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Global Inspiration Through the Art of Hand Embroidery

In the summer of 2016, seven students from NC State’s College of Design had the opportunity to participate in the UK Stitching: A Cultural Identity Study Abroad Program. The program, led by Professor Katherine Diuguid, allowed students to travel to the United Kingdom, where they learned traditional hand embroidery at the Royal School of Needlework. They also participated in privately arranged tours of esteemed embroidery houses and clothiers, and engaged in various cultural activities. The Office of International Affairs is proud to have facilitated this valuable cultural experience, through the Internationalization Seed Grant Program.

“Sharing (the students’) excitement for London and stitching with them in historic Hampton Court Palace at the Royal School of Needlework is something I will cherish. For most of the students, this program was their first international experience and I believe it was just the beginning of their adventures abroad.” -Prof. Katherine Diuguid

Prof. Diuguid was awarded an Internationalization Seed Grant in 2015; a program facilitated by International Affairs and the University Standing Committee on International Programs. With $5,000 in funding from this grant, she traveled to the UK to finalize the itinerary and budget for UK Stitching. This included visiting student housing, arranging private tours, and curating pieces of art that would later be pulled for NC State student viewing. In addition to her activities in the United Kingdom, Prof. Diuguid leveraged grant funds to secure travel and accommodation for Dr. Susan Kay-Williams, CEO of the Royal School of Needlework. Dr. Kay-Williams attended the Common Threads Symposium on NC State’s campus in November of 2015. She gave two lectures at the Symposium, participated in a campus tour, and discussed future opportunities for collaboration between the two institutions.

These preparatory activities were integral to the success of the study abroad program. UK Stitching included an amazing itinerary for NC State students, consisting of privately arranged tours including St. Paul’s Cathedral Embroidery Studio, Hand and Lock Embroidery House, and the Benton and Johnson Goldwork Factory. Students also attended public art and fashion exhibits, like “Fashioning A Reign: 90 Years of Style from the Queen’s Wardrobe.” They were also able to experience the rich culture of the UK, including afternoon tea on a sightseeing tour of London.

“Our visit to the [Clothworkers’] Centre was such a privilege, and one I will surely never forget. We were able to see amazing, historic works up close and personal. I plan to use the pieces I saw as inspiration for my work here as well as my future works.” – Giovanna Veltre, Participant in the UK Stitching Program

The UK Stitching Study Abroad Program has inspired students to learn and create using traditional embroidery, and has also pioneered a partnership between North Carolina State University and The Royal School of Needlework. One student participant, Carly Owens, has even gone on to win the Nobel-McDuffie Travel Scholarship to further her study of traditional hand embroidery with Hand and Lock Embroidery House. The future benefits and richness of this program can be summed up by Prof. Duiguid: “As the fashion industry is flooded with many textile and fashion design graduates with broad knowledge, this program provides a specialization for these students in the fashion innovation epicenter of London that will help to distinguish them as they move forward in their careers.”