and crafts; buy it Halsey, ours treasurer and president the The bay Area Sampler Guild; and our two newest members, June Dershewitz and also Pauline Basaran.

Operationally, I serve as CEO; Barter serves together our regimen director and also head teacher; and Annalee Levin, a graduate of the RSN Future guardian Programme, serves together our 2nd instructor and community outreach coordinator. Amongst the three of us, we are exceptionally fortunate to have actually a mix of an innovative skills, interests, and also energies: Barter is the champion that beautiful and also traditional designs; Levin, through an MFA in sculpture indigenous the college of the art Institute the Chicago, brings united state designs that space both modern-day and speculative in nature; and I round out the team by share my knowledge of ethnic and historic embroidery.

Now after our first year, we offer great to fulfill everyone from beginner to highly-skilled embroiderers. All of our classes space taught v a typical pedagogy the emphasizes personalized instruction and also exploration of individual creativity. A guiding principle of the school is to price our classes thoughtfully and also affordably, offering scholarship-priced seat in almostevery class. (Continue analysis below)


We offer a collection of introduce classes that room vastly popular and continue come bring brand-new students to the school each month. Ours curriculum additionally includes a number of pre-designed great in a range of techniques: whitework, blackwork, needlepainting, stumpwork, crewel, canvaswork, appliqué, and also metalwork. We have built contemporary classes right into the regime as well, such together Sketching v Thread, Plein waiting Embroidery, speculative Stitches, Stitching on uncovered Objects, and Portrait Embroidery.

Our Stitch Retreats space five- to ten-day extensive courses that we think about to it is in our core artistic program. This retreats were designed as a ar for proficient stitchers to develop pieces in a an approach of their an option with instructional support from the planning and also design stages through execution that the piece. One student realized a passage from The Nutcracker, creating an entire snow scene through glistening needlelace and a hold of stumpwork ballerinas. In contrast, an additional student operated a to mark appliqué that a mrs on a bright and also colorful patchwork background through embroidered flowers highlighting the scene.

As part of our mission, the school maintains a library of more than 2,400 books, consisting of some rare and antiquarian volumes, the earliest dating come 1841. If we are not a lending library, we welcome anyone come read and also study the books on site. Decorative Needlework (1893) by may Morris and also The Lady’s hand-operated of Fancy-Work (1858) by Mrs. Pullin are an especially popular publications in our library.

Our collection likewise includes a growing variety of embroidered textiles. We have actually a variety of item including family members linens, religious and politics embroideries, ethnic costumes, and also fashion accessories, and also samplers, i m sorry we usage for study, exhibition, and also examples for our classes.

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A sample of the library’s offerings

As with our library, us welcome donations into the textile collection. Together the school grows, us hope to get works in numerous different techniques from a wide range of cultures and periods to share with our students.

This is just the beginning for SNAD. Ours future plan include expanding our offerings for every kinds that students. In solution to your feedback, we have created shorter entry-level choices for those just gaining started—“bite-sized” beginner projects using contemporary designs motivated by popular culture and fashion trends. These classes are identified from our introductory courses as they space three hrs in size with a goal to complete a task in the class time.

On the various other side that the spectrum is ours Master skills Certificate Program, which we plan to put into effect in 2018. This program will carry out breadth and also depth for each method that us offer, including a foundation, a technical, and a an innovative level. The background and culture of each technique will be explored, and each level will permit for testing in creating final projects. Ongoing consultation and also a final portfolio evaluation will support and also inform students together they progress. Upon completion, students will earn a certificate in their an approach of study: whitework, blackwork, needlepainting, stumpwork, crewel, canvaswork, appliqué, or metalwork.

We space looking forward to designing and also hosting classes because that the EGA’s 2019 expanded Study Program. Till then, get affiliated by signing up because that our newsletter and joining a Stitch-At-Home Challenge. Our can be fried vision is that the school will be passed come future generations together a ar to where civilization can always enjoy the practice of hand embroidery.

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Ellice Sperber got her RSN Diploma in 2014. She danced v a people ensemble in Los Angeles, California, wherein she functioned on the company’s repertoire of Bulgarian, Serbian, and also Croatian costumes.