Known as “America’s First Lady of Stitchery” and the “Julia Child of Needlework,” Wilson was a key leader of the needlework revival that began in the 1960s. One of the most prominent and successful needlework entrepreneurs of the second half of the twentieth century, Wilson inspired a new generation to try their hand at traditional crafts that were long out of fashion.
Wilson was born in Tidworth, England, in 1928 and was raised in England, Scotland, and Bermuda. According to family tradition, it was Wilson’s mother who suggested she consider attending the Royal School of Needlework in London (RSN), a fateful decision that ultimately shaped Wilson’s life and career.
Founded in 1872, the RSN revived the art of hand embroidery that had almost disappeared with the rise of machines for textile production. The school quickly attracted students and staff. By the beginning of the 20th century, RSN employed about 150 women, who taught classes and worked special commissioned projects, such as the gold embroidery on Queen Elizabeth II’s Purple Coronation Robe of Estate. The project was worked during Erica Wilson’s time at the school (1948-1954), and it took a total of 3,500 hours to complete.