Swain, Margaret (1909-2002)

Margaret Swain, 1909-2002. Drawing by Elizabeth Blackadder (b. 1931). Margaret Swain, 1909-2002. Drawing by Elizabeth Blackadder (b. 1931). National Galleries of Scotland, acc. no. PG 3187.

Margaret Swain (née Hart) was an English textile historian, who was particularly interested in embroidery and the social/economic factors behind its production and use. She was married to Richard Swain (a bacteriologist), who worked at Edinburgh University.

Following a visit to an exhibition of Scottish whitework in the Signet Library, she discovered there were no academic publications on the subject, so she carried out her own research and in 1955 published her first book about textiles, which was entitled The Flowerers: The Story of Ayrshire White Needlework. It was followed by Historical Needlework (1970), Figures on Fabric (1980), Ayrshire and other Whitework (1982), Scottish Embroidery: Medieval to Modern (1986), Embroidered Stuart Pictures (1990), and Embroidered Georgian Pictures (1994). She also published articles in journals such as Apollo, The Connoisseur, Costume, Country Life, Embroidery, Furniture History and The Times.

Swain was involved in various exhibitions of historical clothing and embroidery, in both the UK and the USA. In 1981 she received an honorary MA from Edinburgh University, and in 1989 an MBE for her work on embroidery and tapestries.


National Galleries of Scotland online catalogue (retrieved 1st July 2016).


Last modified on Tuesday, 02 May 2017 16:34