Victoria Frank, Inc.

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Art Embroidery and the Celtic Revival in Ireland

Apologies - this five-day workshop with British teachers, Lynn Hulse and Nicola Jarvis, was cancelled because of visa complications. I hope to offer it at another time in the future.

19th Century Tablecloth

The development of art embroidery in Ireland was closely linked to the revival of cottage crafts and a renewed interest in Celtic art, reflecting the spirit of romantic nationalism, which spread throughout Europe in the nineteenth century. Our five-day workshop exploring the Celtic Revival takes as its inspiration the work of the Donegal Industrial Fund, a philanthropic organization set up in 1883 to market Irish textiles through exhibitions and bazaars for the benefit of rural workers. The Fund was renowned for its production of a new kind of needlework known as ‘Kells embroidery’ in which the designs were adapted from early Irish manuscripts like the Book of Kells and Book of Durrow. Characteristic features of this style include interlace, knot work, spirals, crosses, key patterns, zoomorphics and plant forms.

Course attendees will have a choice of two stitch projects worked either on silk or Irish linen (cream, navy or green), specially woven for the project by one of Ulster’s three remaining linen mills:


This program is the first embroidery workshop offered by VCF, Inc and it promises to be a similar top-notch experience as the tours. In addition to the extraordinary learning opportunity, participants will have the privilege of working daily in the private Arts Club of Chicago and enjoying one another for memorable welcome and farewell dinners. There will be time each afternoon to enjoy the extraordinary retail opportunities that our Michigan Avenue location offers. One evening you may want to take advantage of Chicago’s lively theatre scene or enjoy a concert by the world-acclaimed Chicago Symphony Orchestra.

To offer the finest experience, the group will not exceed 17. If you are interested, send me an e-mail at to request registration materials. Your deposit of half of the workshop cost will guarantee you reservation.

The itinerary

Detail from a Celtic panel worked in silk and gold threads, attributed to the Royal Irish School of Art Needlework, late 19th century.

Day 1 (Sunday, March 17) – Arrive Chicago, Welcome Dinner
The program will officially begin as we gather to meet one another and dine together at a celebratory welcome dinner.

Day 2 (Monday, March 18) – The Workshop begins
Arrive at the club and be directed to the private room we will use for the duration of the program. The elements we will work will be shared, and we will be introduced to the projects. We will have needle in hand before our lunchtime break. After lunch Lynn will talk about the work of the Donegal Industrial Fund and the other philanthropic organizations that provided poor relief in Ireland.

Royal School of Needlework

Day 3 (Tuesday, March 19) – Workshop and Luncheon Program at The Arts Club of Chicago
We will stitch in the morning and break for one of the club’s renown luncheon programs, with Lynn Hulse as the featured speaker. We will join club members to hear her illustrated presentation about the Royal School of Art Needlework display at the 1876 Philadelphia Centennial International Exhibition and its influence on the development of art embroidery in the United States. After the program we will return to our private room for more stitch time.

Modern crewel embroidery

Day 4 (Wednesday, March 20) – Workshop Continues
There will be plenty of time over the next two days to practice (or “practise” to our British friends) the various stitches involved in your chosen project with the help of Lynn and Nicola. After lunch Nicola will speak about her career as a designer and embroiderer, and the inspiration behind her Celtic Irish initial project, after which there will be more stitch time.

Dragon and serpent design

Day 5 (Thursday, March 21) – Workshop Continues, visit the Art Institute of Chicago and Farewell Dinner
After our day of stitching, we will visit the Art Institute of Chicago, renowned for the remarkable collection of French Impressionist works and extensive textile collection. Lynn and Nicola will join us and add to our knowledge as we visit the textile galleries and see some of the many important textiles installed throughout the museum. There will be time to visit other galleries of your choosing before we leave for our memorable Farewell Dinner (held this evening so you can leave Chicago on Friday, when the workshop concludes).

Kells beastie design

Day 6 (Friday, March 22) – Workshop Continues (and concludes)
Today we will gather together for the last of our learning/stitching sessions. Our teachers will give us tips on what needs to be done to continue and finish our projects.

The Teachers

Dr Lynn Hulse

Dr Lynn Hulse

Lynn Hulse is Chair of the trustees of the Brangwyn Gift at the William Morris Gallery, Fellow of the Society of Antiquaries of London and Co-founder of Ornamental Embroidery, which teaches and designs historic handmade needlework inspired by objects from museum and private collections. She is the editor of May Morris: Art & Life. New Perspectives (2017) and The Needles Excellency: English Raised Embroidery (2018) and author of the forthcoming publications The Embroidered Furnishings of the Lethbridge Sisters, c. 1899-1922 (OE Publications) and The Art of Needlework: Projects from the Nineteenth Century (Crowood Press).

Ms Nicola Jarvis

Ms Nicola Jarvis

Nicola is an artist and professional hand embroiderer. She trained at the Royal School of Needlework in Hampton Court Palace 27 years ago, and worked on the lace for the Duchess of Cambridge’s wedding dress in 2011. Her debut solo exhibition The Art of Embroidery: Nicola Jarvis and May Morris was staged at the William Morris Gallery, in London in 2013. Supported by funding from Arts Council England, she toured this popular display around selected Arts and Crafts venues in the UK until 2016. She teaches internationally and received a Commendation from the Beryl Dean Award for Teaching Excellence in 2018. Her embroidery design business Nicola Jarvis Studio is located in Warwickshire, UK. John Lewis plc and the National Trust are among the many clients she supplies with her embroidery kits.

Workshop includes:

Cost: $2,300 per person

Notes: This program does not include lodging. I decided to do this because there are dozens of hotels located in the area of the workshop, of varying luxury and you can choose what is best for you. You may choose to use points that you have accumulated for free or discounted rooms, you may want to stay in a branded hotel that promises you upgrades, or you may want to treat yourself to a room that will provide you with unparalleled luxury. If you want help in finding the best hotel for your personal needs, I am happy to help.

As always, dietary preferences or restrictions are carefully considered.

The room we will work in at the club is on the ground level with dining room accessed via elevator or the beautiful stairway designed by Mies van der Rohe (and there’s a great story about its preservation that I’m happy to share with you, if you are interested).

You won't have to lift a finger...