Silk shaded rose completed as part of the RSN Certificate

RSN Silk Shading – Assessment and Comments

Since originally posting this article, I have also been in contact with the RSN Office. I have arranged to meet up with them and discuss the points made in this post in more detail when I’m next back in the UK. The moral of the story – don’t suffer in silence, and speak up! The office is there is help you, so use them! They want you to get the most out of the course, and it’s up to us as students to make that happen. 

RSN Silk Shading Assessment

I have said before that I felt with this piece more than others, that it would have been a good idea to complete it as an intensive. In the very least, I wouldn’t have spent so much time on it, and would have gained a similar result. Despite the ‘intensity’ of the ‘intensives’, I do think they have an advantage, and I do wonder if you actually get more out of the teaching and learning than what I did.

Despite the result, this is still my ‘favourite’ piece from my Certificate.

As with previous assessments (you can read about my Jacobean and Canvasworkassessments), I’ll go through the various criteria, comments, and my thoughts too!

First Impressions

Here I scored ten out of twelve – not too bad!

The comments were that the silk was clean, however ‘alien fibres’ were present. They suggested using tape to remove them. I was a little confused on this, as I did do this and the tutors on the day (one of whom assessed it!), were happy with this. And on return of it I am still at a loss as to what they are alluding to here.

The other comment was based on the quality of the thread, and is something I do probably need to be more aware of. The comment was that the thread condition on the centre of the flower was good, however it was worn on the leaves.

So remember – use short lengths!


I scored full marks for this one. They liked the contrast of the black fabric and the bright pink flower, and my colour shades were well chosen. An interesting comment I thought was that a ‘sense of realism’ has been achieved! An interesting comment which doesn’t seem to be consistent with future comments!

Stitch Technique

Here is where it all goes a little pear shaped. For this I only scored twenty-six out of thirty-two.

Stitch Length

With regards to stitch length – it is ‘generally good’, however towards the centre it was a little long. I found this point particularly perplexing, as I had been told in class that is where my stitch length was correct! So if this is another case of asking different people and getting different responses, I’m not sure!

Stitch Direction

My stitch direction was ‘correct within the design’, however on my turnovers, my stitches were ‘too straight’. Again, I’m disappointed this was never brought up in class, as it is something I would have corrected. So I guess more practice is required with turnovers, and getting the feel for what happens with the petal or leaf in this situation.


In terms of blending, the comment was that the rows blend well (yay! a constant struggle for me!), however towards the centre the white and pink colours are a little blocked. This does seem to be in opposition to a future comment made, so stay tuned for that one!


There were no over or underworked, ‘padded’ areas, and they made the comment that this was an achievement as black is quite difficult to work on.

The remaining comment here was that on the overlapping areas, at times the black fabric showed.

There seems to be two different thought schools on where to place the split stitch line over already worked areas. The perhaps ‘older’, and original instruction I was given, was that the split stitch needs to be next to the existing stitching. The perhaps ‘newer’ instruction, and one I adopted after Jessica commented and helped out, is that the split stitch should sit on top of the existing stitching. This is also the comment made in the assessment, so I’m going with that from now on!

RSN Silk Shading assessment and detail of turnover



For this I scored a total of fourteen out of sixteen. My problem here was that there were a few ‘nibbled edges’ on the flower petal. I know in one of the petals this is the case, and this was brought up in class. So I can’t complain about that! I did make the decision at the time to live it, which I now have to do! The reason for leaving it was that it would have required unpicking at least one petal and the split stitch line, to then move the edge slightly due to the damage in the silk.

I think my main problem with this in some areas was that I resisted working upside down on the flower until right at the end. A big mistake! Not only are you leaning over your work, but I also found it difficult to really know where that split stitch line was.

So, a few lessons learned here!


This is where I was most disappointed, as throughout the whole working of it I was told I was doing this well! For this I only scored seven out of twelve. It is also not in line with the ‘sense of realism’ comment made!

I apparently overused the paler pinks, and, where it is confusing with an earlier comment, shouldn’t be scared of jumping from light to dark without blending if that was what was in the photograph.

