Susan's sewing project full of memories

Susan Manzke
Using quilting squares from Bob's old clothes, Susan has used them to sew rag quilt handbags, in foreground.

When I was in high school, I didn’t enroll in home economics like some of my friends. Instead, I signed up for agriculture classes. Because of these choices, I never learned to sew properly. My mom didn’t teach me either. Most of her sewing consisted of patching.

Today I’m in the midst of a huge sewing project. After seeing a rag quilt my cousin Mary made two years ago, I figured it was perfect for me.

To start, I went to YouTube to find how-to demos. I watched quite a few and then leaped in with both feet.

The Internet projects were made from flat pieces of material. My idea was to make a memory quilt, using the clothes from my late husband Bob’s closet. Cutting material that consisted of shirt sleeves and jeans would be more difficult, but I didn’t care. The finished quilt would be for me.

I did need a few supplies. A cutting mat and a roller cutter were put to good use when I started attacking the shirts. A quilt measuring ruler helped me decide on the block size. I chose to do 6 ½ inch squares. The scrap material went into 3 ½ inch squares. They would become pillows.

Unclipped pillow next to sewing machine and special clipping scissors.

Getting the most quilt squares from the shirts and pants took time. I wanted to squeeze out as many pieces as possible. The sections with paint or stains were left on patches. Those added special memories of my messy husband.

I started cutting last winter. I cut and I cut, and I cut some more. When spring arrived, I packed all my pieces into a plastic tote, figuring I’d start up again this winter, which I did.

When I began cutting more pieces, my daughter Rebecca looked over my shoulder. “When are you going to start sewing these together?” she asked.

The soft fringe of the quilted squares make creative pillows, above and a handbag.

I guess it was fear that kept me from sewing. Eventually, I brought down my sewing machine and set it up in the dining room—yes, I do have one of those new-fangled machines, but before plugging it in I took out the manual and reread the how-to directions.

The three-inch quilt squares were the first I attacked. I figured if I messed them up I wasn’t out too much. With my handy ripper at my side, I started sewing. A patch of shirt material went back-to-back with a patch of jeans material. From corner to corner I attached the two with an X sewn through the middle.

More and more pieces went together until my bobbin ran out of thread. Out came the sewing machine manual to get thread whirled around on that.

After getting a bunch of X patches, I had to start sewing them together. Twelve together made a strip, five strips made a pillow cover with a flap.

A rag quilt leaves the edges raw and showing. These are clipped so they fray. This kind of quilt is rough looking, but perfect for me.

I bought a special pair of scissors for this clipping and I’m glad I did. Using the short blade meant I didn’t accidentally clip any of the sewed seams—the clipping part took me a long time. Can’t hurry this part of the project.

All the corners are supposed to meet up when completed. Mine didn’t and don’t, so look from a distance, especially if you are a quilter.

After a pillow is made and clipped, it is washed to loosen the seam threads that have been clipped. This knocks the threads free in the washing machine and more come loose when tumbled dry—it does leave a bit of a mess in the washer.

Rag quilt pillow and lint after washing.

I closed the pillow flap using Velcro.

I’m currently on my fifth pillow and I also made myself a bag/purse.

The larger rag quilt pieces haven’t been touched yet. Spring may come before I get to them, but eventually I’ll finish. In the end I’ll be able to wrap myself in memories of Bob.

Susan Manzke, Sunnybook Farm, N8646 Miller Rd, Seymour, WI 54165;;