The more than 1500 pieces of needlework in Washington National Cathedral tell the story of Christianity, America and the beauty of God’s creation.

The Cathedral’s needlework collection is arguably the most accessible of the building arts. The majority of the needlework is in needlepoint or petit-point, worked with bright-colored wool on canvas. Stitched by Cathedral supporters across the country, needlework is found on the kneelers, seat cushions and banners throughout the Cathedral.

Under ordinary conditions, needlepoint is durable and should last 100 years or more. But the Cathedral’s needlepoint, particularly in the great choir, is not used under ordinary conditions: multiple daily services are held year round. After several decades, the well-used kneelers begin to show age. Stuffing breaks down, surfaces become dirty, canvases become weak and stitches wear out.

The collection of diocesan cushions, representing every diocese of the Episcopal Church, are currently undergoing restoration. Most of the diocesan cushions were stitched in the 1950’s and are in desperate need of repair.

Thanks to the “Stitches in Sacred and Secular Spaces”symposium held in October 2014, as well as a funding appeal led by former Dean Gary Hall and Bishop Mariann Edgar Budde, 26 cushions have been restored and 40 additional cushions are in the process of being restored.

Whenever possible, the original needlepoint is saved. The cushion’s backing and stuffing are removed, the needlepoint surface is carefully cleaned, and the piece is re-blocked and/or inset into a velvet border to prolong use.

National Cathedral Tour: Needlework Examples