The NDS was set up with community at its heart. With a central focus on sharing embroidery with a wide group of participants through school, colleges and community groups and organisations, learning through handling these precious pieces was always central to the NDS activities.     This historic teaching aid, was intended to incite interest in needlework and improve design standards; a legacy that is still relevant today.

As well as bringing people into the University to see the collection we have been taking our collection our into the wider community.

Image Gallery

Volunteers having a well earned coffee break from stitch analysis


Volunteers have been the back bone in keeping the re-housing of the collection on track for the past 5 years.  A group of dedicated ladies and one man have faced the challenges of repeated measuring, cutting, padding, sticking and sorting our pieces to ensure that they can continue to be safely handled.  Volunteers have diligently noted all the stitch analysis of each item to upload to our database, created examples of stitches and even starred in our stitch films.  We are incredibly indebted to them and appreciate their continued valuable contribution to our projects.

The collection being studied in Scottish prison

In Autumn 2016, pilot workshops at SPS Edinburgh with groups of both men and women prisoners demonstrated the value of handling collections in involving participants with our precious heritage, developing an understanding and thirst to learn and keep these skills alive and preserve the collection.   The weekly workshops held at SPS Edinburgh from September to November 2017 brought together practical activities to conserve the samples with skills workshops in design and embroidery techniques.    Each participant was able to celebrate the potential of the artistic, practical and therapeutic values of stitch by creating their own embroidered story, the rich results exhibited at ECA in December 2017 with plans to take the exhibition to SPS Edinburgh early in 2018.

cut and collage design workshops

Forrester High School has been our guinea pig group to test out learning and teaching through our collection with a young audience.  A group of 3rd year pupils worked with us, assisted by volunteers to create their own embroidered stories.  We are keen to develop links with schools and take our collection further afield to inspire new generations to enjoy the creative and therapeutic values of designing and stitching.

stitch analysis with Guild group

Outreach with community groups is mainly through talks and handling sessions.  The collection has been carefully transported over the past 7 years to a variety of setting across Scotland as a visual and tactile focus for talks and demonstrations.  Groups have included

The Embroiderers Guild

Quilters guilds and groups

Historic societies

Heritage groups

Practical sessions in stitch and design compliment the talks and study sessions

Workshop assistant with participant in stitch and design workshop

The Welcoming is an organisation based in Edinburgh working with migrants and refugees.  In 2016/17 Lindy Richardson contributed to The Welcoming’s funded initiated “Learn to sew” with classes in embroidery which introduced participants to some items within the collection at their main HQ in Edinburgh’s Gorgie district.  For the Heritage lottery funded Embroidered stories project a group of individuals came together to attend weekly workshops at Edinburgh College of Art in design and embroidery.  The group enjoyed visits to the University’s Centre for Research Collections (CRC) to learn about conservation and make mounts for our pieces, as well as a visit to the National Museum of Scotland (NMS) collections centre in Granton to view the NMS part of the Needlework Development Collection.  Members from the Edinburgh Embroiderers Guild volunteered to come along to the weekly classes, assisting with technical sessions and enjoying integrating with the activities .