Debbie Boehne made plans all year to return for her fifth gathering of the Runaway Quilters at the Mount Saint Joseph Conference and Retreat Center. She wasn’t going to let a little obstacle like breaking her leg two weeks ago get in the way.
“I have a doctor’s appointment (Sept. 24), so I get to stay Monday through Wednesday, then my husband is coming to get me,” she said.
She travels from Centralia, Ill., with three friends each year to the Mount for her only large gathering of quilters.
“This is the best, there’s no reason to go anywhere else,” she said. She’s been quilting for 35 years. “My mother, mother-in-law and grandmother all quilted.” On Sept. 22, she was at the “sit and sew” in the Mount gymnasium working on a Bargello quilt with a zigzag pattern that will be a wedding present for her nephew.
Terry Russelburg, of nearby Philpot, Ky., the director of Runaway Quilters the past 15 years, said 96 women came this year for the annual gathering, including 16 new people. “Most are long-timers who tell their friends. We don’t advertise it,” she said. “There are seven classes going, but most people want to sit and sew this year.”
This year was a little bittersweet for Russelburg, who has been coming since 1992. “Easie Cecil got me started when I was 28. She was my quilt mother,” Russelburg said. Mary Louise “Easie” Cecil, the first director of the Runaway Quilters, died Nov. 11, 2014. To pay homage to her memory, all the quilts displayed on the second connector in the Retreat Center are Cecil’s quilts. The Star in Heaven quilt hanging in the lobby was also made by Easie Cecil.
Carol Sexton, of Paducah, Ky., was attending her 13th Runaway Quilters. Even moving to Cleveland for more than six years didn’t keep her from coming.
“I’ve made a lot of friends here,” she said. “The friendship, camaraderie and the quilting keep me coming back. There’s lots of laughing, lots of fun.”
She was working on a Cathedral Stars quilt, but said she brought several projects in case she got tired of doing one. She arrived Sept. 21 and decided to bypass any sewing the first night.
“I was just talking and laughing with everyone,” she said. “This is such a quiet, serene place. You can leave the hectic pace of your everyday life and relax.”
This year Sexton brought her friend Ulla Schierhorn from Paducah. She is originally from Munich, Germany, and was enjoying her first trip to the Mount.
“I love it,” Schierhorn said. “The camaraderie, the sewing, not having to cook. We belong to the same quilting guild in Paducah, it was easy to talk me into it.”
A quilter for 15 years, Schierhorn was working on a quilt called Slice, which she expected to finish Sept. 22. “I brought other projects, you have to have at least three or four.”
Billie Simpson, of Guntersville, Ala., was working on a brightly colored quilt of her own design for her 13-year-old granddaughter. When the girl started listing her favorite colors, Simpson got the idea she wanted something bright. Simpson has been coming since 2006 with her friend Nylene Henry, the same year she began quilting.
“I didn’t even have a sewing machine the first year I came,” Simpson said. “Now I’m an advanced beginner.”
Henry was her bowling partner and got her interested in quilting, Simpson said. “She’s since moved to Florida, I’m still in Alabama, but we come together. The biggest thing is the camaraderie and friendships you develop with people who have similar interests.”
Margaret Scott, one of the coordinators of Runaway Quilters who lives in Island, Ky., was teaching a class Sept. 22 on a Christmas tree quilt called “Trees on Parade.” It’s her 17th year coming, but she’s been teaching for 42 years, beginning with her days as an extension agent.
“My grandmother got me started quilting,” Scott said. “This has been a good group of ladies, you can always learn something in a class.”
One of her students was Loraine Bezdek, who was attending for the first time from Frostproof, Fla. “I’m enjoying everything,” Bezdek said. “Good food, good friends and meeting people.”
Guinn Trogden was teaching the Irish Mist quilt to a class. It’s her third year to attend Runaway Quilters and her second year to teach, after many years of involvement with the Owensboro Area Quilt Guild.
“I love the art of quilting,” Trogden said. “I don’t know what I would do without this outlet for my free time. It is an art my grandmother used to do, I’m keeping it going.”
Trogden loves teaching quilting as much as doing it herself.
“Wherever anyone is interested, I’ll go,” she said.