Royal connection in Wemyss

An example of the creative skills at the Wemyss School of Needlework
An example of the creative skills at the Wemyss School of Needlework

For the first time in decades, students are being accepted to The Wemyss School of Needlework in Coaltown-of-Wemyss.

And, at the helm, is Helen McCook, tutor and assessor for the Royal School of Needlework at Hampton Court, where the lacework for Kate Middleton’s wedding dress was created.

The small school, which nevertheless boasts an international reputation, is holding its first programme of classes in 65 years.

A spokesperson said: “We will be holding day classes to introduce people to various historical disciplines including Goldwork, Whitework and Silk Shading.

“Using designs adapted from the extensive embroidery and textile collection – part of which forms the permanent changing exhibition at the school – students can learn how to sew in a unique historical setting surrounded by examples of the type of work they are learning. These ‘taster’ classes mark the beginning of a lively and productive future for the school.”

The school began in Wemyss Castle but moved into its present purpose-built home on Main Street in 1877 and was for 40 years, until her retirement in 2011, run by Mary Birrell, the great-granddaughter of the first ever seamstress.

The spokesperson added: “Mrs Birrell helped many people to begin stitching in needlepoint over the years, but other historical disciplines, such as Jacobean Crewelwork, once a specialty at the school, have not been taught been taught for a long time, until now.”

For more information, contact Wemyss School of Needlework on 01592 651346 or