I am honored to be working with the Saintly Stitchers of St. Martin’s Episcopal Church here in Houston on a multi-year project creating designs for their sanctuary.
Their mission statement:
To needlepoint works of art to beautify The Church to the Glory of God; to minister to one another as we encourage the religious education and spiritual development of the Stitchers and the congregation; and to incorporate and further develop our talents and skills in needlepoint.
Weekly stitch-in at St. Martin’s
The 70 men and women of Saintly Stitchers are well underway in their goal of covering each of the 287 pew kneelers in the church nave. (photo above)
The needlepoint on each tone-on-tone damask-like pew kneeler (14 count canvas) contains a different quotation from Scripture (stitched in gray with a black shadow to complement the slate floor in the nave). These are chosen from the scenes illustrated in the nearest stained glass window, beginning with the great Nativity and Crucifixion windows.
So far, the elements that complement the stained glass (that change as we go through the nave) are the tudor rose, the passionflower, and the dogwood flower.
These canvases are well traveled. The first photo is Barbara. Most stitchers take responsibility to complete one canvas, but she has begun the Herculean task of stitching many kneelers to perfection.
Paula in the Forbidden City
Another project is a single kneeler (approx. 5 feet by 18 inches) for the Patron’s Chapel. This small side chapel has no direct sunlight and the kneeler will be placed on the prie-dieu, reflective in theme and in palette of the fifteenth century Tyrolean altarpiece which hangs above it.
In the same order as the saints in the altarpiece, St. Peter on the left, St. Martin in the center, and St. James on the right, the kneeler features three shields, one for each saint, in the same order.
Because pilgrims traveled first to Rome to venerate St. Peter, then to Tours for St. Martin, and finally to Santiago de Compostela for St. James, the theme of pilgrimage is strong, hence the shells in the four corners. (The medieval pilgrims would often take a shell home as a remembrance of their pilgrimage, and is also a metaphor—the grooves in the shell lead to a single point – the tomb of St. James in Santiago de Compostela).
The shape of the shields was inspired by the quatrefoil shape visible in the wood carvings of the church. Each shield contain many symbols for each saint. The palette will match the altarpiece — predominantly golds, blues, charcoal gray, and touches of pomegranate red.
Because the kneeler is being created especially for St. Martin’s Church, and he is the patron saint of France, more fleur-de-lys are placed between and outside the shields.
The kneeler will rarely be knelt on, giving the opportunity to use silk fiber. It was my intention that the kneeler look as though it has been a faithful companion to the altarpiece for the last five hundred years.
Nearing completion. (The work of one stitcher!)