Erica Wilson was a natural-born embroiderer with an innate sense of color and design. Her mother, grandmothers, and aunts encouraged her craft from the age of five. As an adult, Erica trained at the Royal School of Needlework, London, between 1945 and 1948, after the end of World War II. Designs were provided for students’ first few projects, but after that they were expected to complete designs of their own within certain parameters specifying materials and techniques. Classes often visited the Victoria & Albert Museum to seek inspiration and models. Like many of her classmates, Erica kept all of the work she did at the Royal School and used it for ideas throughout her life.  

This bargello spot sampler was probably one of Erica’s first projects at the Royal School of Needlework. The technique is relatively easy because of its geometric structure and gridded ground, but color combinations and changes in scale provide endless variety and drama.  

Gift of the Family of Erica Wilson 2015.0047.002 

One of the standard designs worked by all students at the Royal School of Needlework at the time, this crewelwork sampler was also worked early in Erica’s training. Crewel wool is easier to manage than finely spun silk. It brings to embroidery many different stitches and a freedom of design and scale. Traditionally applied to densely woven linen twill, it is not regulated by the underlying grid of the ground fabric.  

Gift of the Family of Erica Wilson 2017.0047.004 

Erica would have designed much of this silk and goldwork sampler herself, using prototypes she saw and sketched at the Victoria & Albert Museum. This technique is the most distinctive of those taught at the Royal School, requiring fine shading of silk threads and manipulation of a variety of metal-wrapped wires. 

Gift of the Family of Erica Wilson 2015.0047.003 

Erica stitched this sampler as part of training provided by the City and Guilds of London Institute, founded to protect and promote the standard of technical education in England. All students at the Royal School of Needlework who wished to receive its qualification to teach had to complete the City and Guilds course in addition to the training of the Royal School of Needlework. 

Gift of the Family of Erica Wilson 2015.0047.001