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Needlepoint/cleaning an altar rail at my church


Altar rail (covered)
Altar rail (covered)  
My mother gave a needlepoint altar rail in memory of her mother, to our church, 40 years ago. Fourteen ladies of the church did the work and it shows the symbols of each of the disciples  and the Lamb of God for Christ. It has never been cleaned and is attached to the wooden rail which is curved and long, around the main altar. . We are renovating our church to the original  design of 1892 and looks magnificent. I would like to have the needlepoint cleaned but need advice as to how to approach this. It can not be removed from the rail so it will have to be done in the sanctuary. I read one of your answers that recommended dry cleaning but would like a little more detail to search for the right person. (There is some wax on it in places but mainly, it  is just age dirty.)
I was thrilled to find your website and hope to hear from you soon. Mary

I am attaching an image but could send a better one of the needlepoint, if needed.

Hi Mary,

Sorry for the delay; I was out of town and forgot to turn on the vacation setting.

In the picture you attached, I'm guessing the alter rail is down in the distance...?

I'm divided on the melted wax issue.  Many will say you can put a paper towel over the wax spots and touch them with a warm iron to blot up the wax as it melts.  I'm just never sure that will get out all the wax.  If it is just a spot or two here and there, I would actually remove the small amount of affected stitching, and just restitch with new threads.  Dry cleaning is something I recommend kind of as a last resort, or as something for those situations where the time/expense of a proper cleaning is prohibitive.

As for the cleaning, something as prized as a custom alter rail really requires professional cleaning, but I would be hesitant to have it done in place.  Can you send me some more pics of the piece itself?  I'd be interested in close-ups of some of the general soiling, some of the wax spots, and a close-up of how the piece is attached to the rail.

If I can get a look at those, I can give you some better guidance on how to proceed.  


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Henry Babcock


I learned needlepoint, knitting, sewing, etc. from my grandmother over 35 years ago. I can answer most questions on the subject of needlepoint. I know about producing needlepoint as well as cleaning, repairing and restoring.

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Almost 40 years using needle and canvas.

AS Marine Diving Technologies, SBCC 1998
BA Environmental Studies, UCSB 1993

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