Last April when I traveled to the Harlan United Methodist Church biennial quilt show, I visited Harlan Haus Antiques where I meet owner Karma Gottfried. I relate to her my interest in vintage textiles and antique sewing accessories. Karma shows me something special. It is a wooden board with a curved piece on one length side to snug up to your mid-section. In cursive writing it states “Use Corticelli Sewing Silk” and along the bottom inches 1-36 are engrained in the wood.
Karma tells me how she purchased it from a distant cousin of a woman whose grandfather had a tailor shop on West Main Street, a block west of Coney Island Hot Dog Stand. The man dies in the late 1930s and the tailor shop closes. His wife and daughter move all of the tailor shop supplies to their home where they are relegated to the basement not to see the light of day until the daughter dies a couple of years ago and her distant cousin sells the supplies to Karma.
Leaving Harlan House I couldn’t help but think of this family. They must have been on good terms with the Corticelli thread rep to be given such a nice practical advertising item. I could imagine the tailor sitting with light streaming over his shoulder, board on his lap, laboring over a fine hem with his needle threaded with Corticelli fine silk thread.
A few weeks ago I return and purchase the Corticelli board. Armed with the few details Karma provides, the search begins for the tailor via the Polk Directories at the main Allen County Library. In the 1927 edition Edward F. and wife Florence C. Schoch and William F. Schoch, tailors are located at 209 W. Main Street. Next stop: Find a Grave. There I find William died on March 1, 1935 at age 63, Edward dies in 1939 and his wife Florence in 1945 at 65.
I keep calling Karma to report my progress. She now remembers the granddaughter’s name is Marion and the distant cousin referred to Marion’s grandfather as “Willie”. So now the puzzle is why don’t I find any reference to William’s (“Willie”) wife and what was their daughter’s (Marion’s mother) name?
I ask Karma the obvious… Did she remember where the late Marion’s house was located? She did… somewhere on Fairfield, 2-3 blocks south of Rudisill Blvd. They built it in the 1920s and lived there all their lives. So it’s back to the Polk Directories. I randomly check the 1952, 1966 and 1986 directories to see if there is a “Marion” residing on Fairfield, south of Rudisill. Indeed there is: Marion B. Ehle, William F. Ehle and M. Katherine (ne’e Schoch) Ehle all resided at 4030 Fairfield. This is the block between W. Foster Parkway and Branning Ave: exactly two blocks to the west of … Born Again Quilts!
Now only two mysteries remain. Find a Grave did not have a photo of William Schoch’s grave. I haven’t yet discovered his wife’s name. Marion B. Ehle died Dec. 2, 2013 but they show “unknown” for her date of birth. Karma thinks she was in her 90s. Perhaps with some more digging I can find the answers but for now I am content to use her grandfather’s sewing board with my fine Corticelli thread to restore quilts back to their former grandeur!
Lois Eubank is the owner of Born Again Quilts, a restoration studio and quilt gallery and founder of LeftFest – Fort Wayne. The studio is open 5:30-7 p.m. T-W-TH, Saturday 9-2 p.m. and by appointment. She welcomes you to share your quilt and textile stories with her!