Sue Herbst




Sue Herbst




Sue Herbst


Tomme Fent

Interview Date


Interview sponsor


Sioux City, Iowa

Interview indexer

Anne Lafferty


Tomme Fent


Note: This was a demonstration interview conducted at the Siouxland Samplers Quilt Guild meeting as part of a presentation on Quilters' S.O.S. - Save Our Stories.

Tomme Fent (TF): This is Tomme Fent. Today is August 11th, 2008, and it is 7:25 p.m. I'm conducting an interview with Sue Herbst for the Quilters' S.O.S. - Save Our Stories project. We are here in Sioux City, Iowa, at the First Presbyterian Church. So, Sue thanks for coming.

Susan Herbst (SH): Thank you for having me.

TF: Why don't you first tell me a little bit about this quilt that you've brought, your touchstone object. What's the name of the quilt?

SH: It really doesn't have a name but my family calls it "Circles." It's a Log Cabin, and I did it when I had my quilt shop and I had two girls that wanted to come and do this particular quilt. They found it in a magazine. In fact, the magazine was Quilting Today in 1993. And the pattern, the design itself, was [from a quilt made by Barbara Swinea from a design by.] Jodie Stutchbury, is the one that did it. And I had to sort of draft the pattern from the picture because there was no pattern in the book. So I made one and then they each made one, and we did it every Tuesday. So I always called it my "Tuesday Quilt," but my family named it the "Circle Quilt."

TF: How many Tuesdays did it take you to finish the quilt?

SH: Approximately four months of Tuesdays. I don't know how many that is. [laughs.] Four to five months, but that was just the top. And then I had it quilted by a longarm quilter.

TF: So you said something about a quilt shop. You used to own a quilt shop?

SH: Yes. I owned the Strawberry Patch here in Sioux City for about four years. It was a very exciting experience, something that I would never give up. It wasn't something I could do for long term. I did everything. I worked--was open six days a week, and usually I had eight to ten hour days, so it was hard and it was--but it was so fulfilling. I don't think I've ever had a job or done anything that I like better. I liked meeting the people. I liked using the fabric. Just think if you had a whole quilt shop with fabric that you could touch anytime you wanted to, so I really enjoyed it. I really did.

TF: Were there any other quilt shops in Sioux City at that time?

SH: At that time, no, there was not. In fact, I bought the quilt shop from a lady who had the quilt shop, so I inherited a lot of fabric and then I put a lot of it in. And you know it's funny because you can tell, when you go to quilt shops, the personality of the owner or the people that work there really show through because you go to the different shops and what they like is what's there. So that's why I think I like to go to different quilt shops, just because--to see the different personalities of the quilt owners.

TF: What is your very first memory of a quilt?

SH: Quilts have been in my family forever. We lived in my grandmother's yard. I grew up there, you might say. And she--[laughter from guild members.]

TF: You lived in your grandmother's yard?

SH: We lived in a trailer house. My dad worked construction and we lived in a trailer house, so in the summertime, we went with dad on construction, and in the wintertime when he was back at the shop and not out building bridges, we lived in Grandma's yard. And of course, I was a pest, and I went over to Grandma's house all the time. And my grandmother was a quilter and she made utility quilts, and she made quilts that everybody used. And she had a few specials that she didn't have out, but most of them were utility quilts. And she made them completely out of scraps. Grandmother would have an absolute fit if she saw all my fabric that I have stashed away. You don't use new fabric, you use old, as far as she was concerned, and she made quilts out of old fabric. And she hand pieced everything. And she's the one that taught me to quilt, when I was eight, and she taught me how to hand piece. And the reason she did was to keep me out of her scraps and her blocks [laughter from guild members.], because I loved taking the blocks out and laying them out all on the floor. And even though Grandma made them out of scraps, they were very color-coordinated, and so she had them all laid out just exactly how she wanted them, and then when I was done, she had to go back and spend another couple hours putting them back where they belonged. So she basically gave me some scraps and a piece of cardboard about this size [indicating.], and I started making Four Patches, and that's how I started. And I still do hand piece today. I have a couple of projects started that I hand piece, and that's probably one of my favorite things.

TF: So you also machine piece?

SH: Yes, yes, mostly I machine piece. I find it real relaxing to do handwork, so I like to appliqué and I like to hand-piece. But, yes, most of my quilts are done on the machine.

TF: You mentioned that you have a fabric stash.

SH: Oh, yes!

TF: What are your favorite types of fabric?

SH: Well, I love the Asian prints, the Japanese prints and anything like that, and of course almost anything that has purple and lavender in it. As you can see, my quilt here is pretty much purpley, lavender, pinks, those kind of colors. And I keep finding that I'm picking up these odd things that--we're getting ready to move. This fall, we're hoping to move. And I just keep going into that quilt room and I say, ‘Oh, my gosh, where did I get some of this stuff?' [laughs.] But unlike you, Tomme, I cannot give any of it away, get rid of it. I still have fabric from the shop and I sold the shop in '92--in '93, so I still have fabric from the shop.

TF: When you go searching for fabrics, how much do you usually buy at one time, if you find a fabric you really love?

SH: Well, I used to buy yards, but now I've cut it down to where I buy maybe three or four yards at the most, and that's usually for a back. And the rest of the time I just buy a yard of this and a yard of that. Because I really like scrap quilts. I like quilts that have a lot of fabrics in them and have a lot of colors, so I have found that I have some fabrics that I'm probably never going to use all of because I just use a little piece of this and a little piece of that.

TF: Well, I know that you've been really involved in your quilt guild, the Siouxland Samplers Quilt Guild. What's your current involvement with the guild?

SH: Well, now I'm a member, and I also am chairing the quilt show, which makes me stutter when I stop and think about it. [laughter from guild members.] I don't know why I ever said I'd do this which it's a bigger job than I think we probably realize, but it's a lot of fun. I've had a lot of interaction with the different people in the guild already, and we have a whole year to go, but I'm enjoying every minute of it, but it is a very big responsibility and I am scared to death, let me tell you.

TF: Well, we'll all be here to help her, right?

[laughter and applause from guild members.]

TF: Weren't you involved in the very beginning of the guild?

SH: Yes, I was. I was one of those people that was at Lerlene Nevaril's house. It was Lerlene's idea to start a quilt guild here in Sioux City. And I was one of those that was at her house and, I don't know, we maybe had thirty, thirty-five people, and we picked out our name at that time. And we sort of made a little idea of what we wanted to do, what our goal was going to be in having the quilt guild. It was a real exciting time, and all the quilting I'd ever done was from Quilter's Newsletter. I didn't know about--I didn't interact with any other quilters, so to me, this was just absolutely fabulous, to have a quilt guild that I could go and see what other people were doing and share my ideas. It was great.

TF: Do you remember how long ago that was?

SH: I have no idea. My kids were little, and they now happen to be thirty-five and thirty-two, so they were like this tall [indicating.]. So it was quite awhile ago. I couldn't tell you.

Unidentified Person: '86.

SH: '86? Okay.

Unidentified Person: I wasn't there but that's when it was. [laughter.]

TF: Well, I see that our time is about up. And I would like to thank Sue Herbst for allowing me to interview her today as part of the Quilters' S.O.S. - Save Our Stories project. And our interview concluded at 7:34 p.m. on August 11, 2008. Thank you, Sue.

SH: Thank you.



“Sue Herbst,” Quilters' S.O.S. -- Save Our Stories, accessed April 12, 2024,