Needlework Development Scheme

Needlework Development Scheme publications, 1940's. Needlework Development Scheme publications, 1940's.

The Needlework Development Scheme (NDS) was a collaborative project between art and design education and industry and was set up in Scotland in 1934. The aim of the NDS was to encourage the use of embroidery and to raise the standards of (commercial) design in Britain. It was financed by the Scottish thread manufacturers, J. and P. Coats (based in Paisley).

The NDS was established in four Scottish art schools: Aberdeen, Dundee, Edinburgh and Glasgow. The NDS started a collection of historic and contemporary embroidery from around the world that could be used as a national teaching resource in Scotland. The company provided substantial funding (anonymously) and helped with the collection of embroideries via their mills in countries as far apart as Mexico and Japan.

During the 1930's the NDS concentrated on modern European designs and designing and by the end of the decade the NDS had acquired about 900 embroideries. However, following the outbreak of the Second World War (1939-1945) the NDS was closed and the collection was stored at the four art schools that had helped to set it up. The Glasgow School of Art was instrumental in re-starting the NDS in the latter half of 1944. Its aims were the same as before the war, but expanded to include arts schools and related institutions in the United Kingdom where embroidery and design were taught.  

In the following years the NDS became centralised and expanded its work. They, for example, commissioned the British designer May Kessell to prepare various designs to be interpreted by embroidery artists in Britain. The result was a touring exhibition of work that went to various venues in Britain. In 1961 funding was withdrawn and the Scheme was forced to close down. By this time the NDS had created a collection of about 3,000 textile items. This collection was divided and distributed among various institutes and museums, including Dundee University, the Embroiderers' Guild, the National Museum of Scotland (Edinburgh), and the Victoria and Albert Museum (London).

Digital sources:

Digital source of illustration (retrieved 4 June 2016).


Last modified on Thursday, 27 April 2017 18:25