Lake Junaluska, N.C. - “There’s no such thing as too much fabric.” This no-nonsense statement came from Jennie Morgan, an attendee of the Martha Curtis Quilting Retreat held at Lake Junaluska, as she pieced seemingly divergent strips of fabric into a beautiful piece of art. As she worked, she was surrounded by a group of like-minded women from around the country who came to Lake Junaluska for fellowship, relaxation and quilting.
The quilting retreat, which took place March 30 to April 2, is in its 28th consecutive year at Lake Junaluska. It began in 1989 with only eight ladies in a small meeting room in Lambuth Inn. This year’s event had 40 women, some who traveled from as far away as Florida and Indiana.
“I like coming to see friends I haven’t seen for a whole year,” said Lynne Cochran, from Orlando Fla. “The women are from all different (quilting) guilds. It’s relaxing to be together— we don’t have to answer phones, we don’t have to wash dishes, we don’t have to cook, we get to sit and sew and sew and sew. ”
Rita Fowler, who has been organizing the event for four years and attending for 20, said that it’s a great opportunity for women to learn new quilting techniques, rekindle friendships and work on a variety of projects.
“Years ago you made quilts because that was a way of keeping your family warm— people made them out of old clothes and things like that,” Fowler said. “About 20 years ago, quilting became sort of a fad, so a lot of the younger women here work on fancier things and really make quilt art. For us, it’s become a creative outlet.”
The effects of that creative outlet have expanded to be surprisingly far-reaching. There is a long philanthropic tradition in the making of quilts and, according to Fowler, nearly every guild has some sort of charity project.
“I think it’s another way to be creative with your sewing,” Fowler said. “There are two women working on blocks for Quilts of Valor. My guild in Shelby, N.C. makes quilts for Safe Home, which helps battered women and children. Another woman quilts little pouches for feminine products that are then donated to high school nurses to hand out to students.”
Quilts of Valor is an organization that delivers quilts to veterans who are in the hospital or in nursing homes. These projects have become a cornerstone of quilting culture. Fowler organized a challenge during this year’s quilting retreat that had women working together in groups of four to create quilts that will be donated to a charity in the area around Lake Junaluska.
The impact of quilters to Haywood County goes beyond even these contributions.
“We love the quilt shops that are here in town,” Fowler said. “Anytime we see a fabric or quilting store, we make a beeline for it.”
There are three shops in the Maggie Valley area that cater to quilters, and many of the quilters have personal relationships with the owners. Shopping is an essential part of the trip for many attendees, Morgan said.
“Everybody sets up their equipment and then immediately goes out shopping,” Morgan said.
Cochran agreed, saying that they inform the owners before the retreat arrives so that they can accommodate the rush.
The local stores, central location and the lodging and meal packages at Lake Junaluska make this area an ideal location for a quilting retreat. According to Fowler, most of the attendees view the event as a vacation.
“You’re peaceful when you’re here,” Fowler said. “You don’t feel like you’re in a rush. We like coming to a place where somebody takes care of all our needs, no matter what they are.”
Lake Junaluska is a place of Christian hospitality where lives are transformed through renewal of soul, mind and body. For more information about Lake Junaluska programs and events, visit www.lakejunaluska.com.