I was also, up till this piece, led to believe that showing development throughout a piece as being a good thing. However, given the comment on the second petal being ‘too pale’ (which I noted and commented on as evidence of improvement throughout), they really didn’t like it. So perhaps it is always a good idea to re-stitch if you feel you could do better!

So some disappointing comments, and I will have to seek further tuition on how to improve on this in the future.


My least favourite part!

I was shown a different way of doing the herringbone which I found was time consuming and difficult. The overall aim was to create an extra strong and tight herringbone stitch. I also got completely lost on the corners, and failed quite badly at greatly crisp corners!

Adding French Knots to a silk shaded flower was a positive addition on the RSN Silk Shading Assessment


Overall RSN Silk Shading Assessment

So, at the end of all that, the result was 78%. I know others have been thrilled with this type of mark. I’m disappointed mainly because of the ‘surprise’ nature of the comments. Some I was expecting, others not.

Their final comments were that it was evident that a lot of work had gone into this piece. I understand the principles of silk shading, and more practice will refine my skills. And they liked the French Knots –  a lovely addition!

As I said before, this is still my favourite piece! And it still gets lots of ‘wow’s’ whenever I show it to people. So assessment wise, I’m disappointed, but overall, I am quite pleased with it.

Completed RSN Certificate silk shading

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34 thoughts on “RSN Silk Shading – Assessment and Comments”

  1. It sounds like your frustration is with the inconsistent teaching rather than the embroidery and that is the RSN’s issue to sort out. Just try to love your beautiful stitching. :o)

    1. You are right Alex – it is the inconsistent teaching/lack of that I’m frustrated with rather than anything else. I still love this piece, and as my first ‘real’ silk shading piece I’m still very fond of it, despite what the assessors said!

  2. Hmmm. It does seem as though the right and left hand weren’t communicating at the RSN, and that’s a real pity after all your efforts!

    But regardless of what the assessor said, it’s a stunning piece of work!

    1. I guess that is a reasonably common trait amongst such organisations. I just wish I hadn’t spent so many months agonising over it and trying to get constructive feedback. In the end I don’t think it would have changed anything! And as someone once said to me – just because it doesn’t tick all the RSN boxes, doesn’t stop it being a beautiful piece. And there will be other silk shading pieces to complete and build upon this experience!

  3. Oh, I am so sorry Catherine! But, not suprised at all. My advanced silk shading was marked by the same duo and a similar disappointing experience. I did chase it up with the RSN and it was unfortunately never resolved. It meant that I lost so many points on that single piece that I ended up with a merit instead of a distinction on my diploma. To give you an idea of the unfairness: I did a combination of advanced silk shading and applique. Points were withheld because I used the wrong!!! bondaweb (it shows a honeycomb structure when used with sheer fabrics). Why did they never say so in class? Why was I instructed to buy it where I bought it? Due to the construction of the piece, I had to silk shade through 7 layers of fabric. This meants that some very fine details on the face couldn’t be achieved. That was not a problem according to my tutors. You guessed it, it was a major problem when the piece was marked. Now, with years of experience under my belt, I can see that the whole set-up of the piece was wrong and should have been approached much differently. Unfortunately, not all teaching tutors have the same amount of experience with all the techniques they do have to teach. Not good when you regard the amount of money we have to spend for the priviledge of being taught at the RSN!

    1. Thanks so much for sharing your experiences Jessica! Unfortunately I don’t think it is uncommon – some students have said they have on more than one occasion been reduced to tears because of the assessment, and how inconsistent it is with the teaching. I can now see where I could have done things differently, so whilst I don’t have the wealth of experience you do, I guess it is just a stepping stone in the learning of the technique. But frustrating also, as like you, this has cost me a distinction! I’m sorry to hear that chasing it up didn’t result in any changes. I suspected so much, which is why I will just move on!

  4. The finished piece is beautiful and I’m so sorry the evaluation was so inconsistent. It’s quite clear that the examiners didn’t take their job very seriously, given the illogical combination of comments that went with the scoring. I’m so glad you still love your finished project. The beauty of what you make is what matters most.

    1. Thanks for such kind words Tony! I sometimes wonder if it is a case of too many cooks. But, there is always room for improvement, and that is what I need to take from it! That, and enjoy the finished piece!

