In 1766, Martha Washington acquired from London upholsterer Philip Bell the materials needed to create "one dozn. Chair bottoms." Over the next thirty-six years, she carefully cross-stitched a scallop-shell design she herself possibly created. While she may have intended for the canvases to upholster slip seats, they were ultimately fabricated into cushions that were likely placed on Windsor chairs in the Little Parlor at Mount Vernon. This cushion is one of six in Mount Vernon's collection. Its yellow worsted wool casing, multicolor, hand-knotted silk and wool fringe, and woven silk tape also remain intact, making it a rare documented example of Martha Washington's needlework and original upholstery at Mount Vernon.


D-shaped chair cushion with rounded front, cross-stitched with an all-over, repeating shell design in shades of yellow and red multi-strand worsted wool and yellow silk threads on 9 to 10-count linen canvas; yellow worsted wool casing, bound with silk tape; multicolor, woven silk tape with hand-knotted silk and wool fringe applied to the upper front seam; linen backing; on the reverse of the cushion, at its upper corner on the proper left side, is sewn a length of yellow silk tape; on the reverse of the cushion, at its upper corner on the proper right side are strands of yellow sewing silk; the yellow silk tape tie that was attached here has become detached.






Wool, silk, linen


Overall: 2 7/8 in. x 19 in. x 16 3/8 in. (7.32 cm x 48.26 cm x 41.61 cm)

Credit Line

Gift of Mr. and Mrs. Ralph G. Newman, 1984

Object Number


Colors (Beta)

Mount Vernon's object research is ongoing and information about this object is subject to change. For information on image use and reproductions, click here.
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