Janine Buhler, left, has a bit of help in showing some of her quilts to the audience at the annual quilt retreat held at the Ponoka Royal Canadian Legion as organizer Kathleen Mennell looks on. Photo by Jordie Dwyer

Quilting retreat in Ponoka reaches a dozen years

Annual pillgramage to Ponoka for quilting draws 60 this year

A group of women that have a passion for all things quilting have once again descended upon Ponoka.

For the last 12 years, women from various parts of central Alberta have gathered together to learn, teach and bond not only fabric but friendships in what can only be described as a big quilting bee.

This year, the four day retreat ran from Aug. 12 to 15 at the Ponoka Royal Canadian Legion and marks nine years of organizer Kathleen Mennell managing to get things done just in the nick of time.

“It’s like a family coming home every year. All of you are special to me,” said the 74-year-old Mennell, who also had help from the 60 women at the retreat in celebrating being five years of being cancer free.

“I enjoy myself doing this, but I’ve kind of decided that we will do it one more year.”

What began with 16 quilters in the first year, hosted in Strome, has consistently grown and has seen many additions to the retreat schedule aside from quilting — massages for the ladies, catered meals, goodie bags filled with all sorts of quilting and other treats plus the opportunity to show off their various creations during show and tell time.

One added attraction at this event came on opening night Sunday with a presentation by a Ponoka woman who has quite quickly become a teacher of quilting for the members of the local club.

Janine Buhler, described by Mennell as a very gifted quilter, had never taught anyone before, but offered to do it for those that show up weekly at the local seniors centre.

“My quilting journey started about 20 years ago, when my girls were little,” Buhler said, who grew up in South Africa.

“When I came to Canada, I had nothing of my family and felt like I had no base. So, I tried building stuff with heritage value with my kids and that’s how I started quilting.”

The idea of having a blanket to cuddle in really appealed to Buhler, but back then there wasn’t the resources available that people starting out can find today.

Buhler would eventually move on from using dress fabric to actual quilting fabric, as well as got full on into longarm quilting — in which the fabric is stationary and you move the machine to do the work. There is also a method called free-motion where a person builds blocks of quilts on a sewing machine then stitched the blocks together to build a quilt.

“As quilters, we always make ones for everyone else, so I had to scramble to find some for this,” she said.

“Now, I teach and I’m having a ball.”

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