Keepers of Athena's Thimble

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Founded:January 12, AS XIX
Heraldry Needed



The Keepers of Athena's Thimble officially came into being on January 12, AS XIX (1985 CE).

The Keepers of Athena's Thimble are the embroiders of the East Kingdom. Anyone who appreciates embroidery may become a member, and some members choose to panel their works in order to achieve rankings within the Guild's twelve categories of types of embroidery.


  • Guild Mistress: Mistress Briony of Chatham
  • Chronicler/Rankings Clerk: Mistress Amy Webbe
  • Web Minister: Mistress Ygraine of Kellswood

Guild Categories & Ranking

While not required for membership, the Keepers of Athena’s Thimble offers a ranking system for those who wish to set goals and measure their achievement within the craft, or who wish to get feedback about their work. The guild recognizes twelve categories of needlework, four levels of expertise within each category, and five levels of overall ranking within the guild. Evaluation is performed by an open forum panel of three or more guild members of journeyman or higher rank, headed by a senior member. Panels are held at SCA events. Anyone wishing to have a panel held at an event should email their request to the Athena’s Thimble email list.

The guild defines needlework as an embellishment or addition to existing fabric made with a needle and utilizing thread, fabric, or other textiles. The only exception is punto in aria and Tenerife needlelace, where the entire piece is created with a needle, but no ground textile is used.

Categories Categories are groups of embroidery styles that have a basic factor in common, either in the method of working or in the final effect. The categories of needlework recognized by the guild are:

  • Applique (inlay and onlay)
  • Monochrome Embroidery/Blackwork (blackwork, speckled blackwork)
  • Canvaswork (needlepoint, Florentine)
  • Couching and Laidwork (excluding metallic threads)
  • Counted Thread
  • Free Embroidery
  • Lacis
  • Metal Thread (including couching of metallic threads)
  • Needlelace (reticella, tenerife, punto in aria)
  • Openwork (hardanger, hemstitching, drawn and pulled work, cutwork)
  • Padded Work (stumpwork, quilting variations)
  • Pleated Embroidery/Smocking

A form or technique is a single style within a category. For example, counted thread is a category based on the method of working...the needleworker counts the ground threads to determine where to put the stitch. Cross-stich and pattern darning are forms within the category. Padded work is a category based on effect...the surface of the fabric is altered by adding layers; quilting and stumpwork are examples of techniques within the category.

Expertise Levels Within any category, the guild recognizes four levels of expertise: Working Knowledge, Competence, Period Competence and Expert. Definitions of required pieces are listed later.

  • Working Knowledge consists of a basic understanding of a form within the category and the skills required for it, as demonstrated by a finished sampler or a basic piece.
  • Competence is an intermediate technical understanding of a form within the category with proven level of skill in execution, demonstrated by a completed piece of higher caliber. Modern pieces may be used for competency ranking. The embroidery on a piece paneled for competency must be completed, however if the embroidery is going on another object (such as a garment or cushion) the object does not have to be completed.

Panelers seeking Working Knowledge and Competency rankings may present their work at any panel, with no prior arrangements.

  • Period Competence demonstrates technical competence in a form, as well as an understanding of how the form was used in period. The item being paneled must be fully completed and made, as much as possible, of period materials. Written documentation should be provided, however it is not judged separately and does not need to be “competition-level” documentation. In addition to the quality of the embroidery, the authenticity of the context and aesthetics of the piece are also considered. The panel will include an informal discussion about the item and how the form was used in period, and may include Q&A from the panel.

Competence must be achieved in a category before Period Competence can be attempted.

The same piece may be used for competence and period competence as long as the piece is paneled for the two rankings at different panels, and sufficiently added to/completed in between the panels. For example, one could use a single blackwork cuff for competency. A shirt with the same cuff and its mate, and a blackwork neckband can be paneled for period competence when completed. Presenting the same item with documentation is not sufficient addition/completion.

It is generally discouraged for one person to panel for both competence and period competence in one category at the same panel. However, in some cases a new guild member may already have been doing work in a category for a long time. If two separate items are provided and all other criteria are met, the senior member can use her/his judgment regarding giving both ranks at once. It is strongly recommended that those wishing to panel for Period Competence inform the Senior Member running the panel ahead of time. These panels take a little longer, and it may not always be possible to accommodate them. In addition, a Senior Member may decline to run a period competency panel if s/he does not feel their knowledge of the category is sufficient.

Expert rank is an advanced understanding of numerous forms in the same category, with a proven ability to execute them to near perfection. This rank is achieved by completion of a masterwork in the form, as well as several supporting pieces also done in the same category. The number and scope of these varies depending on the category; the guildmistress can help in determining the makeup of the supporting work. Supporting pieces do not have to be new pieces, in fact it is most desirable for the member to show their progression in mastering the form over the years. The member must also have written documentation of the master work and be prepared to discuss and answer questions about the pieces and the needlework form in period. Members must attain Craftsman rank (see below) before an expert rank in any category may be attempted.

Anyone wishing to begin the process of attaining an expert rank should contact the guildmistress first. The guildmistress does not have to “approve” the member’s attempt, however a discussion is needed to ensure that the scope of their work (including master work and supporting pieces) and knowledge of the category is appropriate. Expert panels are convened separately, and set up ahead of time so that as many Senior Member as possible may attend. More details can be found below under “panels”.

Guild Tokens Each needlework category is “assigned” a semi-precious stone, and a bead of that stone is given to all members who attain competence ranking in it.

  • Applique - Smokey Topaz
  • Blackwork - Red Jasper
  • Canvaswork - Mother of Pearl
  • Couching and Laidwork - Adventurine
  • Counted Thread - Rose Quartz
  • Free Embroidery - Striped Onyx or Creamy Jasper+
  • Lacis - Garnet
  • Metal Thread - Green Agate
  • Needlelace - Amber
  • Openwork - Carnelian
  • Padded Work - Amethyst
  • Pleated Embroidery/Smocking - Onyx

In addition, those attaining period competency are awarded a pearl to accompany the stone for the category. Expert ranked members are awarded a Lapis Lazuli stone to display with the stone for the category. +Due to availability issues, this stone was changed in 2013. Either is appropriate.

All guild members are encouraged to wear our guild badge, listed here under heraldry.


Though members are not required to participate in the ranking system, the guild does recognize five ranks based on demonstrated expertise. They are: Apprentice, Journeyman, Craftsman, Artisan, and Needlemistress/master. New members to the guild are Apprentices; this level is open to anyone with an interest in the needle arts. Journeyman requires ranking in four of the needlework categories recognized by the guild, including competence in two. Craftsman requires ranking in eight categories, four of which must be competent. Artisan requires ranking in all twelve categories, with competency in eight. Needlemistress/master requires expert rank in at least four categories, competency in at least four categories, and working knowledge in the remaining four categories.

More Information

Guilds of the East Kingdom
Kingdom Guilds: Arachne's Web Lace Guild, Brewers' Guild, East Kingdom Royal College of Performers, Gilded Pearl, Guild of St. Mark, Herbalists' and Apothecaries' Guild, Keepers of Athena's Thimble, Known World Aviculturists Guild‎, Metalsmiths' Guild, Saint Bavon's Company of Falconry, Soothsayers' Guild, Worshipful Company of Narrowworkers

Other Information: Local Guilds, Former Guilds

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