Hand & Lock : Embroidery Atelier tour

From the announcement in the Winter Newsletter:

Hand & Lock are London’s premier embroidery house providing embellishment services to the Royal Family, top European design houses, the Royal Armed Forces, Savile Row and members of the public. The long history of Hand & Lock can be traced back to 1767, when a young Huguenot refugee from France named M Hand came to London and began manufacturing and selling lace to military tailors. Later he incorporated the design and manufacture of military badges and uniform accoutrements. Officer’s dress uniforms were and still are highly specialised and require very specific embellishments. M. Hand & co became a trusted name used by Savile Row and Military tailors for over 200 years.

In the 1950s Stanley Lock was a talented embroidery designer at specialist embroidery house CE Phipps & Co. Upon the owner’s retirement in 1956, Stanley Lock bought the company and renamed it S. Lock Ltd. The newly formed couture house went on to work with couturiers such as Christian Dior, Norman Hartnell and Hardy Amies on gowns for the Queen, Queen Mother and later Princess Diana. The company was subsequently awarded the Royal Warrant in 1972.

In recent years clients requiring embroidery services have grown to include international fashion houses, emerging designers, interior designers, the Royal Forces, PR companies and costume designers for theatre, film, and television. Hand & Lock pride themselves on the fact that the design methods and embroidery techniques have changed very little since 1767.

Now, Hand & Lock are no longer just craftsmen and women but also teachers and promoters of the fine art of embroidery. With a long heritage to protect and timeless craft to preserve the team now operate classes around the world teaching the traditional skills of embroidery.

Please join us on a tour through this unique atelier in the heart of central London and learn about its history, examine pieces of embroidery and embroidery samples and discover the hidden secrets of gold work.


From the report in the Spring newsletter:

Continuing religious persecution after the St Bartholomew’s Eve Massacre forced many Protestant families to flee the Continent to live and work in London. In St Paul’s Churchyard John Florio advertised his language class as teaching the ‘best French as spoken at Blois’ to prepare Londoners for travelling abroad where almost no one spoke English. Whilst migrant silk weavers thrived in Spitalfields, M. Hand, a refugee from Flanders, realised that the concentration of too many lacemakers in the city meant he must develop a specialism.

Building on the tradition of Opus Anglicanum, hammering metal thread for use in embroidery, Hand established a successful business providing impressively decorated regalia not only for church dignitaries but also for the military and royalty.

The Lock component of the partnership came via the development of haute couture spearheaded by the Yorkshireman Charles Frederick Worth. The talented Stanley Lock produced sumptuous dresses to clothe Hollywood glamour queens such as Marilyn Monroe and Jane Russell in ‘Gentlemen prefer Blondes’. Lock’s royal commissions included the embroidering of the fine vertical lines of pearls and silver threads on Princess Anne’s wedding dress (14.11.73) and the ‘labour intensive and complex embroidery on the 139 metres of tulle’ that constituted Lady Diana’s wedding veil (29 July 1981).

On our tour Robert informed us of the wide range of work undertaken by Hand and Lock.
As well as specialising in bridal embroidery the firm promotes and teaches traditional techniques from Goldwork (the ancient art of using bullion in a variety of colours) to Handwork, Silk Shading and the French art of Tambour Beading in London and in San Francisco and Williamsburg in the USA. In 2000 the firm established the annual Hand and Lock Prize for Embroidery which has thousands of entrants creating the three competition pieces. The annual prize-giving, a key feature in the London fashion calendar, attracts designers, influencers and industry professionals eager to view the latest developments in embroidery.

Discussion on the tour ranged from mentioning bone needles found amongst Tutankhamun’s burial equipment to the Indian factory which has, for more than a century, been trusted to produce elaborate materials for Hand and Lock. Whilst designs are created by British individuals, the actual embroiderers in Margaret Street come from France, Italy or Israel as needlework is seldom taught in the UK. Of particular interest at the beginning of our visit were Nelson’s Orders, including the Imperial Order of the Crescent and the Order of the Bath, and then at the end to behold the computer-generated designs, the translation of artwork into digital embroidery.

The visit took place on Wednesday 6 February at 11am.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

 characters available

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.