Edinburgh Local

Object of the month: Chinese headdress

This rather cheeky-looking child’s headdress from China is one of the key objects soon to be on display in the Main Library’s exhibition Touching Stitches.


The exhibition features around 40 embroideries from the Needlework Development Scheme collection at Edinburgh College of Art. It also includes over 20 handling samples which have been specially created for the exhibition.

Paisley-based yarn manufacturers J&P Coats founded the Needlework Development Scheme in 1934 with the mission of improving design in embroidery. Using their international embroidery collection as a ‘lending library’, the set up the scheme to allow the four Scottish art colleges to use it as a teaching aid to inspire their lessons. After World War II, the scheme was expanded to include schools, and young girls throughout the country found their ‘home-room’ classes reinvigorated with new projects and ideas.

The scheme ran until 1961, when the embroideries were dispersed throughout the country. Those that came to Edinburgh College of Art are still used in classes today. Recently, the collection has also been used to teach embroidery skills to refugee groups, female prisoners, and others throughout our local communities. It is also being used in partnership with the Royal National Institute for the Blind, to try and discover the best way to create handling samples for people who are blind or visually impaired.

Touching Stitches runs from 28th November to 29th February in the University’s Exhibition Gallery on the ground floor of the Main Library. Open Mon to Sat, 10am to 5pm. Entry free, all welcome.