As Guardian of renowned Wemyss School of Needlework in Fife, Scotland, Fiona Wemyss is able to combine her love of needlework with her skills as a conservator. Since joining the School in 1994, she has endeavoured to preserve and catalogue the School’s vast and unique collection of designs, textiles and artefacts dating as far back as the 17th Century, which we have had to pleasure of viewing on some of our past Tours.
Fiona’s passion for the needlework inspired her to take the School back to its tradition of teaching. This is a tradition which dates back to 1877, when Fiona’s husband’s Great Great Aunt Dora Wemyss first started the School.
Ahead of our Festival we caught up with Fiona to find out more about her passion for textiles, design and the school.
Why and how did you become a needlework tutor? Did anyone or thing, in particular, inspire you?
Having always stitched, becoming the Family Guardian of the Wemyss School of Needlework from 1994 and then the everyday running of the School from 2011, I was determined that we should reintroduce classes. I diffidently began to teach needlepoint only to find that I enjoyed it and those I have taught have been kind enough to say they learn and that I am able to impart knowledge and techniques that are new to them.
What is your main needlework interest?
Needlepoint. This extends to the use and adaption of our needlepoint designs, together with the care of and development of our textile and paper design collection, and the use of elements of those design within the collection as source material for new work.
Do you have a favourite stitch?
If you had to choose one needlework possession to save in a fire, what would it be?
An early 18th-century man’s embroidered coat.
When developing your designs, which activity takes the most time?
If it is a large piece, the stitching, but doing the charts and instructions can take an age.
How much time do you spend stitching each day?
When away in Italy in the summer, up to 6 hours a day. When in the UK it varies hugely, from nothing to about 4 hours.
What is the best piece of advice about needlework you have been given and can share with our students?
What advice would you give to students to get the most out of their workshop experience?
Listen, take notes and pictures to nudge your memory
What is your inspiration for your Festival design?
The Wemyss School of Needlework collection – using elements of design within the collection as source material for my new work.
Thank you Fiona for your time and energy, we look forward to having you with us in our home town during the Lady Anne’s Needlework Festival 2021. Visit Fiona’s page on our website to see all the details of the workshops she will be offering at the Festival.