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Every year for the past five years, I get paid to host the the coolest weekend ever. I lead a Mystery Quilt Retreat at the Canyon Inn in McCormick's Creek State Park. We arrive Friday evening with our fabric cut, waiting for step number one to begin our marathon sewing session. I eventually give up and go to bed, but some of these ladies (all of them my senior) stay up until 3 or 4 in the morning. Then Saturday morning, they make it to the sewing room before I do, coffee cups in hand.
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The schedule goes something like this: breakfast, sewing, lunch, sewing, dinner, sewing, wine, sewing, singing to Time Life AM Gold 1974, sewing, yelling at thread tension and taking a walk, sewing. Everyone works at their own pace. I'm the keeper of the steps and I try to urge everyone to keep them a relative secret. This year's quilt was made in 14 steps. It is Sunday morning and there are still a few stragglers trying to finish before they go home, but most finished in the wee hours of last night. There was a lady here that actually works in a sewing factory making uniforms who finished before dinner last night. She spent the rest of the evening sifting through quilt books everyone predictably pulls from their sewing totes.
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There's something magical about the chorus of 20 sewing machines all running at once. The small tidbits of conversation that float over the noise that make you smile to yourself. There are ladies I met five years ago and some brand new friends. Some come from 4 hours away, others from 20 minutes, but all become dear and precious friends by the end. Marcia might be my favorite. She is hard and opinionated, but talented and, at times, endearing. The twin sisters, Terry and Sherry, who are quiet and reserved until you get them laughing with a little liquid courage. And good ol' Paula, who knows more than all of us combined.
Sewing is this bright community of creativity and endurance. Some projects take years. Mary, whose grace and eloquence follows her in an aura around her body, has been working on a quilt with the tiniest, little pieces for three years. It's also a community that prides itself in idea sharing. If you have a new tool that makes your life easier, you CANNOT wait to show everyone and proudly display exactly what it does (and more than likely pull out your camera to show everyone the pictures of all the projects you've made with it.) Sewing is something you do alone but with a group. It connects your solitary parts and gives you a sense of belonging. Every stitch it just another step forward.