Last September I was holding my September retreat in McCloud, California and we had the pleasure of a visitor by the name of Regina Brett. Little did I know she was a famous author but more importantly she was a quilter "way back when" and hadn't sewn for many years. She came to McCloud for a spiritual retreat with Sarah Weiss and just happened to stumble across our retreat.
I always say nothing is a coincidence and I'm convinced she was meant to be there. She wrote an article about her experience and I just knew you would enjoy it as much as I did. Thank you Sarah! Hugs, Cindy :)
When I packed for my retreat out west, I read up on what to do if encountered by a bear, rattlesnake or mountain lion.
But I wasn't prepared for quilters.
A pack of quilters.
A whole conference room of women making quilts.
I headed out to Mount Shasta, California, on Sept. 17 for a spiritual retreat directed by Sarah Weiss, who runs SpiritHeal Institute in Newbury Township.
The plan was to stay in tiny McCloud, California, population 1,300 (not counting the quilters) and drive to various places around Mount Shasta to hike and meditate.
The dozen of us on retreat were going to deepen our connection with our Creator and the powerful energy of creation.
I arrived two days early to acclimate to the altitude. The peak of Mount Shasta is over 14,000 feet high. The air is thinner and the temperatures range from 45 in the morning to 89 in the afternoon. I came prepared for everything.
My bag was crammed with shorts, hiking pants, fleece jacket, raincoat, hiking boots, first aid kit, flashlight, gloves, ear muffs, pocket-sized thermal blanket and poncho and my own personal porta-potty (a gallon Ziploc with a tiny shovel, tissues and wipes.)
After checking into the charming McCloud Mercantile Hotel, I stumbled upon a conference room of two dozen quilters.
Each woman had brought her own sewing machine, quilting supplies, fabric and lots of munchies to share.
Cindy Needham, who calls herself an obsessive quilter, runs My Time Quilting Retreats. Over 10 years ago, she quit her full-time job in the medical field to follow her dream to make quilts and teach others to quilt.
The tables formed a maze of sewing stations. The women talked and sewed, laughed and sewed, ate and sewed. A few brave souls sipped red wine near their fabric.
The joy and creativity in that room made me want to start quilting all over again.
In my younger days I loved to quilt. Way back when I was 19.
Turns out quilting got an upgrade since then. I was the Brontosaurus in the room talking about scissors, chalk and cardboard templates with sandpaper glued on the bottom to cut out fabric.
They laughed. "We don't use scissors any more," one woman announced.
They use a cutting wheel that zips along to slice the fabric. They press fabric with small irons the size of toys. They wear gloves with tips that grip the fabric.
I was in awe.
I used to love piecing together fabric to create quilt squares. But it was a different me. A younger me. The me I was before I became a single parent, journalist and author. A me I had forgotten.
I once sewed a log cabin quilt with each center square orange to symbolize a fire burning. I made a baby block quilt of blue scraps, a quilt of stars and a quilt for my mom with appliques of children to represent all 11 of us. I even embroidered our names on it.
What happened to that part of me? I found her in that room, before my own retreat even started.
The women gave me all sorts of advice: Explore different local quilt shops. Take a class on Craftsy.com
Buy a low-tech sewing machine with a wide arm so you can turn the fabric and quilt by machine. "I don't want a sewing machine that's smarter than I am," one woman said.
They invited me to return the next morning at 10 to see their finished quilts.
That morning Cindy surprised me. She said they had been up talking about me all night, thrilled they had renewed my interest in quilting and helped me find my younger self.
Then she pulled up a chair for me to sit in front of them all. I was their audience of one. What an honor.
My mouth fell open at their creations: There had created quilts to celebrate Christmas, Halloween and birthdays. One made a giant star that reminded me of the grand finale at fireworks. Another sewed a huge flower as pretty as a Georgia O'Keeffe painting.
They weren't just making quilts, they were making love permanent.
"I made one for each of my grandkids," one woman told me. "That way they will always have a hug from me."
"Quilting is our voice," Cindy said.
Another offered, "This is another form of meditation, but you can talk."
I left their retreat ready for mine.
What a great way to start, by finding that peace you feel when you find a piece of yourself.
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