Soon after I opened the Born Again Quilts studio on South Wayne Avenue, Jean Wyss comes to visit. Jean who lives in Waynedale grew up in the neighborhood and is curious to see what new venture has taken over one of her childhood haunts.
Jean is a member and treasurer of The Questers a non-profit international organization founded in 1944 by Jessie Elizabeth (Bess) Bardens to encourage an appreciation of antiques and raises funds for the preservation and restoration of historic landmarks.
The Questers fundraising efforts left their mark in 2012 on such projects as the restoration of historic portraits, restoration and reframing of Walt Whitman documents, restoration of a tintype of Robert E. Lee’s home and the restoration of cemetery monuments. President Benjamin Harrison’s home in Indianapolis has been a recipient of restoration work over the years.
Upon seeing the bins of antique fabric, textiles, sewing accessories and the restoration work in progress Jean asks me to be a speaker at an upcoming Quester meeting. A few weeks later the members gather at the studio where I am reacquainted with former IPFW professor of interior design-textiles Janet Sylvester and Lois Horn who attended my presentation at the Harlan United Methodist Church Quilt Show three years ago.
The members were in for a real treat: quilt autopsies! One of the autopsies was a prime example of how NOT to restore a quilt. Someone took grandma’s Dresden Plate blocks from the late 1940s – early 1950s and decided to make a quilt of them. The choice of a poly-cotton bed sheet, (circa 1970s), the use of a quilted bed pad for batting and the use of 6 strand embroidery floss to clumsily gouge through the layers to “hand quilt” it in the most atrocious colors… One of the members asked me whether I was going to take it apart and properly restore it. I told them it was too good of an example of a restoration gone bad to do so. One can learn so much from other’s mistakes.
A few members brought in their own quilts that were also viewed and examined. Patterns, fabrics of certain eras and family history were discerned from them.
Later over homemade refreshments I learn Professor Sylvester will soon be sworn in as President of the State Quester organization. A quarter century plus year member of the group, Janet became interested in the Questers when she and her family lived in Elkhart and a friend invited her to the group. One meeting and she’s hooked! The camaraderie in discovering about unique antiques and preservation techniques fascinates her. When her husband’s pastorship is transferred to a Fort Wayne church a few years later to her dismay there isn’t a Fort Wayne chapter. Undaunted she starts a chapter with the required eight members and the chapter grows. As incoming state president one of Janet’s goals is to increase the number of chapters and the overall membership. Currently there are over 700 chapters comprised of 13,000 members spread throughout the United States and Canada. She also plans to focus on fundraising efforts in order to fund more restoration projects in Indiana.
If you have ever received a family antique or family heirloom and wanted to know more about its purpose or use, consider joining the Questers. To learn more about the Fort Wayne Chapter contact President-elect Janet Sylvester at: email@example.com or 260-338.2924. The national website: www.questers1944.org
Lois Eubank is the owner of Born Again Quilts a restoration studio and gallery located at 4005 South Wayne Avenue, Fort Wayne.