Margaret Swain papers

Scope and Content

This collection contains notes, correspondence, photographs and typescripts of articles. It is arranged into the following subjects:

  • Styles of needlework
  • Needlework pictures and colifichets
  • Tapestries
  • Furnishings
  • Chair covers
  • Costume
  • Vestments
  • Needlework in country houses
  • Holyroodhouse
  • Mary, Queen of Scots
  • Needlewomen
  • Sources of designs
  • Canadian and American work
  • Miscellaneous subjects
  • Correspondence
  • Student and early notes
  • Bibliographical notes
  • Articles by Margaret Swain
  • Articles by other authors
  • Outlines for talks and lists of slides
  • Personal papers
  • Single volumes and boxes
  • Printed books with annotations or enclosures

Administrative / Biographical History

Margaret Helen Swain (1909-2002) was a historian of embroidery and textiles. The author of several books and numerous articles, she also lectured widely, and her papers reflect these activities. Her early publications were on Ayrshire needlework but she became an expert on embroidery in general and Scottish work in particular. Her books included Historical Needlework (1970), The Needlework of Mary, Queen of Scots (1973) and Scottish Embroidery (1986). Her advice was frequently sought by curators and collectors and she became a consultant to the National Museum of Scotland and the National Trust for Scotland. She was asked to help to improve the displays in the Palace of Holyroodhouse, which led to the publication in 1988 of her catalogue of the tapestries and textiles there.


The files are arranged in general subject groups, but there is considerable overlapping and material on a particular subject may be found in more than one file or group. Most of the files contain notes, photographs and correspondence. When searching the Finding Aid, 'Title' headings are those given to the files by Margaret Swain, but words and phrases in square brackets have been supplied. Dates given in the finding list should be taken as a rough guide only; much of the material is undated.

Access Information

Library open Monday to Friday 10:00 - 17:00. Please make an appointment with the library beforehand. Email

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