Updated: April 10, 2023.
Easter is also a perfect time to remember that the architecture and decoration of a church serve an important purpose too. They show us in glass, stone, and stitching, the stories of our Faith and of the Saints. This came to me most vividly when I visited the newer church next to the San Rafael Mission in Northern California. It’s decorated with lovely stained glass windows. There’s one for the patron saints of each of the California missions. They are each holding their mission. I thought how lovely, you could learn about the saints, the missions, and the early history of California just from those windows.
Prayer kneelers are another wonderful way to decorate your church. One of the things I loved best about my trip to England in 1998 was visiting churches and seeing all the lovely needlepoint kneelers. Kneelers is the term for the padded cushions or individual hassocks you use to protect your knees in church. If you don’t have kneelers and kneel on the floor, you get “chapel knees.”
In England, and increasingly in the US, churches do kneeler projects as a way to adorn the sanctuary. These projects involve the parish community and often interested stitchers outside the parish. Sometimes they are done for a special occasion, sometimes not. The needlepoint might be only for the kneelers at the altar rail, just in the sanctuary, or for every kneeler in the church. They might have a theme, or they might only have something similar along the edges; I’ve seen all kinds.
Recently, St. Luke’s Episcopal Church in Georgia completed their kneeler project and it was covered in the local paper. Needlepoint Now sometimes has wonderful stories about a kneeler project. St. Luke’s Lutheran, also in Georgia, has a delightful set of kneelers inspired by their stained glass windows. Noah’s ark is pictured below, created by Nancy Keating.
If you are not feeling energetic enough to design your own kneelers, an English company, Jackson’s of Hebden Bridge, has kits for individual kneelers that include the printed canvas, wool, and the high-density foam needed to finish them. The picture above is one of their finished kits. Their selection is huge and has many different styles in it. The company’s newest collection feature coronation kneelers. That may sound strange but there is a tradition of using needlepoint kneelers to remember important dates, past or present.
If you are interested in making kneelers, there are some wonderful books out there, mostly out of print. The New Church Kneeler Book, available used from Amazon is lovely. It’s got the information you need, and lots of pictures for inspiration. There is a book coming out in August, Kneeles by Elizabeth Bingham, celebrating this art.
The pictures throughout this post are from church kneeler projects throughout the country. Click on the pictures to go to the sites with more pictures of these lovely projects. If you want to see more pictures of kneelers and other church needlepoint, check out my Pinterest board.