Needlework Development Scheme


The Needlework Development Scheme was a collaborative project between art and design education and industry. Originally established in Scotland in 1934, its aim was to encourage embroidery and to raise the standard of design in Britain. Financed by J. & P. Coats, the Paisley thread manufacturers, the Scheme was organised by the four Scottish art schools, Aberdeen, Dundee, Edinburgh and Glasgow. Its collection of foreign and British embroidery was available to domestic science and training colleges, women’s institutions and schools, as well as art schools. By 1939, the Scheme had acquired some 900 embroideries but the outbreak of WWII closed the Scheme and the collection was retained by the four original art schools.

Glasgow School of Art was instrumental in re-starting the Scheme late in 1944. Its aims were the same as its predecessor, but expanded its remit to include other arts schools in the United Kingdom where embroidery was taught. In the years following the WWII, the Scheme became centralised and staffed with a qualified embroidery expert, a secretary and several practitioners. The Scheme commissioned the British designer Mary Kessell to prepare designs to be interpreted by embroidery artists in Britain, as the best needlework examples in the collection were foreign. The scheme was disbanded in 1961 when funding was withdrawn, although it was recognised that the NDS had achieved its aims. The NDS had amassed 3000 textile items by this time, which were divided and distributed around universities, organisations and museums including Glasgow School of Art, National Museum of Scotland, the Embroiderers’ Guild and the Victoria & Albert Museum.

We hold a number of publications by the Scheme. In particular we hold a number of issues of its journals And So To Sew and And So To Embroider. Our Archives and Collections also hold a number of NDS items.



  1. Apologies for the troubles you have been experiencing Kate, but all the links appear to be working fine from our end. I have emailed you a copy of the PDF file, which hopefully will make it easier for you to open.

  2. I attempted to go to several of the links that you have listed on your website and every single one that I tried to visit was unable to open. I think it’s a shame that this is the case because there are some beautiful examples in these bulletins that I would like to look at as I am sure others would as well. I tried several other ways of opening these documents and none of them worked. Could you help me with this?

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