Quilters retreat ‘about having fun’

Posted: Thursday, February 23, 2006

They’re back — the Kenai Peninsula Quilting Guild. Well, 60 of them. And they’re loaded with material, machines and the creative magic that makes beautiful finished products.

The Guild’s 10th retreat begins at 7 p.m. Friday. It is its third year at Land’s End Resort in Homer.

“We have quilters coming from Port Alsworth to Seward, Anchorage to Wasilla, Palmer to Texas,” said Donna Mortenson of Soldotna, chairman of this year’s retreat.

“We started as a little group in Seward and the gals got together and decided to have a little retreat,” Mortenson said of the annual event’s beginnings.

“I think they had two in Seward and then went to the Princess Lodge (in Cooper Landing) and had them there for years until (the lodge) shut down in the winter. But that was good for us because it got us to Homer, where the accommodations and food are great and everything is just awesome. We love it down there.”

Limitations imposed by previous accommodations put a 60-member limit on the retreat, even though the guild boasts memberships numbering more than 140.

“There’s so many that want in, they have to have their dues paid in October and at our annual meeting, we do a lottery for the retreat,” Mortenson said of the gathering’s popularity. “Not everybody gets to go, but if you’re lucky, you get in.”

Each lucky lottery winner pays $130 for the three-day retreat, which includes rubbing elbows with other guild members and meals at the resort. Rooms are paid by each member separately.

One highlight of the weekend is a mystery quilt.

Each quilter received cutting instructions prior to the retreat, but sewing instructions won’t be available until the weekend begins. Only two people — Mortenson and co-host Kathy Howlett — know what the finished design looks like.

“We start with a welcome and a meal and then the mystery quilt,” Mortenson said. “They start sewing on Friday night and have no idea what (the mystery quilt) looks like. It’s a mystery until it’s completed.”

There are three show-and-tells, which give quilters an opportunity to show off their skill and ooh and ahh over others’ talent. One is scheduled during Saturday’s breakfast, another at lunch and the third during dinner.

“We just have so many women, we divided them up so everyone has a chance,” Mortenson said of opportunities for quilters to share their expertise. “Some of us have trunks of stuff and some of us have just a few things.”

Games of “fat quarter” bingo offer the opportunity to win pieces of fabric that can be used in quilts. Each participant “buys” her way into a game with a fat quarter, an 18-by-18-inch piece of fabric, with the winner taking all.

“They’ll have enough fat quarters to make a nice quilt,” Mortenson said.

Robin Place Fabrics of Soldotna is the retreat’s single vendor.

“They rent a room and bring down all the fabric and supplies that we need,” Mortenson said.

Equally as varied as the quilters’ patterns and designs are their sewing machines, including everything from antiques to new ones with dazzling advanced technology. Instructors also will be on hand to answer questions and teach new tricks of the craft.

But mostly, Morten said, “This is about having fun.”

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