RSN Canvaswork Day 1

There are two ways to study for your certificate course at the RSN: an intensive course  held over two weeks or a series of single classes spread out over a much longer period of time. Both kinds of courses are offered at the RSN Hampton Court and at the various satellite schools.

Typically in an intensive you would be in class Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday for two weeks. Friday, Saturday and Sunday between the two weeks you would not have class but you would have a lot of stitching homework to do. It’s hard work but great for people who travel from a long distance since they only pay their travel costs once for the whole course. The students would usually have one teacher for 6 students or two tutors for 12 students. All students work on the same technique at the same time. You all begin together so you’re all in the same place in your project (approximately) during the two weeks. Teaching is done individually but also things can and are demonstrated to the group or parts of the group as the need or opportunity arises. Ideally all students finish their pieces by the end of the 8 days.


 When you come to Hampton Court to study the way I did and many, many others do, for a day at a time, your course can take much longer than 8 days/two weeks. Some students I met come once a week, some once a fortnight, some once a month. There can be up to 12 students in the classroom every day.  The students can be working on as many as 4 or 5 or more different techniques. During the time I was there, students were working on silk shading, goldwork, canvas work, appliqué, blackwork and crewelwork. Some were working at Certificate level – as I was – the more beginning course. Others at Diploma level – the more advanced course. Again, there are two tutors in the classroom for the up to 12 students. The major difference is that these tutors have to respond to a huge variety of questions, demonstrate multiple techniques at many levels, be ready to assist a rank beginner as well as a highly advance students, all at different points in their projects.

This kind of scheduling means that the students need to be prepared to be somewhat independent and very patient at different moments during the day. It just isn’t possible for the tutors to everywhere at once! (Although they try to be and do an amazing job!)

My first morning I put the canvas on the slate frame. I’d learned how to do this before but there was a student in the class who’d never done it so she needed quite a bit of help.

We stopped for tea and biscuits every day at 11 am and lunch at 1 pm. The students and the tutors who didn’t have admin. things to do that day gathered in the well at the bottom of the stairs going up into the library, just inside the front door to the RSN you saw in my last post.


After lunch I transferred my design onto the canvas after reducing it in size. For the Certificate course, your canvaswork piece is to be A5 in size – for American readers that means half a letter sized piece of paper.

At the recommendation of the tutors, I cut the canvas larger than I needed for the finished piece. That’s done so there is blank canvas handy to try out and/or practice different stitches before you stitch onto the design. Sometimes imagining how a stitch will look in a specific place isn’t how it ends up looking so it’s always a good idea to test your stitches first when you’re a beginner like I am.

That was as much as I got finished on the first day. However, least you think that wasn’t much, I also got to observe and learn from the work the other students were doing. The pace of the class wasn’t nearly as quick as it can be during an intensive. Partly, that’s because there isn’t a deadline looming in only 8 days and partly, because the tutors can’t always respond to your questions and requests for assistance immediately. Often during the waiting time I could get up and look at the work of the other students and that was really interesting!


You can see the little bit of stitching I did get done the first day. However, I completely  misunderstood how to read the stitch diagram and did the stitch incorrectly. Tutors did walk by and ask me if I was OK and if I needed help but, because I thought I understood what I was doing, I told them that I was fine. Only later in the week, on Friday,  did a tutor catch my mistake and help me correct it.

Which brings to to why I explained the difference in the intensive and the longer term courses. During my intensive courses I had all the help I needed and the tutors checked  on our work frequently. Looking back over the week I just spent at the RSN Hampton Court, I would have learned more and gotten farther if I’d asked for help more often.



13 thoughts on “RSN Canvaswork Day 1

  1. I am so glad your tutors were so supportive. :-)I hope to all and sundry that you did not have to rip out too much. 🙂

    My pop is his offices (only) I.T geek. He would prefer that his coworkers ask him a bazillion seemingly stupid questions, than NOT ask one (seemingly silly) important one, and he lets them know that all the time. He (according to them)is very supportive and does not talk down to them if the question truly is rather silly, he just shrugs it off with them, and thanks them, because he is GLAD that it is usually not serious. That way his co-workers do not feel ridiculous asking/telling him about whatever computer related hiccup they need to. He handles things that way because occasionally, a seemingly stupid question, COULD turn into an ugly computer problem later if not taken care of right off, and this does indeed keep the ugly problems at a minimum. 🙂 If it is serious, and not mentioned (usually by a new-ish employee) he will likely spend the entire day fixing some problem that could have been fixed more easily a lot earlier, or he will have to bring the problem home to finish it on a weekend or after-hours.

    (What I am saying (on behalf of your tutors no doubt) is that no one should be afraid to ask questions, 🙂 they could turn into geysers of trouble which are worse than one minute of red cheeks.)

    That being said, THANK YOU for sharing this with us, so if we are ever in that situation, we have that liiiittle nudge in the back of the brain to ask for assistance. 🙂 I hope that you still get finished brilliantly by the end of the course despite this little hiccup. 🙂

    Typo: Others at Diploma level – the more advance course. (advanced)

    • Hello RMW,

      Thankfully I didn’t get far enough to have to rip out too much – just the trunk of the tree which wasn’t so much work. However, my teacher on Friday did tell me very sternly that I absolutely could not rip out any more of the canvas would fall to pieces. He’s right!

      Liebe Grüße,

      • Glad to hear that you didn’t have to rip out too much. 🙂 I wonder why canvas work is so popular if it is so “unforgiving” rip-out wise. Maybe canvas when it was first started was sturdier or something?

  2. Oh, Kathy, you were meant to be a teacher! I’ve been to HCP (and to the RSN shop where I “did my bit and spent money”) and your descriptions and pictures are spot on. I’m taking an RSN class in Williamsburg in May and am more excited after having seen your blog. Savor your stitching and blog as you can — I’m enjoying your experience vicariously.

    • Hi Debbie,

      Your comment couldn’t have come on a better day! I was meant to be a teacher and, as a friend once said, if you cut me open it would be all teacher inside! Some days, though, I wonder if I’m making any difference in the lives of the munchkins I teach.

      I’m sure you will love your class at Williamsburg! Which class are you taking? I know that all the tutors coming over are just fabulous!!

      Liebe Grüße,

      • Hi Kathy,
        Thanks to your influence, I’m taking Beginning Crewelwork with Tracy Franklin (I’m so excited!). I’ve done some crewelwork, but I want to learn to do it “the right way”. If I could get to England more easily and more often, I’d certainly take classes at the RSN. Having followed your blog has caused a resurgence of interest in needlework in me — thanks so much!
        Enjoy your course and thanks for sharing it.

    • Kathy,
      Wait! You’re a TEACHER!? (hehe)
      Doubtless your insides are well organized and clearly labeled.

      🙂 Enjoy your class!

  3. I am enjoying following your adventures. I am hoping to take a goldwork class in the fall at the Embroiders Guild of America seminar. The class will be taught by an RSN trained teacher and last four days. Fingers crossed I get in! That will probably be the closest I get to attending RSN. Well, except for living vicariously through your blog. 🙂

    • HI Cactus,

      Your goldwork course sounds just perfect. Four days will be just right and you’ll learn so much! Although I love studying at the RSN and think their tutors are top notch, there are many equally wonderful embroiderers and teachers all over the world who haven’t trained at the RSN.

      Leib Grüße,

  4. Hello
    Can you, please, tell, what books RSN asks to have for this course? And for the silk shading, if you know. You wrote about crewel work and goldwork, this time I didn’t see it.

    Thank you and enjoy your course. Your projects are really beautiful!

    • Hi Yelena,

      Here is a list of the book the RSN recommends for the Canvaswork course. I didn’t get them all, just the ones listed on my home page under “My Reading for the RSN Canvaswork course”.

      Rachel Doyle – The RSN “Essential Stitch Guide – Canvaswork”
      Anchor “Canvas Stitches”
      Mary Rhodes, “Dictionary of Canvas Work Stitches”
      Betty Barnden, “The Embroidery Stitch Bible”
      Jo Ippolito Christensen “The Needlepoint Book”
      Owen Davies & Gill Holdsworth “Embroidered Knot Gardens”

      Liebe Grüße,

  5. This is very helpful, thank you. I will be taking an intensive course this spring. I’m not very clear on the process at all. How do you choose the type of technique that you will learn and can more than one be learned? Do all of the learned techniques get utilized in the course project? Who decides the design or type of canvas that you will use? The brochure that I got is not specific at all. Thanks.

    • Hi Larhar,

      I’m glad my post helped answer a few of your questions and sorry that the RSN has not been more communicative up until now. I would suggest you contact them and ask these question specifically. I’m serious – where are you taking the course? If you aren’t taking it at Hampton Court then you could also contact the tutor directly. The tutors who teach at the satellites are listed on the RSN web site and many of them are independent embroiderers so they have their own webpages. If you are going to be studying with one of the tutors at a satellite then you could do a google search for that person’s website, find their contact details on the web site and write directly to them.

      Your question has made me think about how little brand new students know about the courses so perhaps I’ll write an article about my experiences in general with the school so you – and others – will now what to expect.

      Although I could answer your questions based on how things were when I was at the school, I know things change and I don’t want to give out false information. Please let me know if you need more help finding out the answers to your questions!

      Liebe Grüße,

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