Over a year ago Sherri Kehoe of Indianapolis contacted me about her grandmother’s quilt (technically a knotted comforter) that was in dire need of restoration. Sherri knew I had other projects to complete but was willing to have me restore it no matter how long it might take.
The quilt arrives and I find it was created with knitted, polyester and upholstery fabric squares! One side is the synthetic fabrics strung together to create blocks. The other side is rows of upholstery blocks, some badly ripped and torn. Sherri wants me to save as much of her grandmother’s work as possible.
The analysis determines three upholstery blocks and a few knits need to be replaced. Seams also need to be re-sewn. Since most of my restoration work is done in cottons, I turn to my good friend Marcia Neeley who brings over a bag of knits, polys and upholstery fabric samples.
After removing the blocks the original fabrics are “fray checked” to halt their fraying before new fabrics can be sewn into place.
Many of the blocks repeat the same or similar color/design fabrics and were placed diagonally from each other making it necessary to find similar fabrics. One block needed to be replaced with a big bold red/orange/gold print. Marcia’s stash had a few identical upholstery samples of this color combo. One was used to replace an entire block another was partially used to replace a portion of another.
The quilt had a few blocks of blue Toile de Jouy fabrics (typically French country scenes). The Stash included several green and light red toiles that weren’t big enough to fit.
Sherri tells me her grandmother wouldn’t think twice of using two identical ones to create a larger block, and that block challenge is resolved!
The third block is replaced with fabric of similar color and size of design. Parts of the original block are used to plug in gaps in other blocks that needed only minor fabric replacement: a self-cannibalization!
The knit/poly side “remove and replace” goes well. Some of the knit fabrics have holes and thin thread is “woven” from side to side to bring the yarn back together to create an illusion.
All through the process photos are sent to Sherri so she can view and comment on the challenges the quilt presents and the progress made.
Once the work is complete Sherri agrees to share her thoughts on her grandmother and the quilt she made her.
Grandma Day’s story:
This is a short story about the quilt Lois restored for me. The quilt was made for me by my paternal grandmother when I was getting married in 1976. The quilt was used for many, many years by my family (and children). When the kids left the house I put it up in a closet with all its memories and torn/worn areas. As I was to turn 60 last year I started cleaning out things; getting rid of excess; and deciding on what I should hold on to as a family heirloom like my quilt. Why in the world I had stored it away for so long is beyond me.
My dad’s mother “Grandma Day” also known as Bernice Day was a big presence in my life growing up in Westfield, Indiana in the 60s – 70s. My grandparents were farmers until I was in late grade school age. Grandma loved to cook and share her household with family, friends and her grandchildren. I spent many nights there even as a teenager. At that time Westfield was a very small town where everyone knew each other. We all loved sports and on Fridays and Saturdays (during basketball season) my family and others would go back to Grandma’s house after a game for a cup of coffee and dessert. I remember her having a foot pedal sewing machine to use throughout my grade school times but for the life of me I really am not sure how she got into quilt making. Now that I am so much more “mature” I regret not asking more about some of the things that brought her joy and peace. So I can’t really share more than that on the quilt maker or design other than to say it brought me much joy as well in knowing she took the time to do this for me. If I would venture a guess it would be that she made it with the help of her Friends church women. I will continue to cherish it and one day will pass it on to my daughter for safekeeping.
Much thanks to Lois for her painstaking restoration of this beloved part of my life!
I want to thank Sherri for allowing me to restore it. Now that it’s back the way grandma intended, it would warm her heart to know that someday her great-granddaughter will be able to treasure it and hand it down too!
Lois Levihn is the owner of Born Again Quilts located at 4005 South Wayne Avenue. Studio is open on Wednesdays from 5:30-7:00 p.m. and Saturdays from 9-2 p.m.