We are a group of volunteer stitchers and embroiderers that look after and renew the textiles in Southwell Minster. We ensure that vestments and other textiles are made and maintained in keeping with our artistic heritage, and to the glory of God. We are a small and friendly team, and committed to our work, which although largely “behind the scenes” is highly valued by the clergy and congregation. Our services are called on by many different members of our minster community, and we get involved with a great diversity of assignments, whether it is fitting cassocks to choristers, running needlecraft tutorials, making and mending vestments for worship, even making costumes and props for our education and outreach team! Our work is supported by the Friends of Southwell Minster, charitable donations, as well as the Minster chapter.
In a busy worshipping community like Southwell Minster, there is a constant need for new textiles to replace old and worn out items, or as a part of developing and renewing worship in the Minster or elsewhere in the diocese. Embroidery has been used in Christian worship since the early years of the church, and by the time the current minster was built in the 12th century, embroidered vestments and church furnishings took their place amongst the finest stonemasonry, glass and woodwork as an intrinsic act of worship by their creators, as well as providing symbolism and Christian imagery for people attending services and visiting the minster. To this day we carefully plan and make any new vestments and textiles with these needs in mind, aware of the heritage that surrounds and inspires us, as well as the needs of our current and future congregations. Some of our recent work is shown in the pictures below, and we’re currently working on some exciting new projects for the minster to supply much-needed new vestments and frontals.
Left: Design work and fabric matching for a new set of vestments
Right: set of small “explorer pack” bags with an embroidered applique dragon, designed and made by the guild for young visitors to the Minster
The Needlework guild is also responsible for maintaining the embroideries and textiles in the minster. Frequently used and washed items like altar linens and amices can become frayed or worn, so we reinforce and mend textiles wherever possible, as well as altering vestments as required. As well as working on the minster textiles, we are happy to advise and support churches from across the diocese to maintain and repair fabrics and vestments.
Our tutor, Emma Frith, takes overall responsibility for the design and execution of our work, and ensures that our members are confident in the skills they need to work on embroidery projects. She also leads tutorials and training events for visiting embroiderers. Emma is a Royal School of Needlework trained embroiderer and artist based in Southwell.
“The joy of embroidery for the church is more than the usual satisfaction gained from making something useful or beautiful. When we work, we take care of tiny details, even ones that people can’t usually see. The attention that goes into making these textiles is an act of worship in itself. It is an honour to work with such dedicated and talented colleagues in a place that is so steeped in the work of artists over centuries. I am committed to sharing my love of embroidery and passing on the traditional skills needed, so that we can go on producing work of the highest quality.”
Emma Frith, tutor, Southwell Minster Needlework guild
Who are we?
Our members come from all over the region, with a diverse range of stitching expertise and experience, including cross stitch, hand embroidery, dressmaking, and sewing for upholstery. The work of the guild is highly varied, so all sorts of stitching backgrounds are valued. Some members have a lot of experience or previous training, but most members start out as enthusiastic amateurs – training is and support is given at every stage.
“ I get a lot of pleasure from working with other guild members, and I have enjoyed the challenge of learning new skills. I feel most satisfaction in being able use my talents to serve the minster” C.H.
“I had never done any needlework before 2014, but the political fallout that ensued after I married my husband Laurence caused a deep depression, and I found cross stitch very therapeutic. The resulting cushion has become known as the “wellness cushion”! When Emma found out that I enjoyed needlework, she inveigled me into to joining the Guild, even though I felt like I was a beginner. I really love the work we do and the new skills I am learning, and the opportunity to contribute in such a direct and physical way to worship. I also love being in the group – I am currently the only man there, but I have been warmly welcomed into a caring fellowship. I am hooked!” J.P.
“After finishing my Certificate in technical hand embroidery from the Royal School of Needlework, I was looking for a new outlet for my skills. I am particularly interested in church embroidery, vestment making, and textile conservation. Emma got in touch after seeing my work online, and we discovered that I lived close enough to join the Needlework Guild. I was delighted to find such a friendly and talented group working in such a beautiful setting. My current piece is a cushion for the choir stalls. Emma encouraged me to come up with my own design inspired by the work of Pugin and some of the beautiful botanical wood carvings in the quire” A.F.
When do we meet?
We meet all year round, usually on the second and fourth Tuesdays, 10am-1pm in Trebeck Hall. additional days are added, depending on workload.
Could you be a Needlework Guild volunteer?
- A keen embroiderer or cross stitcher looking for a new challenge?
- Flexible in approach, in order to complete work according to the priorities of the Dean, Clergy and chapter of Southwell Minster?
- Able to work to an agreed design to a consistent and high standard, with the guidance of the tutor?
- Comfortable with a needle and thread, whether in embroidery or other needlework discipline, and ready to learn new techniques? (Full training will be given, but a knowledge of basic embroidery stitches an advantage)
- Ready to join a small, friendly and committed team, and able to attend meetings on a Tuesday morning?
If you think this sounds like something you would like to get involved with, please get in touch with us!
Ways to support us
Financial donations to support the work of the Needlework Guild are always welcome, one of the best ways to do this is via the Friends of Southwell Cathedral who pay for our materials and expenses.
Sponsoring: The minster is in much need of new vestments and altar frontals, and there may be opportunities to be a sponsor for a new commission, or donate to the funding for fabric, materials or equipment, for yourself or a loved one. If this is of interest, please do get in touch
Donations of embroidery supplies and equipment: The nature of our work means we use specific types of threads and fabrics, and many vintage or second hand threads are sadly not suitable for our work. However, please do get in touch to discuss any items you have, and if we can’t take them we might be able to help you find a deserving home.
Contact Liz Turner email@example.com or Emma Frith firstname.lastname@example.org for more details. Follow us on Instagram: @southwellminsterneedleworkers