As far away as central Florida, Sharon Metzger couldn’t avoid the talk of how great an experience the Runaway Quilters have at the Mount Saint Joseph Conference and Retreat Center.
A 17-year veteran of Runaway Quilters attends the same gym as Metzger and told her about it. “I heard so much in Florida about this retreat, I just decided to make the plunge,” she said.
The week of Sept. 19-23, 2016, brought the ebullient women of “Runaway” back to Maple Mount for their yearly week of quilting, reuniting with friends and making new ones.
By Tuesday, Sept. 20, being at Maple Mount had already been a powerful experience for Metzger.
“I was raised Roman Catholic and this is the most peaceful place I’ve ever been,” she said. “It’s beautiful and there’s the loveliness of the sisters. I went into the chapel and said my prayers, it was a meditative place. I haven’t had that in a long time. I’m already planning to come back next year.”
She was sitting in on a class to make the “I Heart Dogwoods” quilt and conceded she was doing something she had never done before.
“This is the first time I’ve taken fabric, cut it into little pieces and then sewed it back together,” she said. She has been a hand quilter for 26 years.
“If I’m using my sewing machine, I’m being punished,” she said with a smile.
Teva Steeno, from Glen Carbon, Ill., near St. Louis, was working on her first valor quilt for any veteran that makes a request. She worked other women in her area from March to August to make 20 blocks of a star pattern, and the other women make different blocks. The blocks are sent out to women who will make them into a quilt top. Steeno was piecing her first top and will send her completed project off to be quilted by someone else, but she may get it back to do the binding.
“I didn’t make all these blocks, I inherited them,” she said. “I just thought this was cool and different. My father is a veteran. I live near an Air Force base, so there are a lot of veteran events.”
She has enough blocks to make two quilt tops, but she hopes to make three quilts a year. This is her sixth year at Runaway Quilters.
Trish Bishop, who lives near Columbus, Ohio, guessed she had been coming to Runaway Quilters since 1998.
“It’s so much fun. You get to know these people who hang in there,” she said. “It’s like a reunion.”
She brought two quilts for show and tell, one of which she started in a class at the 2015 Runaway Quilters. Each evening participants gather after dinner to show what they finished since last year. “It’s usually not finished when we leave a class,” Bishop said.
Bishop lived in Nashville when she first came to Runaway Quilters, and would meet her sister from Ohio at Maple Mount. Since she moved back to Ohio, her sister and she drive together, and they have added two other friends as well. “That’s all we can handle with all the equipment,” she said.
She has been quilting since 1990, after seeing some quilts hanging in a sewing store in Dubuque, Iowa. She usually gives all her finished crafts away.
Bishop was enjoying her routine at Runaway Quilters. “You quilt, go eat, quilt, go eat, quilt, look at quilts and sleep,” she said with a smile. “I don’t see these people for another year.”
The courtyard at the Retreat Center was adorned with finished quilts to welcome the more than 100 women who came to Runaway Quilters. Here are photos of some of them.