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The guild was formed in September 1906 at a meeting of sixteen ex-students of the Royal School of Art Needlework, under the name The Society of Certificated Embroideresses of the Royal School of Art Needlework. Miss Wade, head of the Royal School of Art Needlework was invited to be founder President, and Miss Scott who hosted the inaugural meeting and Beatrice Paulson Townsend, wife of W.G. Paulson Townsend, design master at the school, were invited to be vice-chairs. They separated during World War I but reunited after the war and began teaching embroidery to shell shocked and disabled servicemen as a form of occupational therapy.
In 1920 Louisa Frances Persel (1870-1947) was appointed as the first President. By the time of World War II the guild was well established and continued to promote the therapeutic value of embroidery.
From its centre in Walton-on-Thames, and around the UK and in the Republic of Ireland, the Guild works to celebrate and preserve embroidery's rich heritage, and to secure its living future as contemporary art and craft. The produces the Embroidery Journal.
The Guild's activities and events for adults and children (from beginner onwards) providing opportunities to enjoy stitching and to discover the history and traditions of this ancient and international craft. Through outreach programmes the Guild's education team brings the benefits of embroidery and its potential for creative and personal development to wide-ranging audiences, including minority groups, schools and youth clubs. The Guild has 270 adult Branches and Young Embroiderers Groups in the UK and Ireland, organised in 11 Regions, with a sundry range of educational and social programmes.
The Guild's centre at Walton-on-Thames is a registered museum and holds a nationally significant, global collection of embroideries from early times to the present day. The Guild stages historical and contemporary exhibitions in the UK and internationally, and a range of courses and workshops, and is a City and Guilds centre.
In conjunction with Search Press The Guild is a specialist retailer of books relating to embroidery, and books can be purchased on the Guild's web site. The Guild publishes the two leading embroidery magazines: "Embroidery" and "Stitch", and subscriptions are available online.