Janie Blalock and Christa Campbell used to live in the same Georgia county, but after Campbell moved to Ninety Six, S.C., four years ago, the two friends don’t see as much of each other.
In the spring, the two get together for a week to sew. In the fall, they meet in Birmingham, Ala., and drive the rest of the way to Maple Mount for the annual gathering of the Runaway Quilters.
“We get to visit with friends we only see one time a year,” Campbell said. “Somebody else does the cooking and washes the dishes.”
Blalock said she loves the serenity of the Mount. “It’s such a calming place. When I leave here, I feel so rejuvenated, I know I can handle anything. The staff is so wonderful, so caring.”
Campbell attended her 10th Runaway Quilters gathering, and finished sewing her Walk About quilt top Sept. 19 during the Sit and Sew in the Mount gymnasium. Next she is starting on a ladybug quilt, since Lady Bug is the nickname for her 5-year-old daughter.
“Margaret Scott got me interested in coming,” Campbell said. “We both worked for cooperative extension, we were on some national committees. She started sending me information.”
Scott, of Island, Ky., is one of the coordinators and has been coming to Runaway for 17 years. “Some of my friends told me about it. I’ve been sewing for 45 years and teaching quilting for 40 years,” she said. Scott retired as the extension agent in McLean County, Ky., after 35 years.
“The best part is meeting new people and learning new quilt patterns,” she said. She was making applique pumpkins Sept. 19 to eventually have enough blocks to make a quilt.
There were 121 Runaway Quilters at the Mount from Sept. 18-21, and 21 of them are new this year, Scott said.
One of those new people is Linda Taylor, of Clarksville, Tenn. “It’s really nice to be with other quilters,” Taylor said. She was in a class led by Denise Stewart, of Dunnville, Ky., who was teaching the group a Triangular Log Cabin quilt, which is difficult because it requires rarely used 60-degree angles.
“It’s fun and you get to learn something new,” Taylor said. “I would never try this on my own because of the 60-degree angles.”
Taylor has been quilting regularly for 14 years. “You learn so much about different fabrics, different approaches and perspectives here,” she said. “It’s a great place to learn.” She was using Civil War fabric to make a quilt for her husband.
“The teachers are knowledgeable and nice,” Taylor said. “That means a lot to have the time spent with you.”
Nell Jordan, of Franklin, Ky., was teaching a group of women how to make a Bow Tucks tote, a quilted bag. She’s been coming for 17 years, and teaching at Runaway for 10 years. “I’m a retired teacher, I never get tired of teaching,” she said. “I just like to help people. I started quilting when I was a teenager with my grandmother.”
Her friends got her started coming to Runaway Quilters. “I couldn’t stand for my friends to have more fun than I did,” she said with a laugh. “It’s always fun to see friends we’ve made that we never see except here.”
Runaway Quilters have been gathering for more than 25 years, and this is the 21st year they’ve come to Maple Mount.
Norma Pacl, of Hermitage, Tenn., held up Tillie’s Treasure that she is working on. It’s made from scraps of fabric from her “stash.” When completed, the quilt will go to her granddaughter.
“This is my seventh year. My daughter got me started coming,” she said. “It’s just so peaceful here. I’ve made a lot of friends over the years. Everyone is so friendly, because they’re all quilters.”
Judi Simmons, from Highland, Ill., was piecing a king size Dream Catcher quilt for her son. She’s a machine quilter, so she quilts 40 to 50 quilts a year for other people, but generally only has time to piece one or two for herself.
“This is my fifth year. I love the people, the camaraderie and learning something new,” Simmons said. She came with six women from her area east of St. Louis. “One lady I came with is 81.”
She got started when one of her friends told her she’d have fun. “We’re laughing, giggling and telling stories,” she said from her corner of the gym for Sit and Sew. “You make a lot of friends here. The food is great, the views are great and it’s peaceful. The sisters are wonderful to us,” Simmons said. “We all feel like sisters when we leave.”
By Dan Heckel
Here are some pictures of quilts that were on display.