So a group of say about 28 women get together for four days. They each have a bag or two or three of fabric. What do you think can happen with that fabric in four days of sewing? Well it was pure magic, my Sweeties! Pure magic!
Look and see what the results are. And feel free to drool!
And so ended our four day quilt retreat. The quilts are the only part I can show you. I can’t show you how much we laughed or how much we talked or how much we cared about each other. I can’t show you the hugging, the touching, the sharing that went on.
The fabric is what draws us together, but the fellowship is what keeps us together. Quilting is the purpose but caring is the glue. A bag of fabric may be the reason we gather but true love is why we stay.
This is the eleventh year that four friends and Gramps and I have gone camping together for a long weekend in the spring. We have known each other for many years. In fact, one friend Ethel and I have known one another since the sixth grade. We have seen all the good, the bad and the ugly in each other many times over.
It started innocently enough with a group camping trip. We traded meals and that’s when we found out that Bill or Mr. Bill as we call him, was a master cast iron chef. He then became our breakfast guru.
Breakfast soon became a bacon lovers delight. Bacon does go with everything, you know! As in bacon and eggs, bacon and pancakes, bacon and ham, bacon and cheese, bacon and potatoes, bacon and . . . bacon. There are so many ways to eat bacon, as we discover each year.
Breakfasts lasted longer each year. First an hour, then two, now up to three hours including dessert. Yes, we have dessert for breakfast!
We have found that breakfast is so spectacular and lasts so long, what with all the courses and talking and more courses and more talking, that we usually don’t plan lunch anymore.
There is a mid afternoon snack. Something healthy, like brownies or cookies. Then a big dinner planned and served by one of us. It’s really just a big eat fest. Hence, the name – Camp Out, Pig Out. It has since been shortened to COPO.
Since Gramps and I are retired, we are the scouting party and arrive a couple of days early. We set up camp, get nearby sites for everyone and test the local sights and cuisine.
On Friday afternoon the other two couples arrive and set up their rigs. I always serve Friday night dinner because I have the time to cook while they are traveling.
This year we are having homemade grilled hamburgers (nothing better!), potato salad, fresh tomatoes, chips, guacamole and strawberry shortcake for dessert. Sound good?
On Saturday morning, of course, is a mega breakfast, Mr. Bill style. Bacon, bacon and more bacon. Yum! After this artery stopping meal, we usually divide up – men go fishing and/or boating, women go shopping.
In other words, the guys head to the nearest body of water, attach bits of fish/hot dog/bait/etc on the end of poles and sit for hours waiting and waiting. This activity is called fishing and men love to do it, talk about it, plan for it and buy equipment for it. Our men are no different.
Every year they go fishing. Every year they catch nothing. Every year they have a great time. Go figure!
The ladies, on the other hand, go shopping or sightseeing or both. We have been to antique stores, quilt shops, historic homes, museums, gardens, gift shops. And we have been successful every single time!
Oh yes, we have never come home empty handed. What glorious things we have found. What fabulous memories we have made. What fun we have had.
For several years now, Ethel has made matching T-shirts for the three of us ladies. One year as we were out shopping in our three identical shirts, I convinced a shop owner that we were triplets out for a day of fun. The other two were exploding trying to keep from laughing and I was having the time of my life.
Over the years, our COPOs have been varied. We have weathered rain, hail, scorching heat, wild fires and floods. We have had sick people, injured people and the forever healthy people. We have tried cooking all sorts of foods (except fish. We’ve never had fish!) and gone out for food.
One year our grandson Mac came with us to the annual COPO. It took about an hour for him to feel comfortable going in and out of everyone’s camper as if he lived there. Everyone became family to him about one minute later. He was fascinated with the super bacon breakfasts. And of course, because he is male, he went fishing with the boys. I’m not sure what he really did all day.
We gals brought treats for him from our shopping trip. It’d seemed only fair. He was nine and he had put up with the fishing thing all day.
Eleven years of these grand memories and here we are again! It’s Thursday night. Everyone will be here tomorrow. Saturday morning will be an eleventh breakfast extravaganza.
Then the guys and a fishing guide will hit the lake for a day of fishing. Maybe the guide will change the day’s outcome.
We ladies are going to a Quilt Show and maybe some antiquing. Whatever suits our fancy at the time.
Saturday evening will be dinner at Myra and Mike’s camper with the traveling tablecloth we use for every meal. Then we build a campfire and sit up late – maybe lil about 11:00 or so. Hey, we’re old!
Sunday am will find us back at Mr. Bill’s with the traveling tablecloth for super breakfast #2. What a way to end a COPO. Total PIGOUT!!!!
It’s Thursday night and I can’t wait. Hope it doesn’t end too soon.
I have just returned from two quilt retreats in as many weeks. Some folks told me that much intense quilting would probably kill me. But it didn’t.
