The World’s Largest Needlepoint, Vahid Saadati’s “Welcome Mat,” is making a stop here in Kingston. This weekend, August 26 and 27, 2022, the needlepoint, which depicts the word “welcome” in over 100 languages from Afrikaans to Zulu, including Sign Language, Braille, and Morse Code, will be on display at Stitch by Stitch, located at 550 Days Road.
According to a release from the store, this work of art was a labour of love for over two years by Saadati and 650 different volunteers, aged four to 84, who put in over five million stitches in 72 different yarn colours to show their love for Canada and to emphasize how welcoming Canada is. Stitch by Stitch said that they are looking forward to furthering Saadati’s message and are hoping to connect him with volunteers from the community to help add Indigenous languages to the still-growing piece.
In response to Kingstonist inquiries, Heather Dawson, co-owner of Stitch by Stitch, shared that this stop is not part of a tour or series of events designed to bring the needlepoint piece to the public.
“Mr. Saadati has been very cautious coming out of COVID, but is eager to have the First Nations panels prepared,” Dawson said. “He chose us because I have been chatting with him since 2019, and he loves the openness and positive attitude of our shop.”
The “Welcome Mat” will be available to view on Friday from 1 to 6:30 p.m. and Saturday from 9:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. at Stitch by Stitch.
“I couldn’t think of a better place to display the piece,” said Saadati. “The name of the store resonated with me — this is exactly how we have built this work: stitch by stitch. This work is important because it reaches out to and involves so many people of diverse ages, cultures, and religions in our multicultural society, which shows the fabric of Canada.”
According to the release, the “Welcome Mat” was recognized by the Guinness Book of World Records in 2000, and has been featured as the backdrop for his Holiness Pope John Paul II and World Youth Day in Toronto, as well as former U.S. President Barack Obama’s visit to Ottawa.
Organizers said that this is the first time the “Welcome Mat” has been on display since the onset of COVID-19 and is a reminder that it is time to return to putting out our own welcome mats, to recent refugees, immigrants, neighbours, and families we have been separated from for such an extended time. According to the release, Stitch by Stitch is excited to be able to display the “Welcome Mat” because, as they explain, “we are as welcoming and inviting as possible to everyone regardless of who they are. We believe that anyone who wants to sew and create should be able to regardless of barriers.”
Stitch by Stitch is a Kingston woman-owned business which has been supporting the community throughout the pandemic, beginning with education on mask production, donating over $30,000 in supplies to the community to be used to prepare masks, providing space to community members, and supporting fundraisers that feature stitched items, according to the release. In recent years the store has worked with RMC research teams, Queen’s Vogue Charity Fashion Show, Go With the Flow, Limestone Quilt Guild Community Quilts, and Grandmothers to Grandmothers.