Hat on Top, Coat Below


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Sew and Sew

March 26, 2006

So I did something new this weekend–I went to a quilt retreat. Of course I’ve been to quilt shows and shops, quilt classes and lectures, but never a retreat. Assemble thirty or so women ranging in age from their twenties to their seventies, sewing machines ranging in age from one to thirty-something, sewing supplies in sufficient quantity to stock a decent sized quilt shop, and plenty of snacks in a hotel conference room for two full days and you’ve got yourself a quilt retreat. This particular event was arranged by one of my coworkers for her quilt guild, and since she was in charge she decided people who didn’t belong to the guild could come, too, so I went.

I decided to skip down on my quilt to do list to the charity quilt, because the one for baby Cordelia is only in the planning stages at this point, and I didn’t want to try to quilt the Treehouse because I didn’t know how much space I’d have to work in (that turned out to be a wise choice, as the tables were not overly large and were set right next to one another). The charity quilt seemed like a good idea because I could just sew individual blocks and figure out how to put them together later. As a bonus, I already had some blocks on hand in the easy, no matching, no measuring string piecing pattern from the swap I participated in way back when.

The retreat officially started at 6 a.m. Friday morning (which was crazy), but there wasn’t a strict schedule, so I showed up after lunch on Friday. That gave me time to pack after work on Thursday, sleep in a bit, and then take my time driving up north. I wasn’t the last to arrive, either. I sewed for a while, then went on a field trip to a nearby fabric shop, which had cookies and a discount waiting for us, then sewed some more before dinner and more sewing. Saturday there was more sewing, more eating, and an extra special treat–I got to meet Lil live and in person after reading her journal and e-mailing back and forth for years.

Lil came to meet me in the hotel lobby, which was very nice because that greatly reduced the chance I’d get lost and be late. I hadn’t planned on the girls basketball team and hangers on clogging the area near the reception desk at the appointed time and blocking my view of the door, but Lil and I did manage to find each other in the forest of tall people. The hard part over, we headed off for the fun. First stop was the yarn shop where Lil works. I fondled the cashmere and learned what recycled silk smells like (my knitting experience to that point had not included sniffing yarn) and petted the angora from Toasty and Cocoa Puff and the other rabbits whose pictures were posted near the skeins. I admired the pretty plum alpaca made up into a fingerless mitt–my new office has been so cold some days that I’m starting to be open to the idea of fingerless mitts, which previously made no sense to me–and decided I needed to take a bit of that home with me. I think I could handle making fingerless mitts–they’re like tiny scarves knit in the round with the ends left open and one extra hole added. Then I fell in love with a super soft merino in variegated shades of red and other brights. I got enough of that to make mittens, so I could admire the finished product. No matter that I don’t know how to make mittens yet–surely I can learn before next winter. After the yarn shop, Lil and I headed to the coffee shop for a little snack and a lot of conversation. Then it was back to the hotel for a quick peek at the retreat in progress. Too soon Lil had to head home, and I sat down to sew some more blocks.

A good thing about choosing such a forgiving pattern to work on was that I could violate my “no sewing after 9 p.m.” rule without getting into too much trouble. I did sew paper to paper a couple times, which is not exactly according to plan, and some of the corners didn’t get covered up with fabric on the first try, but mostly things went fine. I even managed to sew for a while after the wine showed up late Saturday night without doing any damage to myself or my machine or my project. By the time I packed up, I had 40 blocks complete (okay, so I brought about 10 of them with me on Friday) and ten more about half done. Not too bad.

Even as the retreat was going on, people were talking about next year’s. If the dates work out, I expect I’ll go again–it’s fun to hang out with other quilters and see what they’re working on. There was another guild across the hall for most of the time we were there, so we got to see their stuff, too. I will be sure to bring my own pillow next time, though. It was on my list, but I decided I had so much else to bring that I’d leave it home–I wasn’t such a pampered princess that I needed it. I was wrong. Even though there were seven pillows on the bed (and another in the closet), none of them were right. I felt like Goldilocks–this pillow is too soft, this pillow is too hard–except I never got to the “just right” part. Friday night it took me a long time to get to sleep. Saturday was better–a couple glasses of wine and staying up really late probably helped quite a bit there. Also next year: I’ll plan ahead to visit the big fabric store that has a billboard on the freeway but is not open on Sunday. And maybe I’ll make some socks to wear–after a certain point in the day, the shoes came off and we all padded around in stocking feet. My Eeyore slipper socks were a hit, but it would also be a good opportunity to show off some hand knit footwear. No reason I can’t learn to knit socks, right?

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