If you’ve never been to a quilting retreat, you’re missing out.
I recently attended one at Country Club Hotel and Spa at Lake of the Ozarks. Here’s how it works: you get to sew for an entire weekend; you don’t have to cook, clean-up, make beds or anything of the sort.
Each year the Missouri River Quilt Guild (MRQG) arranges two retreats for its members – one in the spring and one in the fall. At the spring retreat you get door prizes, sew, make lotto blocks, sew, have a secret sister, sew, take classes to learn a new skill, sew, shop at vendor booths, sew, eat, and did I mention sew? At the fall retreat we sew, eat and sew some more.
When you arrive at the retreat, you choose where you want to sew, and then unpack your sewing machine, cutting mat, rulers, rotary cutter, scissors, fabrics, and any other items you brought to use. This year’s room was large (two indoor tennis courts). The tables are arranged in nice straight rows when quilters arrive, but that arrangement doesn’t last long.
A mother, sister, cousin and friend rearrange the tables into a large square so they can chat and sew at the same time. Three others put two tables back to back and add one to the end of that grouping and so on and so on. The chatter, laughter and sounds of machines humming along are interrupted for the evening meal.
Various committees are assigned to do different jobs. One committee makes table favors for each of the five meals served during the retreat. All 58 registered quilters received favors at each meal, meaning a whopping 290 favors were made.
These five items consisted of a small bowl/bag made out of fabric to set by your machine to collect the threads and scraps you snip as you sew; a heart-shaped pin – made of cloth and decorated – to wear; a small bag for storing goodies; a mug rug – to set a drink and snack on; and a fabric tag to attach to a bag.
Another committee (the door-prize fairies) contacts various quilting businesses to acquire door prizes. Some very talented members also donate items for this endeavor. One makes beautiful quilted tote bags and donates several. Another makes pincushions (last year I thought a battle would break out over a cute turtle design). Some won a new book or a couple fat quarters (one-fourth yard of material cut in a special way). Others got new patterns, a new notion and a few received a batting (fluffy stuff inside quilts) for their next project.
While at the retreat, I took a string-piecing class. I learned how to make a string pieced churn dash block. The “strings” are actually various width strips of fabric. I think it will make a great wall hanging – when I get around to quilting it.
So, you might be thinking, “You can sew at home. Why would you want to pack up and leave your family behind for a weekend?”
Well, in days gone by, people hosted quilting bees; today, retreats are the way to go. Both boil down to the same
thing: a day or weekend spent doing what you love (sewing) with close friends and family with a great deal of food mixed in.
During the retreat, MRQG received word the quilt it plans to raffle at its next quilt show has been juried into the Paducah quilt show. This is a great honor for the group and everyone was thrilled at the news.
MRQG will host a quilt show at the Lewis and Clark Middle School in Jefferson City during the first weekend in June. When it’s wrapped up, I’ll have another story to share.
Until then, happy sewing.
From Debbie Steffan, avid quilter and the fiscal and administrative manager at the Missouri Division of Tourism.