  5. And there was I thinking how well you had got the turn of the petal. I think that you have just grounds for an appeal if you were doing what the tutors said. I think it is stunning and I hope you do more.

  6. I am so sorry to read about the inconsistencies in the assessment and the teaching. I don’t know whether it is worth talking to the RSN education office about it, or whether nothing will come of it as Jessica has said. I don’t know whether the RSN is aware of these problems and whether they are inclined to solve it.
    I think you are right about doing this kind of project as an intensive will help. I will try and plan my module so I know exactly what I will be doing and get on with it. So I need to know all about stitchlength, nibles, split stitch on our next to previous petals etc. Your assessment has got me worried though,
    I do hope you will be able to be proud of your project despite the assessment! It looks amazing!

    1. I didn’t mean to worry you Marlous! I do think that quite early on when I was concerned about the (lack of) progress and tutoring I should have ‘changed days’. We will never know if this would have helped, so there’s not point dwelling on it. I think if you have a variety of different tutors and advice, you will hopefully get the ‘right’ instruction to proceed with it. But I am still proud of it. One day it will be framed to hang on the wall!

  7. I think you should complain. The comments seem unfair in light of the teaching and I’ve read other students complaining that one tutors says one thing and another says another. At least this needs highlighting to the School. From my amateur perspective, I think the piece is stunning and I love your RSN posts. Looking forward to the final module!

    1. Thanks for your encouragement Wendy! The innumerable ways of doing things is something I think you just have to get used to with the RSN. I’ve also had the same tutor give me three different ways of doing the same thing within a couple of hours. Everybody has their own ways of doing things, an it’s just up to us to work out what works best for us, and combine the various pieces of advice. But, onwards and upwards!

  8. I can understand your frustration at the differing standards between tutors and examiners, particularly when it is so expensive. I feel they should at least be informed of the issues, even if only for future students. I think it’s a stunning embroidery, something to aspire to 🙂

    1. Thanks Margaret. I still love the piece, it’s just the differing opinions and standards which has me frustrated. I will consider doing something, but I think at this stage there is probably not a lot of point. Perhaps on my return to do my next piece I should consider speaking in person to someone. It’s probably better done that way than via email!

  9. Your Rose is so beautiful! I would write to the RSN, because it will make you feel better to report their need for improvement. ? I did that last year, with my work, and it helped me so much in getting on. You spent a lot of money to take that class, and I don’t think you got your money’s worth, so they need to know! ?
    I ❤️ your stitchery!

    1. Thanks Kathy! Sometimes venting our frustrations is a good way to move forward 🙂 I’m glad it helped you. In our own assessment we are able to give some points on the teaching, which I’ve done. Whether it is ever read I don’t know – I suspect probably not. I think perhaps chatting with them in person might be the way I move forward with it in due course.

  10. I can hear your frustration in your words, but you did a lovely job on the rose. I, too, would be dismayed if I was told one thing by the teacher(s) and then something else by the assessors. For a first piece of shading, it’s obvious that you learned a lot. If you keep going, you’ll get even better.

    1. This piece was a big learning curve for me. I’d done a couple of kits, but have never before had to choose colours and where to put them. So in the very least I did learn a lot, regardless of the tuition and assessment results. Now it is time to practice some more! I can see already where this needs to be improved, and practice will help me move forward!

  11. I am at best an amateur embroiderer, but I do appreciate beauty. This piece jumps off the fabric with realism, the petal folds exactly imitating nature. Not only that, it has the freshness and vivacity of an impressionist piece.
    I’ve long held a view that thread is a medium, just like paint and what you create can be bound down by rules and techniques or be alive and free with creativity. Simply said, I love the piece

    1. Thanks Prue! Such a lovely thing of you to say. I too love this piece. I do think it is quite realistic. And whilst there are defiantly areas of improvement to be made, for my first effort I’m still quite pleased!

  12. I think your rose is stunning, I followed it’s progress and was intrigued with each step. Although the assessment was a bit harsh, I would still be very proud and pleased with the end result. You can’t please everyone, some will always criticise.

    1. Thanks Laraine, and thanks so much for taking the time to stop by and comment! It was an interesting learning process, I know a lot more about colour and shadows now! Still much to learn and practice of course. I’m quite pleased with my rise – it’s still my favourite piece!

