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Sunday, 21 June 2015

Wemyss School of Needlework

We set out this morning at 8.30 for Wemyss (rhymes with 'seems' ) about an hour north west of Edinburgh. 

On the way to Wemyss we crossed the Forth Road Bridge. To our right was the 123 year old Iron Rail Bridge 
and to our left the construction work on the new bridge, to be called the Queensferry Crossing, due to open in 2016. The name was chosen by public ballot.
Wemyss has a castle, but also a School of Needlework, established in 1877 on the model of the Royal School of Needlework and continuously maintained by the Wemyss family. Unlike the RSN, however, the target client group for Wemyss was the daughters of farmers and miners with a specific aim of developing skills to support local employment and industry.

Dora Wemyss, the founder of the school, was also a supporter of the local pottery industry. She convinced the London pottery dealer, Thomas Goodes, to distribute Wemyss pottery. She also ran an orphanage and school, sponsoring orphan girls to the needlework school. 

The Wemyss family have, in recent years redeveloped the school and its store of designs into a modern needlework business that includes a museum and shop, classes, standardised kits, supplies, restoration services and bespoke kits and designs. 
The museum has a wonderful collection of pieces, some from the Palace, and also hundreds of designs used by the school over time. 

We were treated to coffee and biscuits and about an hour and a half of the curator's time. I found it hugely interesting and engaging. We were allowed to take general photos but not photos of specific pieces - to protect the designs.
I had looked at a couple of their kits online before I came. They are even more appealing in the flesh. A couple of them are suited to interested children as well as beginner adults. I intend to buy them online rather than fill my suitcase.(
From Weymms we went to Falkland Palace, one of the favourite homes of the Stuart's, and in particular, Mary, Queen of Scots, who hunted and played tennis 
The name derives from 'falcon' - as this was a prime site for falconry and one of the reasons for the popularity of the original castle and subsequent palace. 
I really enjoyed the outside of the palace, the stonework and gardens.
 I began the tour of the inside but pulled out after the first room - the king's bedroom. Although interesting, I don't much enjoy talks standing in small rooms and I found the spiral stone staircases a bit daunting, especially when there were a lot of people on the move.

I happily took myself for a walk around the town
and sat in a sunny courtyard of the pub opposite the palace. Many participants are very excited about Outlanders being filmed at Falkland Palace.
We made our way back to our hotel for our first crewel class with Phillipa. She made it very relaxing and I think we all really enjoyed it. This was my piece at the end of two hours.
Before dinner we had a lecture by Naomi Tarrant, retired curator of Costume and Textiles at the National Museum of Scotland,on the Textile Collections of the National Museum of Scotland. Naomi is the author of numerous books on historical costume (

Tomorrow we leave Edinburgh at 8.30 am for Aberdeen, and another adventure.


  1. A thistle. How fitting. So many embroidery schools. Do we have the equivalent in Australia?

    1. No, not really. The RSN is a worlds Best Practice and probably survives because of ceremonial demand. In Australia, as in the States, the Embroidery Guilds set the standards and provide much of the training. The SA Guild runs a full certificated program. TAFE used to run a certificate course, but I'm not sure they still do.

  2. Do the kits still appeal to you now that you are home again? The little birds are pretty cute.

  3. They do - but I am holding off for a bit until I've reduced my stash of kits!