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!!!
Think it’s not worth the trouble? Making things for the holidays or anytime, for that matter? Think no one will really appreciate your effort? Think it is all a waste? Think again, my Sweetie!
I believe the biggest and best gift you can give anyone is your time. It is precious, unique and will never come again. Any time you are thinking about someone, doing for someone or sharing with someone, it is a gift to be treasured and held in the highest regard.
So spending the time making a gift or fashioning a decoration or baking food or brightening up the yard is a gift of your time and thought. Do I believe you should do EVERYTHING – NO!!!! That’s a killer and a misuse of your time. But adding your personal touch to each day and especially each holiday is very doable.
And the memories it makes! Oh Boy! I have the best memories of my mother baking for every occasion. Pies! Cookies! Candy! Cakes! Everyone enjoyed her handiwork. Everyone was blessed by her efforts. And she loved doing it.
That’s the double blessing of homemade. The maker is as happy making the gift as the receiver is getting the gift.
I love spending time on a project for one person. The whole while I’m thinking about them. How they will look when I give them the gift. How they will enjoy it. How it will benefit our relationship. On and on I think, until the project is done.
Then I get to really see their face when I give it to them and watch them enjoy it and feel our relationship deepen. What could be better than that?
I remember when we had young children, we decided to each have small blank books one Christmas. In each person’s book we would write down the gifts of our time we were giving that person. I had things like: “I will make your bed” from my daughter, I will give you a back rub” from my son and “I will bring you breakfast in bed” from my husband.
There were many others that year and in the years to follow. How fun it was to cash in the certificates during the year. Those gifts were extra special in so many ways.
Putting forth effort for those you love is never a waste. It is love in the purest sense, it is a teaching moment and a good example for all those watching you. It couldn’t be more important.
So put your personal touch on every holiday. Whatever that means – making presents, making decorations, fashioning yard art, baking, cooking. It could be as simple as wrapping a gift or tying a bow or as interesting as smocking a Christmas dress. Whatever shows your talent and care.
Show your love. Give of your time. Make you holiday homemade.
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!
Mac’s mother called to let all of the grandparents know that Mac had a few open days after Summer Rec ended and before school started. Between those ending and starting days and an upcoming vacation to Washington, D.C., there were a few days open to Grandparent time. We ended with him this last Wednesday for twelve hours.
Now Mac is eleven years and is able to entertain himself a good portion of the time, but when Granny and Gramps get involved, the expectations are raised. Plans are made to fill almost every minute of the day. Fun must be had on an almost continual basis.
We picked Mac up first thing in the morning. He spent about an hour on my phone playing a video game called “Simple Planes”. He built and destroyed numerous planes in that short hour.
Then it was off the movies to see “Jungle Book”, in 3D of course. It’s a great movie of love, loyalty and perseverance – good wins out in the end. And Bill Murray as a Grizzly Bear is just funny no matter how old you are! Mac loved it! We all did!
After the movie we went to lunch for burgers, chips, sodas and BBQ sandwich for Gramps. The music was very retro, so Gramps and I were humming along to songs from our college and high school years.
The weather here in Texas is too hot for outdoor anything during the day, so home we went to play board games. Our current favorite is a game called Qwirkle, which is somewhat like Dominoes. Mac wins more often than not.
Gramps and Mac watched a car race on TV together in the study. They rooted for their favorite cars and drivers. I have no idea who won! It’s a guy thing!
As the sun got low enough and the temperature lowered, Mac and Gramps rode bikes down to the lake near our house. They talked to the men who were fishing on the edge of the lake and rode their bikes back.
By then, everyone was hungry. Sweet Gramps made us a lovely dinner of baked chicken and sautéed squash. After getting full on nutritious food, Mac took a bowl of chips into the back room to read a book.
An hour later, Mac’s mother came to get him. When she asked how his day had gone, he answered, “Fine. It was a normal day.” Normal day?!
Gramps and I certainly had a great deal of fun and loved the time spent interacting with Mac. We love listening to him talk and explain things. We love watching his brain work. But this was anything but a normal day! Mac was still raring to go. Gramps and I were exhausted, pooped, worn out, wasted.
Mac’s normal day had taken the stuffing right out of us. All we wanted to do next was sit down, lay down and sleep. What a difference age makes!