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Sew it begins: the Fulham Palace sewing bee

Meet the sewing bee, a group of volunteers who for 20 years have been sharing their skills and passion for needlework with Fulham Palace.

Our group was set up in the late 90’s when we received lots of costumes, distributed between the London boroughs when the Inner London Education Authority disbanded.

Hammersmith and Fulham Council asked Miranda Poliakoff (then Fulham Palace’s curator) if she would be interested in having the costumes at the Palace. She, Jenny Kershaw (then Fulham Palace’s education officer) and Esther Dean (a Fulham Palace volunteer with a BAFTA for costume design) chose clothes which were suitable for school sessions.

As a result of this, the sewing bee was set up to repair and alter these costumes, and later start making new outfits and carrying out other needlework projects.

We have made many costumes from scratch for children, who can really feel (and look) the part when they visit the Palace with their schools. These include Tudor, Roman and Viking outfits and Victorian mob caps which help to bring history to life.

Three children in period dress stand around a table with a globe on it

We also have embroidery sessions, allowing members of the sewing bee to really show of their skills and artistic flare. This began with a project to embroider the heraldic shields of all 90 Bishops; a project undertaken during the Palace’s 2006 National Lottery Heritage Funded restoration.

A close up of a piece of heavily embroidered yellow fabric

More recently, we have made kneelers for the chapel with advice and help of the Royal School of Needlework and NADFAS. These include two special golden kneelers, created for the bride and groom during weddings. We also embroidered postcards for the 2017 exhibition Fulham Palace through postcards, which celebrated the huge variety in our collection which feature scenes from the Palace.

As a group we are conscious that over the centuries many people will have sat around a table at Fulham Palace, working on sewing and embroidery. We very much enjoy carrying the tradition on for the future.

Upcoming project

Our next big project will be to make and embroider a new altar frontal for the chapel. If you enjoy embroidery and would like to join the sewing bee, find out more about how you can be involved by contacting Jean Shipton, education@fulhampalace.org