Brittany Rambo lives in Chicopee, Mass., with her husband and two young daughters, but that didn’t prevent her from making her second excursion this year with the Runaway Quilters at the Mount Saint Joseph Conference and Retreat Center.
“My mom (Katie Roy, of Evansville, Ind.) has been coming for years,” Rambo said. “I started sewing two years ago and I came to Runaway last year.” The 27-year-old started her first quilt top at Runaway last year, “Twice as Nice,” and finished it this year the morning of Sept. 18, which earned her hugs from some veteran quilters.
“The people here are so encouraging,” Rambo said. “I’m a couple of decades younger than some of these women. It’s like being surrounded by mothers and grandmothers, they all just want to help me.”
The spirit and camaraderie was evident throughout the week of Sept. 16-20, as slightly more than 100 quilters from various states came to Maple Mount to sew and quilt and sew and quilt some more.
Joan Abell, from Lebanon, Ky., came for her 14th year. “I love to quilt and love the atmosphere here,” she said. “It’s lots of fun to get together with these nice ladies. I’ve made a lot of friendships over the years.”
She was in a Sit and Sew classroom on Sept. 18, working on a small Smitten quilt. “I’ve been quilting since I was 16,” Abell said. “My mother was a quilter. I stopped to raise a family, but I’ve gotten back into it. I have friends from Ohio County, we go on quilt retreats together.”
There were several newcomers this year, including Beth Taylor of Island, Ky.
“My mom has come for years,” Taylor said. “Last year she said ‘I want you to come with me.’ She got me into quilting a couple of years ago.”
Her mom is Nell Jordan, of Franklin, Ky., who has come to Runaway for at least 18 years, and teaches a class each year.
“I wanted her to come so she can carry on the family tradition of quilting,” Jordan said. “My grandmother taught me when I was a teenager.”
Taylor has made three baby quilts so far, and was planning on taking the Exploding Pineapples class while at Runaway. But the week was already a success before she sewed her first stitch.
“I’m getting to meet a lot of Momma’s friends that she’s talked about for years.”
Jordan was also the pied piper for Virginia Johnson, of Franklin, Ky., and Pat Haley of Bowling Green, Ky., who came together for the first time. They are in Jordan’s Quilting Buddies group at home.
“I think it’s going to be a fun time,” Johnson said. “I’ve been quilting since 1967, since before it was ‘the thing to do.’ I’ve seen a lot of changes.”
Her mother quilted, and would tell her daughters when they were out of school for a snow day, “Get your quilt pieces out,” Johnson said. But she didn’t start enjoying quilting until she was married and a neighbor got her started again. She’s made 75-100 quilts in her life.
“I teach people to quilt,” Johnson said. “It’s fun getting students, that’s rewarding.” She was making a Tennessee Waltz quilt.
Ruth Donnell and Betty Brooks came together from Lebanon, Tenn., for their second trip to Runaway Quilters.
“We heard some other ladies talking about it last year, we really enjoyed it, so we came back,” Brooks said. “We enjoy the night program, the silent auction and the food is good. This is a really interesting place. Last year we met some of the retired sisters who quilt.”
She and Donnell are members of Music City Quilters Guild near Nashville, which has about 100 members. Brooks came to make a Lover’s Link pattern, using 1930s reproduction fabric. “This has so much cutting, it’s going to me,” she said. Donnell was making a My Blue Heaven quilt from scraps.
The two had an adventure the first night they arrived, when they went exploring in the Retreat Center and inadvertently ended up in the museum, Donnell said.
“We thought there was a nun in there, but it was a mannequin,” Donnell said. “We thought we’d been caught.”
Dana Hughes, from Mayfield, Ky., has been coming to Runaway for 10 years.
“It’s a fun place to be. The people bring me back, you get to know them,” she said. “I like the whole quilting atmosphere.”
She was making a Twisted Bargello quilt. “I made my first quilt when I was 10 and I’m 56,” she said. “I was blessed that my grandmother lived with us, I’ve been around quilting all my life.”
Lisa Barnhard, of Rockport, Ind., was teaching the Granny Square technique in a classroom at the Center. “It’s a strip piece technique using scrappy fabrics,” she said. Barnhard has been teaching for 10 years.
“I can’t remember not quilting,” she said. Her grandmother and mother quilted, and now she has her daughter in laws quilting.
One of her students on Sept. 18 was Faith Bratton, a first-time member from Paducah, Ky. She attended the Diocese of Owensboro’s 75th anniversary Mass on Dec. 8, 2012 in Owensboro, and met some Ursuline Sisters that day, who told her about Runaway Quilters.
“It’s been great, the people are all very nice,” Bratton said. “I’m happy to be around so many quilters.”
She’s been quilting for 10 years and was learning about using smaller strips of fabric. She also learned the popularity of Runaway Quilters.
“I came by myself, but it turns out half a dozen of my girlfriends from Paducah are here.”
By Dan Heckel