The Needlework Exhibition at historic Woodlawn, an annual celebration of the needle arts, features contemporary needlework from around the country. Visitors have the chance to view and purchase extraordinary needlework creations and enjoy a picnic lunch outdoors (or take it to go).
The 2021 Woodlawn Needlework Exhibition is open daily except Tuesday, 10:00 – 4:00, May 2 – 31. Purchase tickets online in advance. Tickets are $15, 5 and under free.
Woodlawn was originally part of George Washington’s vast Mount Vernon estate. In fact, Washington personally selected the site as a home for his nephew Lawrence Lewis and his bride, Martha’s granddaughter Nelly. Eleanor “Nelly” Parke Custis Lewis excelled at needlework and considered it a particular point of pride.
The Needlework Exhibition is a judged show that includes entries in 10 different needle arts categories, from beadwork to smocking. The annual event is organized and run by Nelly’s Needlers. The volunteer group supports and raises funds for Woodlawn through this exhibit and additional programming.
The works’ quality and complexity are impressive. Pieces range from beautiful to quaint, to eerie. Even though we are not needlework devotees, my friend and I were fascinated with the collection.
Works are hung throughout both the upstairs and downstairs rooms of the house, so you get a chance to explore this historic site while viewing the art.
2021 Woodlawn Needlework Exhibition
The 2021 Needlework Exhibition theme is “Hindsight 2020“, bringing focus to the historic year we just lived through. Works will “highlight the artists’ flow of emotions and reactions throughout this unprecedented time.”
In past years, lunch was served indoors in Nelly’s Tea Room, a pop-up cafe offering sandwiches, salads, quiche, and other light fare. In 2021, you can order a picnic lunch in advance and pick it up when you visit (from 10:00 – 2:00). The picnic lunch includes a sandwich or a chicken salad plate plus Martha Washington’s ginger cookies.
Enjoy your meal at the outdoor tables or take it to go. The exhibition and lunch make a wonderful day out with Mom or friends, and this year could make a perfect Mother’s Day outing.
After lunch, stop in the gift shop to purchase needlework items and delicious ginger cookies made with Martha Washington’s recipe. Proceeds from lunch, tips, and cookie sales all go toward preserving history at Woodlawn.
Frank Lloyd Wright’s Pope-Leighy House
The Needlework Exhibit is not the only reason to visit Woodlawn. During your visit, allow time for a tour of Frank Lloyd Wright’s Pope-Leighey House, which is a fascinating example of Wright’s Usonian design and is well worth a visit.
Pope-Leighy House Tours are $12 for adults, $7.50 for K to 12, 5 and under free. You can also reserve a private tour for up to 6 people for $50. If you don’t have time for a tour you can walk around the outside of the house and get a feel for Wright’s beautiful design.
See Fallingwater and more on a Frank Lloyd Wright Road Trip to Laurel Highlands Pennsylvania.
Visiting Woodlawn and the Pope-Leighey House
Both Woodlawn and the Pope-Leighy House are open 10:00 to 4:00 daily except Tuesdays throughout the month of May. Admission to the Needlework Exhibition is $15 for adults, $6 for K – 12, 5 and under free. Timed entry tickets must be purchased online, in advance. There are no on-site ticket sales.
The ticket price includes demonstrations, special exhibits, talks by local craft artists, and the chance to shop at the needlearts gift shop. Some workshops and events require reservations and an additional ticket.
Woodlawn and the Pope-Leighy House are at 9000 Richmond Highway in Alexandria, Virginia. Both properties are managed by the National Trust for Historic Preservation.
Find more local activities in our guide to May Events in Northern Virginia: Festivals and Fun Near DC.