First Year Experience: Subverted Stump-Work!

This first year Textiles student shares how she subverted our treasured Stump-work embroidered picture from 1652 into a contemporary fashion design! To see more of what our first year students got up to as part of their “Being Human” project, see a short video by Martin Clark here.

Stump-work picture from our Needlework Development Scheme collection (NDS/GB/4)

When we went to the archive, we saw a piece of stump work embroidery. It was depicting images of a king and a queen and all these animals and different fancy things around them. The scale was really thrown off and that reminded me of a fairy tale because it looked kind of unusual. It was done a while ago in 1652 and I found out through research that it could have been done by young girls who had learned to embroider stump work, so it’s raised embroidery and this would be their final project which would go on the top of a box for example.  

Student Sketchbook

I was interested in that and the idea of children’s imaginations, I think it’s amazing to think of a wee 13-year-old or something doing that. So that lead to me drawing designs. I tried to develop that into thinking about what I would have done at that age. I loved the film The Princess Diaries, so my first idea was to develop an embroidery design of the princess in that. I then moved on to taking some of the shapes from the actual stump work, repeating them and trying to make them into a pattern. I also looked at the garments of the king and queen and did more drawings to contextualize these into modern day embroidery on fashion, which was what I ended up doing for my final piece. I repeated the shape in a way that imitated embroidery, and then developed this further by taking some of my drawings and superimposing them onto fashion garments. I then made some print designs by doing some continuous line drawings of elements of the stump work and inverting the colours.  

Images courtesy of Stephen Keane – many thanks Stephen! If anyone has any other pictures of this student’s work, we’d love to add them to this post. Please email

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