Nylene Henry has been coming to the Runaway Quilters gathering at the Mount Saint Joseph Conference and Retreat Center for 18 years.
“The day you leave you’re looking forward to next year,” Henry said, who now lives in Sebring, Fla. “It’s the people who bring me back. It’s like a family reunion.”
Slightly more than 100 women from nine states gathered in the Retreat Center or the gymnasium at Maple Mount under the constant whirring of their sewing machines on Sept. 23, the second day of the weeklong quilting event. In the courtyard of the Center, completed quilts decorated the railings as new creations were made inside.
“I enjoy doing the quilting, but it’s the friends you make that keeps me coming back,” said Billie Simpson, from Guntersville, Ala., who began coming in 2006 with Henry to learn how to quilt. “Things are looking better than they did in the past.”
Sue Varner, from Georgetown, Ind., has been coming five or six years. “I enjoy all the gals, being in a big group,” she said. “Plus I like the time to sew.” She was working on a Christmas quilt for her 3-year-old granddaughter.
Sally Haines, of New Albany, Ind., first invited Varner to come. She’s been coming for 10 years, and has been quilting for 40 years.
“I like the socializing, chatting with likeminded people,” Haines said. ‘I like to see the other projects people make, it gives me inspiration. It’s a beautiful setting here, very relaxing. You can get away from your responsibilities.”
This is the 28th year Runaway Quilters have come to Maple Mount, and 10 of this year’s women are first-timers.
Among those newbies was Theresa Nevis, an Owensboro, Ky., native who now lives in Sarasota, Fla. “My mother told me I had to come stay with her for a week every year, so this was a good occasion,” she said with a smile. “I’m having a good time.”
Her mother, Nina Sue Davis, has been coming to Runaway Quilters for three years. “My son came to music camp here every year as a teenager, he’s 40 now,” Davis said. “I’m used to coming out here.”
On the second floor of the Retreat Center, Dana Hughes, of Mayfield, Ky., was teaching a class on the Day Dreaming quilt pattern.
“When you get finished with your blocks, they should measure 6 ½ inches,” she told her students. She’s been teaching a class at Runaway for eight years, and enjoys sharing what she’s learned.
“They’re a good class, they all look like they know what they’re doing,” she said, although she got some disagreement from a few students.
Janie Blalock, from Barwick, Ga., has been coming since 2000, and has been quilting for more than 20 years, but she was happy to be taking Hughes’ class.
“I always learn something,” Blalock said. “Even if you teach a class, you learn something. I even learn from the novice quilters. Sometimes their ideas are better than mine.”
“This is like a little piece of heaven for us,” Blalock said. “We don’t have retreats in our area.”