In fact, it was exhilarating! It was inspiring! It was certainly a whole lot of fun! OK, it was a bit tiring. But I would do it again in a heart beat.
At a quilt retreat you join like-minded friends i.e. other quilters for a few days of sewing, laughing, sharing, learning and maybe a practical joke here and there.
At the first retreat, I and about 25 other women spent four days in a special center built for just such occasions. We had our rooms and food provided – what a luxury! All we had to do was plug in our machines and begin sewing.
And sew we did. Quilts began showing up on the design walls immediately and didn’t stop until we were forced to leave four days later.
The five newbies were a bit overwhelmed by the sounds and the sights of the big room. But the sounds of the workroom were so familiar to those of us who had been before. The hum of machines, the chatter of conversations here and there, the ring of laughter floating over all, the chime of an “AHA!” as someone finally figured out a difficult problem.
And what looked like mass confusion was really busy organization at work. Quilts were being planned, resized, sewn, ripped, resewn, quilted and bound. Advice was being given and received, knowledge shared, tips and tricks passed from one generation to the next.
All this was happening while relationships were being formed and strengthened. Actually, isn’t that what it’s really all about?
So, after four days, I came home, unpacked, washed my clothes, repacked and headed off to my second retreat. This time it was at a hotel and resort center.
I roomed with a dear friend whom I have known since sixth grade. We joined 85 men and women for another four days of quilting heaven.
Yes, I said men! We have men in this group that quilt and they are wonderful. That is one of the great things about the art of quilting, it is very inclusive.
So how do 85 people quilt together? Well, first they take over the entire Ballroom with tables, sewing machines, irons, ironing boards and design boards. It was a tight fit, but we made it.
We nearly drowned in fabric, scraps and thread. But thanks to the hotel staff that vacuumed every night, we kept our heads above water.
I have never seen such a flurry of activity anywhere in my life. It looked like mayhem, but was controlled work, in actuality. Again the quilts began to appear almost immediately.
The creativity and beauty I saw was amazing. It just kept coming, from every corner of the room. From young and old (Our oldest quilter is 89!). From skilled to newbie alike, the results were wonderful, spectacular.
Now I’m home again with my two finished quilt tops, one quilt bound and one quilt started. I got a lot accomplished, renewed friendships, met some new friends, ate very well, laughed until it hurt, learned some new tips and shared some others.
In other words, I had a perfect two weeks. The hardest part now is getting used to cooking again. Ugh!!!
What would make 48 women get up in the middle of the night, drive to a deserted mall, then get on a bus and ride five hours to their final location? And do all that with joy and excitement in their hearts? Only one thing I can think of – The Houston Quilt Show!
And so it was. We 48 with bags, backpacks and credit cards in hand, made our annual trek to the quilters’ version of Mecca. The one place that calls to beginner and master alike, to traditionalist and modernist as well, to anyone who has ever looked longingly at fabric or wanted to make something wonderful from a scrap of woven anything – that place. We just call it “Houston.”
Houston has quilts to view of every kind, shape, color and era. One of the exhibits this year was “Dear Jane” quilts. They are near and dear to my heart. Well, Houston did not disappoint! Oh my, oh my!
Even some of the backs are absolutely exquisite!
Here’s a Dear Jane that forms a secondary heart design on the front of the quilt.
Some are red and white, some are blue and white, some are black and white, and some are multi colored. It is a personal choice.
A person could spend days just viewing the lovely quilts hanging everywhere – the Christmas quilts, the modern quilts, the Millefiori, the dresses (yes, I said dresses!), the 20 foot crocodile and on and on.
This is Best of Show which looks like a photograph. Here is the artist in front of her quilt.
This quilt looks like photo up close and the shelves look like real wood. It is a masterpiece of quilting.
The miniatures were especially appealing to me. And I do mean small – these cuties were about four inches long and belonged in a dollhouse. I’m pretty sure they were made by elves.
There were even quilts made out of linens and doilies and then quilted and beaded. They were exquisite beyond words.
Entire quilts can even be done with thread alone as in this one. Beyond description really.
That night we had dinner at the Aquarium. How special is that? Yes, we had seafood for dinner and ate it in front of their cousins in the tanks, but it was so goooood!
Anyway, the 350 pound Grouper didn’t seem to mind too much. The atmosphere was wonderful and the Pomegranate Kiss Martini didn’t hurt either. We had a grand time making friends and learning about the Aquarium.
After a good night’s sleep, it was back to the show for more quilt Nirvana. Once we had seen all the quilts, it was off to the vendors’ section. Anything you could ever need, want or desire for quilting was there. And all the new things I didn’t know I needed!
