PRATT — Sewing and quilting are not lost arts in Pratt County thanks to the efforts of Sue Buhler, longtime seamstress and sewing instructor, who last week helped seven Pratt area girls learn the craft during a quilting camp.
The quilting campers, ages 9-11, met from 1-3 p.m. Monday through Friday at the Pratt County Extension Office for their lessons. Each individual helped put together a lap quilt, which they donated to residents at the Pratt Rehabilitation and Residence Center, and they each made a quilted drawstring backpack.
"I have just always loved to sew," Buhler said. "My mom taught me, I taught my daughter, and when I was teaching her there were always friends who wanted to learn as well. Since then I have just always continued to give sewing lessons year-round. It seems like there is always someone wanting to learn. I have two or three students coming to the house this week for their lessons. It is just so much fun to plan out a project and then see it all come together in the end."
Buhler said the quilting camp classes, held every year for Pratt area youth since 2001, have always been well-attended. They are made possible by grant money secured several years ago for the purchase of sewing machines and all the necessary supplies needed to teach up to 10 students at a time.
"Some of the young people come in with no sewing experience whatsoever, others have at least sat a sewing machine before, but every year we start with the basics," she said. "We also have members of the Pratt Area Quilters Guild support our sewing and quilting classes and they provide volunteers who come in and assist as needed."
The basics for Buhler's sewing and quilting classes include learning the sewing machine parts and how they work, then sewing on paper with just needles to practice different stitches and control. After that students work with understanding patterns and putting ideas into action.
"Last year's quilting camp did not get their lap quilt finished, so we had that to start with this year," Buhler said. "Each girl got a chance to sew together some blocks for practice and then we were ready to start on their quilted backpacks."
Buhler's daughter, Katie Buhler, was an accomplished seamstress in 4-H and is currently a student at Kansas State University. She created a tutorial lesson on making quilted backpacks that her mother now uses regularly for sewing classes.
"I like to bring back projects that they've really enjoyed other years every so often," she said. "This is a good one, a little bit more intensive than some, because we learn everything from using patterns to sewing, working with batting, backing material and quilting. This year's project really puts it all together."
With the support from the Pratt Quilters Guild, Pratt County Extension, South Central Community Foundation (which provided grant money for two surger machines and sewing boxes filled with supplies) and locals who donate fabric, Sue Buhler and her sewing proteges are finding many projects to do that benefit the community and keep alive sewing and quilting skills within the younger generation.
"Along with finishing the lap quilt from last year's group, this year's group got to make a presentation at the nursing home here and explain what they learned. The elders really seemed to enjoy that, as I'm sure they will like the lap quilt," Buhler said. "We constructed it so it would be durable and stand the test of time."
Buhler also gives sewing and quilting classes for adults, community groups and in area schools, using the machines and supplies purchased with community grant money, throughout each year.