The History and the Symbolism of the Grace Church Needlepoint Kneelers
Inspired by the famous needlework of the National Cathedral and a particularly beautiful Church in Connecticut, our dream of people’s kneelers, done in needlepoint for Grace church, took form.
The work was started under the guidance of Mrs. Otto G. Ptiz, who consulted with the best of local experts on techniques. Among our parishioners at the time was Mrs. Forest M. Clingan. Helen is an artist and teacher, and it was she who created our designs based on ancient Christian symbolism, using natural motifs – preferable ones that would be found in our locality.
The project was dependent upon gifts from those who were interested. Gifts of time, work and money from ladies such as Tiny Cole and Helga Mattson, who insisted that their enthusiasm was willing but their eyes were weak – all this with a lot of faith to back it up.
At that time Mrs. Pitz’ needleworkers were herself, Bertha Crockett, Eleanor Shelel, Marie Glaser; and eleven kneelers were completed.
Talk of “restoration” of Grace church again entered our church life and the needlework came to an end.
During this same period, Jeanie Cook designed, executed and installed kneelers for the choir as a separate and independent project. She was assisted by Bertha Crockett and Priscilla Jenkins.
In 1972, Mem Lemay revived the project for the people’s kneelers and faith and interest again bloomed. This time the project was made financially secure by a most generous gift from Susie Shield. So, in spite of the tremendous cost rise in cost of materials we were off and stitching again.
Then on August 1, 1976, more than three years later and several million stitches later, the project is completed. Thanks to Junior Warden, Jack Burcher, and his crew of Waldo Harrison, Warner Robins, Birdie Burcher, and Mem Lemay, they were installed to the glory of God, the beautification of Grace Church, and the joy and comfort of our church family. May we enjoy and cherish them in the years to come!
The following ladies worked constantly and met on Tuesday afternoons for instruction and fellowship during the three years: Susie Shield, Margaret Burns, Betty Richie, Bonnie Kiermaier, Annie Laurie Crawford, Louise Gallagher, Ann Elksnin, Sara O’Hara, Margaret Garrison, J.B. Vogeley, and Mem Lemay. They produced twenty-fice more kneelers bringing the total to thirty-six.
The cusion on the Bishop’s chair was made and given by Lila German in memory her husband the late Captain Jack German, who died while serving as Commanding Officer of the Coast Guard Base.
Because so many people have asked the same question, here are some vital statistics. Each kneeler has about 57,000 stitches, took and average of 150-160 hours to do, has a minimum replacement value of $250 and with care should last for many years.
SYMBOLIC DESIGNS by Helen Clingan
FISH One of the earliest and most universal of Christian symbols: 'Christ, the fisher of men."
STRAWBERRY Symbolic of Righteousness--"The fruit of good deeds."
POMEGRANATE Symbolic of Immortality.
POMEGRANATE Symbolic of the Resurrection.
HOLLY Symbolic of the crown of thorns. The red berries recalling the passion of Christ.
ROSE Symbolic of the Virgin's love and the Nativity.
WHITE DAISY Symbolic of the innocence of the Mother and the Christ Child.
SHAMROCK Used by St. Patrick as a symbol of the Trinity.
FIGS Symbolic of St. Bartholomew who, as Nathaniel, was chosen by Christ as he stood "under the fig tree."
LILY "Consider the lilies of the field, etc." Symbolic of the action of the Holy Spirit in our daily lives.
MUREX SHELL From the shield of Sr Lydia, who sponsored St. Paul and his disciples and gave them lodgings in her home when he went to Rome. She was also a "seller of purple dyes" used exclusively for robes of royalty and later by the princes of the Church. The dye was made from the murex snail.