What lovely fabrics and wools! Notions by the armload! Patterns to die for! There were shoes, clothes, jewelry, baskets, lights, irons. I got my rings polished. My friend even bought a sewing machine! An entire machine with all the extras, warranty, extra feet, carrying case, etc., etc. and had it all shipped home. What a great place is this Houston!!!
I bought a tin tray and some wool embroidery to fit on the top. I didn’t even know I needed it until I saw it! I was a very happy camper!
Finally the day was over and we tired, but very pleased 48 piled back into the bus with booty in hand. Bundles of fat quarters, quilt kits, rulers and stacks of wool were carefully placed in the overhead compartments. Patterns and books were kept to be read on the ride home.
In the dark of the night, we all looked at the pictures we had taken of the beauty we had seen. Soft conversations were held up and down the rows of seats, as we shared the sights and feelings of the day.
We talked, we laughed, we shared, we laughed some more, all in the darkness of a small bus. We tipped the driver. We gave a gift to the trip planner, coincidentally named Happy.
We knew the trip was coming to an end. Houston was now behind us and reality was again setting in. Our loved ones were waiting at the deserted mall to once again drive us home, where it all began.
But something was different. We still had all our goodies, our bags, our souvenirs, our new projects, and our pictures to take with us. We would remember. We had been to Houston!
This seems to be the age of busyness, always moving, forever going, scheduled to the max and stress beyond measure. When did we forget that we are human beings, not human doings ?
And when did it become okay to involve our children in all this over-scheduling, busyness and stress? How did we create a world in which we have more and more and more to do with less time for leisure, less time for reflection, less time for community, less time to just. . . . be?
It’s too easy to get caught up in a comfortable schedule where adults and kids are kept busy from sun-up to sun-down. It tells the world the parents are good, responsible, and active. It tells the world the kids are involved, active, smart and well-rounded. What it doesn’t tell the world is that everyone is exhausted, tired, stressed, unhappy, with no time to form the relationships and community that we all so desperately need.
Even people who you think might be able to enjoy some down time pile errands on top of volunteering on top of working out on top of, well, you name it. When the children get home from school, they race from one activity to another and if at some point, life seems to calm down, then it is time to take on a big construction project, get a dog or have a another baby.
With summer here, our kids are home more and we have more time for what really matters each day. Relax the schedule at least a bit. Allow for what Mac calls his “veg time” – unscheduled relaxed “being time”.
Lat’s all lean into a better us, a better community of friends. When someone asks “How are you?” let’s assume that’s exactly what they want to know. Not the many items on your to-do list, nor the many requests in your inbox. Assume they want to know how your heart is doing, at this very moment. Tel them how your soul is – happy, sad, aching, worried, whatever. Examine yourself and tell them about YOU!
Put your hand on the arm of the person to whom you are speaking, look them in the eye (and not constantly at your handheld device) and connect for one second. Tell something personal. Remember we are full and complete human beings who also crave undivided attention and friendships.
Kids need the same as adults – time off from an over-scheduled life and a balanced existence. Sometimes that means unstructured play and relationship with other kids and sometimes it means electronically disconnected time alone with a book. Not every activity requires a team with a play schedule, a coach, a snack list and uniforms.
Children also desperately want to be heard when we ask “How are you?” I challenge us all to insist on a type of connection where when one of us responds, “I am just so busy,” we can follow up with, “I know Sweetie. We all are. But I want to know about YOU and how I can help.
I love my neighborhood. It’s small, quaint and in my mind, adorable. The houses are cottage sized with good-sized garages and well kept lawns. Sidewalks connect all the homes and lovely wood fences keep all the backyards nicely separated.
I know everyone on my block and most of their pets by name. We see each other on evening walks around the neighborhood and at local gatherings. Often times we just meet on someone’s front lawn to discuss the day and recent happenings in our lives. Children and dogs are also found running in packs at these spontaneous gatherings, which adds to all the fun and joy.
A few months ago, a For Sale sign went up at the house across the street. Our neighbors were moving. And so began the showings and people in and out, looking at the house. Eventually, a SOLD banner replaced the For Sale sign and things change at the house.
Boxes were taken in empty and brought out full and taped shut. Some furniture was given away and some was set out on the curb. A party was given and attended by everyone on the block. A van came to move all the big appliances and furniture. Many trips were made in the truck and the car to move everything else.
After several weeks, the house was empty. All alone. The only unoccupied house in the neighborhood. Sort of lonesome looking, but full of the potential of new owners.
We waited for new cars to show up. And they did. We waited for a moving van to show up. And it did. We waited for new people to show up. And they did.
New parents, new children, new pets, new furniture. All are moved in across the street. Starting a new life in a house on our block.
Today I’m making banana bread to take over and welcome the new family to the old neighborhood. I’ve seen they have three children and one boy looks to be about ten years old.
My ten year old grandson Mac is going to be so excited to make a new friend!