By Treena Mielke
A quilting retreat in Ponoka last week was truly a patchwork of shared talents, friendships, relaxation and inspiration.
The four-day retreat at the Ponoka Legion attracted more than 50 women coming from points in Alberta, Saskatchewan and British Columbia.
“It’s a great time,” said organizer Kathleen Mennell. “We just have a ball.”
Mennell said this is the fifth year she has organized the event and each year it continues to grow.
“There’s always a waiting list,” she said. “And every year we have a lot of the same ladies. But we always have new ones, too. We have beginners and we have advanced sewers.”
The retreat offers participants a chance to learn about more about the quilting world and see some incredible work, she said.
“We see many different kinds of quilting such as embroidery, appliqué, paper piecing, straight piecing and fusible. There is so much diversity.”
Nancy Chubb from Tofield comes to the retreat every year with her sisters.
The ladies particularly enjoy the time together as it gives them a chance to visit and catch up, as well as practice their quilting skills.
“This is a top of the line retreat,” said Chubb. “They really cater to us.”
But even though sharing their love of quilting is important, Chubb notes that the retreat also gives them a chance to visit and spend quality time together. “It’s camaraderie. Women like to share their talents and we learn so much from one another. And we share personal things too, like who had a baby. Stuff like that.”
Chubb said she and her sisters come from a long line of sewers, noting that her grandmother made quilts and dolls.
Lynn Burdett, who recently opened Prairie Points Quilt Shop in Ponoka, was one of the enthusiastic participants at the quilting retreat. “Quilting is my oxygen,” she said. “I need to do it.”
Burdett said quilting gives people a chance to be expressive, unique and creative.
“You take the same fabric and 12 different women and you will get 12 completely different projects. It’s very personal.”
Quilting is a passion for some people, she said. “People will drive down back alleys looking for quilt shops.”
Burdett is accepting new quilts that will be donated to the Ronald McDonald House opening in Red Deer soon, she said.
“Every year I want to support a different charity,” she said.
The retreat gave quilters such as Shirley Clarkson from Blackie an opportunity to practice her quilting embroidery.
Clarkson plans to teach this skill in Okotoks in the future.
“This retreat is fantastic,” she said. “Kathleen puts on a very good retreat.”
The ladies at the retreat seemed pleased with every aspect of the four-day getaway. They enjoyed a chance to shop from supplies provided by four merchants who were on hand, and were pleased with the demonstrations that provided them all with new information about quilting.
Quilters commented favourably about the delicious food and were impressed with the opportunity to have a massage on site if their neck and shoulders got too tense from non-stop sewing.
Mennell said the trunk shows gave the ladies an opportunity to show off their own handiwork.
“We each took a turn and showed three quilts each and such lovely and inspiring quilts they were. It was just awesome to see some of the best in quilting and machine embroidering.”
Mennell, who worked hard to ensure her retreat ran smoothly, was pleased with this year’s event.
“We are like a family, with some of the gals coming for the last five years. I must be doing something right. All are signed up for next year already and looking forward to another four days of relaxing and visiting with each other, forgetting the chores of home and the telephone ringing.”