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Civil War re-enactor Nick Leach is thrilled with his new camp bed cover.A TALE OF
QUILT AND COMFORT

It was the best of quilts, it was the worst of quilts. How else to describe a quilt, a knotted comforter actually comprised of the most precious embroidered prayer blocks, machine sewn around the edge to the top of the heaviest, dreariest gray comforter one can imagine?

Like Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde this piece was a juxtaposition of everything bland, ordinary and utilitarian, to sweet, charming, and soulful.

I'm not even certain where I found this piece decades ago. It strikes me like something I would find in the basement of an antique mall where everything not worthy of prime space is relegated. Every time I look at it a Tom Jones song goes running through my head "Please release me let me go...."

The prayer embroidered on the blocks isn't your typical "Now I lay me down to sleep..." This one is "Now I lay me down to sleep. Heavenly angels guard my sleep. Amen."

Sooner or later someone would look at this piece and see the same potential I did. That day was last St. Patrick's Day when Alice Rice visits my studio during J.K. O'Donnell's annual celebration. Alice is a southpaw master knitter. We share a love of fibers and textiles. I knew her late husband Micky long before she did for Micky and I were Franke Park Day Camp Counselors-in-Training as teenagers.

When I show Alice this hapless comforter, I could tell by the look in her eyes that she saw a better life for the blocks. I showed her soft green fabric and a coordinating stripe which together would better surround the blocks and provide a coordinating back.

This grandmother recognizes an–heirloom-of-the-future and the go-ahead is given.

First the project is put in Phyllis' hands to carefully unstitch the blocks from the gray comforter. Next the new sash and border pieces are hand-pieced into place. Once the top is complete and sandwiched the hand quilting begins. Quilting around the figures and hearts in the corners becomes a monumental challenge. The block fabric is thick and tightly woven. At least three needles are broken during the quilting process. Every so often I e-mail Alice a photo so she can see the progress. She is so thrilled; I whip my calloused fingers on.

Since the back fabric is a stripe, Alice requests stars for the sash and border pieces. I use a template of shooting stars with arcing lines of quilting to connect the stars.

Alice has exciting news of her own. She is going to become a grandmother for the fourth time come April! The quilt will make the perfect gift for the new bundle-of-joy.

In January Alice comes by to pick up the newly finished quilt now reborn. Alice can't wait to share it with family and friends.

Now this article is of two quilts/comforters. What is the fate of the gray comforter? It too has a new life. Civil War re-enactor Nick Leach will use it on his camp bed to keep him warm and dry.

So in this tale all's well that ends well!


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