Quilters aid in historic flag restoration to complete display for Lincoln’s Birthday

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[February 13, 2021] 

The 161 year journey of an historic Abraham Lincoln related flag is almost at its end. The flag’s origin was in Middletown, Illinois. In 1860, members of the community sewing group created the wool flag that was draped over the shoulders of Abraham Lincoln in a parade in Springfield.

The Lincoln Heritage Museum (LHM) on the campus of Lincoln College, has overseen in detail the flag’s restoration, chosen a place of honor and had a proper case created for its display.

Now in 2021, the flag can be seen in all its original form and glory. This unique exhibit opened on February 12th in honor our 16th President, Abraham Lincoln's birthday.

Backing up a bit, this treasure was tucked away for over a century and then was donated to the Lincoln Heritage Museum.

As we continue down the arc of the flag's life, it was in a deteriorated condition when received by LHM, requiring restoration before it could be displayed. Funds were raised throughout Logan County, and it was sent to Indianapolis for restoration.

The plans to display it continued with a spectacular case built by local wood worker Jason Hoffman.

The only task that remained was attaching the flag to a foam core covered by a special cloth. That undertaking was done on Wednesday, February 10.

Members of a local quilting group “Quilters at Heart” volunteered to bring their exceptional sewing skills to the LHM to undertake sewing the flag to a foam core that would then be placed in the display case just in time for the opening of the new exhibit.

“Quilters at Heart” began in 1982. The group is dedicated to the art of creating quilts. They are all excellent at what they do. The quilts they create are not just for themselves, but are gifts for family members. They are all works of art.

The group has a history of donating their creations to worthy causes such as veterans groups and Head Start. The quilts are also donated to local funeral homes to serve as “passage quilts” to comfort family members of the departed.

Interim Director of the Lincoln Heritage Museum Olivia Partlow contacted Heather Barrick of Indigo Quilt Studio in Lincoln to inquire if she or some of the quilters she knows would be interested in sewing the flag to the foam core as the last step of creating the flag display. Heather put Olivia in contact with “Quilters at Heart” and they quickly volunteered to undertake the task.

Wednesday morning Jenna Michalsen, Pam Schreiner, Andrea Tibbs, Carla Ackerman, Nancy Robbins, Margie Sheley, and Maggie Knollenberg arrived at the museum ready to sew.

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The group discussed the flag and how they intended to proceed. They brought years of exceptional sewing skills to the task at hand. After some back and forth, the group decided what needles to use, the thread color and width, and most importantly the type of stitch. When all of that was worked out, they sat down and began the process. A whip stitch was used.

The flag had been attached to a handling edge specifically added by the restoration company in Indianapolis. This insured that at no time was the flag touched by hands or needle and thread. The sewing group also wore gloves so that no one inadvertently touched the flag. Best museum practices were adhered to so that the flag was isolated from the sewing process.

The crew sewed a continuous stitch along the top of the handling edge, along the side, and at the bottom. The flag was now firmly in place on the foam core.

When the flag is placed in display case created by Jason Hoffman of Hoffman Design Studios, none of the stitches will be visible.

The whole sewing process took a few hours. As the work progressed, the seven women kept up a running commentary about what they were doing. “We get into a rhythm when we work on a quilt, and a conversation goes on to pass the time,” said Andrea. One wonderful note is that Andrea Tibbs lives a stone’s throw from Middletown, so the final step in the process of restoring the flag was done by a seamstress from the community that created it. The flag has come full circle.

The final step taken on Feb. 11, was to place the completed flag assembly into its custom display case before its debut in the Lincoln Heritage Museum on Abraham Lincoln’s birthday, February 12.

[Curtis Fox]

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