Shortly after Sister Amelia Stenger became director of the Mount Saint Joseph Conference and Retreat Center in 1997, friends who knew she enjoyed quilting began donating quilt fabric.
“I started putting kits together for the Runaway Quilters, and they would bring back the quilts the next year,” Sister Amelia said. The Runaway Quilters have come to Maple Mount each September for more than 20 years to work on their individual projects. Sister Amelia had the idea to invite some of those quilters to the Mount in February to sew quilt tops to benefit the Ursuline community.
“We provide food, lodging and all the fabric has been donated,” Sister Amelia said. “It’s amazing how they put the fabric together into a beautiful quilt.” The Quilting Friends have been coming for about 10 years, although a heavy snow last February prevented their arrival.
The Quilting Friends returned Feb. 21-24, 2016, to Conference Room A of the Retreat Center. Sister Amelia, who is now director of development for the Ursuline Sisters, sews with them during their week.
“What we don’t use we take to Bellevue Baptist Church” in Owensboro, whose members make items for the poor in Central America, Sister Amelia said. What Bellevue doesn’t use, they send to Appalachia, she said. Her nieces were working on aprons for the Ursuline Sisters who eat in Saint Joseph Villa, and others were making pillows to use the excess quilt batting.
“Nothing goes to waste,” Sister Amelia said. “Any scraps that are too small, we’re making dog pillows for the animal shelter.”
Some of the quilt tops are hand quilted and raffled off in the monthly Quilt Club drawings that benefit the retired Ursuline Sisters. Others are machine quilted and sold at the Quilt Booth during the annual Mount Saint Joseph Picnic.
Sheila Gravely, of Hendersonville, Tenn., has come to Runaway Quilters for 15 years, but this was her first year for the Quilting Friends.
“I’m always doing volunteer things. I was excited to come, they made room for me this year,” she said with a laugh. There were 24 women making quilt tops for the sisters. On Feb. 22, Gravely was working on a quilt with some warmer colors, which she thought might appeal to a man.
“I’m having fun and eating well,” she said.
Two veteran Quilting Friends are sisters-in-law Jane Blankenship, of Murray, Ky., and Karen Hayes, of Clarksville, Tenn. They were working together on a Two’s Company queen size quilt.
“We’ve been friends for 50 years,” Hayes said, whose older brother is married to Blankenship. “I taught home economics for 34 years at Fort Campbell (Ky.), sewing has always been my love. I retired and now it’s summer all year long. I can sew to my heart’s content.”
Blankenship said Hayes was her quilting mentor in 2003, but she came to the Quilting Friends first and told Hayes how much fun it was. “Everyone is so friendly and relaxed,” Blankenship said. “And we love Sister Amelia”
“We see these people once a year, but they’re old friends,” Hayes said.
Faye Kirtley, of Bardstown, Ky., has been coming for about 10 years. She’s been a quilter for 30 years and a sewer all her life.
“I love to do it for Sister Amelia,” Kirtley said. “These quilts are for a good cause. What we make here, we don’t know where they go.”
On Feb. 22, she was working on a Burgoyne Surrender quilt, based on the Revolutionary War surrender of British Lt. Gen. John Burgoyne in 1777. “I have most of the components made, I started at home,” she said.
Patty Milroy was the other newcomer for the week, invited by her sister-in-law. As she ironed the fabric to make a Double Irish Chain quilt, she said she was loving her first trip to Maple Mount.
“Anytime somebody cooks for you and takes care of everything, it’s wonderful,” Milroy said.
On the afternoon of Feb. 23, some of the completed quilt tops were displayed in the Grand Room of Paul Volk Hall for the sisters to enjoy. Here are some of them: