Thanks to a persistent great-granddaughter, her determined granddaughter-in-law and the restoration skills used at Born Again Quilts, a century-plus old scrappy string comforter found its way under a Christmas tree.
Back in April of 2015 Judy James brings her late mother-in-law Garnett Repp James’ knotted comforter to Born Again Quilts. According to Judy the comforter was passed down to Garnett from Garnett’s mother Florence Cummins Repp (1885-1948). When Garnett (1916-2002) passes away the quilt is auctioned to family friend Janet Dunkin who uses it on a bed for several years until she decides it needs to be returned to the James Family.
So Christmas 2014 the family gathers and Judy asks who would like to become the new guardian of their Great-Great grandmother’s handiwork. Although they all agree the comforter should not leave the family, Judy’s oldest Granddaughter Devon Alexander is the only one to agree to become its safe-keeper.
Judy knows the quilt is damaged especially around the outer edges. She expresses her concerns to Janet who knows me from my speaking at the Harlan United Methodist Church biennial quilt show. Janet gives Judy who had no idea it was possible to restore a quilt in such condition my contact info and we meet to discuss what can be done to restore it. Examining the comforter we agree that simply cutting 4-6” off the sides would vastly improve it. The comforter fabrics include half-mourning and shirting fabrics, cadet and indigo blues, florals, geometrics and homespun. Due to their looser weave many of the homespun fabrics are deteriorated. In other places the fabric is just gone.
So after the “haircut”, the box of late 19th century scraps comes out and the replacement pieces are found. Replacing them isn’t difficult, just time consuming, and with other restoration projects all ready in progress, the work pace is slow but Judy is patient. Once the work is complete, it is time to rebind it. Judy hopes Devon would choose the fabric but as a newly married RN, her schedule didn’t allow for it, so Judy returns and does the honors picking a tone-on-tone green that matches a floral fabric found throughout the comforter.
So Christmas 2016 the James family gathers and each member opens their pile of presents so everyone can “ooh” and “aah” them. The comforter box is one of the last Devon opens and when she does it is an “OMG” kind of moment. Frankly she had forgotten about it and she was thrilled to find it in its restored condition.
Devon hasn’t decided whether to display it on their guest bed or keep it stored in the new cotton pillowcases her grandma provided for it. One thing is for certain it was a season of comforter joy for Devon!
Lois Levihn is the owner of Born Again Quilts a vintage textile shop/studio located at 4005 South Wayne Ave. She can be contacted at email@example.com or 260-515-9446.