A Brief History of the Miniature Needlework Society

In the early 1990s a successful series of miniature needlework competitions were held at Miniatura, a fair held twice-yearly at the NEC in Birmingham. Daphne Turner, Sally Howard-Smith and Jill Swift thought that sufficient interest had been shown to make it possible to form a group interested in miniature needlework. A steering committee was formed with Sally, Jill, Sue Bakker, Ann Crompton, Dora Lockyer and with Michael Swift as treasurer. Daphne wished to found a group of experienced needle-persons, and this became the Guild of Miniature Needle Arts. Daphne’s beautiful work on very fine gauze may be seen at Gawthorpe Hall near Burnley, Lancashire. Sally and Jill wished to create a society for all needle techniques in the hope that the more experienced members would help the novices to widen and improve their skills.

The Miniature Needlework Society was formed in 1997. Articles were placed in various magazines and the organisers of the Miniatura shows donated table space to enable the enrolment of new members. Membership quickly rose to 200, with interest from America and Australia. Affiliated societies were formed in both these countries as well as in the Netherlands. Within a few years, the membership was 500. Miniatura has continued to sponsor the society since its formation.

Organisers of fairs, big and small, allow the use of table space, manned by local members, to display members’ work and recruit new members.

Workshops are held around the country: a local member organises the venue and the tutor is a specialist in the required craft. Sue Bakker, Pam Peake, Ann Crompton, Roz Snowdon, Norman Hill and many others have shared their expertise with members.

A 24-page A4 magazine is published in March and September each year, now printed in full colour, containing news, photos, charts, patterns and members’ letters. There is also a shorter update News Sheet emailed out to members in December and June. Both of these keep members in contact with each other and give information of shows, workshops and other events.

In 1998, the first project was undertaken for members to submit work for exhibition. This was not a competition but the response was exceptional with many exciting interpretations of a William Morris theme.

An exhibition entitled “So Small, Sew Perfect” was held in Salisbury museum in 2001. It should have lasted just three months but was held over for another two because of its popularity. A second, five-month exhibition was held in the Museum in Frenchay, a village to the north of Bristol in 2010. The work from members was exquisite and the museum doubled its visitors during the the time the exhibition was on, which was very gratifying.

New sponsors, Bob and Dorothy Gault, have kindly given the space for a permanent exhibition of MNS members’ work at "A World in Miniature" museum at Houghton Hall, Carlisle, Cumbria. The work in this exhibition is changed periodically as new items are completed and submitted.

The latest exhibition, entitled "Sew Small", was held In March and April of 2016 at the Forge Mill Needle Museum in Redditch. Over 30 members exhibited more than 300 pieces of work in an impressive display, delighting visitors to the museum. Members from the USA, France and Italy as well as the UK lent work for the exhibition, and other members organised demonstrations of bobbin lace making and needlepoint.

The Society also has a Facebook page for members to stay in touch with each other, sharing news and photos of their work.

Surface embroidery in pole screen
by Jenny Furlong
Pole screen donated by Kim Selwood

by Rhoda Adamson

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