  13. Thank you Catherine for sharing your results and I am sorry they are not what you expected. I really learn a lot from your comments and thoughts, so please know that you are making a difference. I will be turning my piece around now!

    1. I’m so glad you find my posts useful Sally! I do hope to help others in some way if they choose to do the course, or any technique or project really. There’s good and bad, and it’s wise to give everyone a balanced view I think to help everyone make the best decision for them. And hopefully we can learn from each other in the process. Good luck with your piece!

  14. I thought this was a beautiful piece of work when I saw you handing it in at the RSN and am very surprised at some of the feedback you were given – such a shame after all the effort. I know what you mean about some of the tutor feedback – I sometimes think that they are more interested in boosting your moral at the time rather than being critical about the stitching. I feel that each course should have an introductory lesson about the techniques to be covered as when you are ‘learning on the go’ you often miss out on the ‘tricks of the trade’ unless you encounter a problem. Much of my learning has been gained from others, like yourself, posting about their experiences.

    1. I agree with you on these points Deborah! I actually wonder if a better approach to most of the techniques would be to hand in a sampler worked over say two to three classes, and a much smaller ‘design’. This way we would learn the technical aspect before putting it into place, but still have the design experience. It would also highlight to the RSN how well the basic techniques were being taught on the sampler. I too have found them quite reluctant to pass on constructive criticism. I guess it’s a balance for the, between encouraging and pointing out areas of improvement. And possibly one that needs to be revised! At least we have other ways of sharing our learnings and passing knowledge around.

  15. You’ve done a really good job and I’m so pleased you love the piece, that is the most important thing.

    Regarding the problems with inconsistencies in remarks, especially between the tutors and assessors, I think you should officially inform the RSN. If this is a consistent problem they need to be made aware of it, and that requires everyone who has the problem to say something. It sounds to me as if the assessors and tutors are not communicating with one another and, especially given the money spent, you have a right to expect better.

    At the same time it can be hard for tutors to know how critical to be, and some will tend to be more so than others. Different students will likely want different things. Thus it might help if you inform them that you want to do the best work/get the highest marks you can, that you want them to be critical. That is, try to push them into pushing you.

    1. Thanks Irene for your comments! I’m glad I still like it – regardless of the marks, there is a lot of work involved!
      You are absolutely right about everyone who encounters this problem needing to do something about it. It does seem to be something which gets commented on (possibly not always ‘publicly’), all too often. I’m going to try and meet with them when I am next over there, as I’ve got a few things I would like to ‘air’ with them.
      Deborah made a good point, in that some tutors seem to want to only give your positive points and keep you thinking positively about the whole experience. I definitely got better at saying what I needed to achieve each day (as I got sick of getting no where class after class). But I like your idea of voicing exactly what I want to get out of the module as a whole. I will keep that in mind.
      Thanks so much for stopping by and commenting!

  16. The more I read about both your and Marilou’s experience the more I’m convinced that these classes should only be done as intensives. I’m also coming to the conclusion that this program might not be for me. I think I’ll stick to getting my Japanese Embroidery certification instead.

    1. Your work is incredible but the Japanese Embroidery is very different and not something I think I could do you! I wish I had done them as an intensive, for a variety of reasons. So I agree, I’m sure for some people they work better in term time, but I do think the intensives are a better way and I wish I’d done the last three pieces that way!

  17. Catherine–
    I’m with you – it was the judges and not you. You could only do what you were taught and if someone took issue with your work they can only look back to themselves. So maddening. I think your work is wonderful. I’m just beginning silk shading and taking up embroidery again after 40 years. I got into crystal bracelets and want to incorporate crystals into my embroidery work. You can imagine the learning curve. Some of it has come back but I need tons of practice. Thank you for sharing your work and knowledge. I was wondering what RSN cert would be like and you pretty much summed up what I was thinking. Thanks again!

    1. Ann, thank you for your encouraging words, it reminds me that it’s not all about the result we get at the end, the journey is just as important.
      Good luck with your work, it sounds like you are creating some wonderful pieces. It’s great to hear you have come back to embroidery, but are also exploring how to combine your two crafts.
      If you think I can help in any way, please let me know, and enjoy!

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