Thursday, April 06, 2006

A Piece-ful Retreat

I'm sorry for the few days' silence...I've been basking in the peace of my bi-annual quilting retreat at the Bishop's Ranch. And it was 4 days of bliss -- fabric, friends, great food, much laughing.

Some of you loyal readers might remember my talking about my October, 2005 retreat experience at the Ranch. The Bishop's Ranch is a retreat and conference center in my very own town (Healdsburg, California). I can't help feeling that it's rather self-indulgent to go off to a retreat in my very town--but it's efficient and convenient, too. I relieve some of the mom-guilt I experience by heading home late at night to see Roger, sleep in my own bed, be at breakfast in the morning to get Caroline's lunch packed, homework sorted, and send her off to school with a hug and kiss. And then I dash back to the Ranch and resume my mini-vacation among the quilters. It's ideal, actually, and it makes packing less onerous. If I forget something, I can simply get it later that night.

This retreat is a small one organized by a group of quilting friends in Northern California, and it has grown through word-of-mouth among friends so it's a very congenial group. Some folks have been coming twice a year for a number of years... This is only my second year attending, and my very first experience coming for the Spring retreat. The April group is a lot smaller, all clustered in the gorgeous old ranch house you see above.

The next few pictures show you what we looked like on Sunday evening. I've not cropped them so you can see a bit of the room in the backroom. Some of us gathered in the main living room...I was at the far end, so I could see across the whole room. Look at that expanse of tables and lamps and machines! That doorway on the left (with the chandelier) is the dining room, where there were 6 more quilters...and beyond that is the sunroom, where there were 4 more.

Here's the other side of the room, looking toward the dining room. And can you believe that with all that electric equipment we didn't blow a single fuse?!

We arrived on Sunday evening and everyone was busy unloading and setting up equipment. We all have learned to bring good lighting (for those late night sewing sessions), plenty of projects to work on (just in case you finish something and need more...), food, drink, and all of the necessary equipment. We laughed at Tamara, who remembered to pack everything (complete with individual bags containing neat stacks of sewn components for various projects)... and FORGOT her sewing machine! Fortunately, she was able to borrow a friend's (who was doing hand-work at first) until her friend visited and brought the missing machine.

I sat right near my good buddies Rita, Pat, and Janet. (This is Rita and Janet.)

Pam was just down the way, busy whipping out a quilt to donate to a children's shelter. (She sewed the whole thing -- piecing, quilting, and binding -- in two days. And it was adorable.) Pam is wonderful -- kind, funny, wildly entertaining to be with. This time, we heard lots of stories from her former life as a flight attendant for a major airlines. Pam tends to favor very traditional quilt patterns and muted colors, but we like her anyway.

At the opposite end of the room, in direct view and in shouting distance, was another wonderful woman and quilter, Pat Dicker. She is a delightful woman, and I was really pleased to get to know her better. Pat's an accomplished quilter, and she teaches quilting around the bay area at places like New Pieces in Berkeley. She has quilts in books (one by Mary Mashuta comes to mind) and magazines, and she has the best use of color. (You can see one of her quilts here.) Like me, she is drawn to bright and clear colors. In fact, we laugh at how similar our stashes are. But seeing her quilts really inspires me. She uses color so well, and her quilts are so happy. Pat doesn't design her quilts, but the way she applies fabric, thread, and quilting choices to patterns makes them truly unique. It's useful to be reminded that you can create gorgeous, artful quilts even when you don't design them yourself.

Poor Pat...her Bernina just stopped dead on Sunday night -- day ONE of the retreat! Luckily, one quilter was doing handwork so Pat could use her Featherweight. On Monday, I brought my trusty old Elna Super (an all-metal workhorse machine that was my very FIRST machine) and Pat was able to work on that for the rest of the retreat.

Of course, we must break out the wine at 5pm ... this IS Sonoma County, after all. Here are Pat and Janet toasting to our first retreat afternoon.

Here's Rita, relaxing below the Cinco De Mayo blocks I sewed at last October's retreat. I put them up on the wall to inspire me to do a few more this time around....I hadn't touched the thing since the last retreat! I'm going to call this quilt "April and October" as that's when I work on it!

I've got lots more to report, but I'm exhausted from all the fun. I'm headed to a bubble bath and bed. More soon!


  1. Gosh that Cinco De Mayo quilt looks fantastic! What fun. Next year I simply must attend.

  2. Ohh! Did you miss me? I think you were sitting in my old spot! I will be back next year and you must give it back!!!! Did they give the dates for next year? I am going to AQ Claremont around April 13th so hope to fit in both activities.

  3. Diane, this makes me long for some time with my art girlfriends...they work in other mediums but its always so rejuvenating to spend time away with them.