I volunteer at Reruns at the Lakewood Center for the Arts. I work with Carol who is a longtime member of Northwest Quilters. We were talking about quilting, and she told me about a four-day quilting retreat at the Tilikum Conference Center in Newberg, Ore. and asked me to come.

I haven’t sewn much in recent years, but I love fabric stores and can spend all kinds of time thinking about what I want to make. Usually I buy more than I will need and add on to my extensive stash. My problem is finishing my projects. My daughters are still waiting for scarves made from velvet and silk that I started in 2008.

I wondered how I would fit in with these accomplished and devoted quilters. But I was assured that the people who attend do what they like, which could include sleeping, having a massage, swimming in the lake, hiking, reading, eating delicious food like pork with apple and raisin sauce — and, of course, quilting. That sounded like a fun time to me and maybe, just maybe I would complete something. So I dug in my boxes and bags and came up with three projects to take with me.

I arrived at Tilikum just in time to have lunch and to meet the group. Carol took me on a tour of the sewing rooms. Each person had a space and the assortment of projects they were working on was varied and intriguing.

One person was working on a piece that had brightly colored leaves blowing across a blue background. Another woman had made an adorable teddy bear from an old quilt. Across the room Maria was making doll quilts for foster children who had been rescued from abusive situations.

And then it was time for me to sew. I started with my wall hanging. I needed to line it and whipped along on my machine only to finish and realize that I had sewn the lining on wrong side out. Ah well, I picked up my most used tool: my seam ripper.

That is how it goes with me. Sew and rip, sew and rip, and then hurl the offending piece into my need-to-finish box.

But this time I just could not have my usual hissy fit, so I started again. As I carefully and slowly sewed the seam I realized that something was wrong. The thread was only on one side of the fabric.

That’s when I quietly walked outside and released a silent scream and then pictured myself sewing with ease after my slow start. When I came back to the room I spotted the bloody bobbin on the table and realized my mistake. I did a quick reload of the bobbin and laughed at myself. Before I knew it my wall hanging was done after spending 12 years in my to-be-finished box.

Then I was off to get my scheduled massage and then relax and read my book in the gazebo. The next activity was dinner. We feasted on fish in a cream sauce with cheese, fresh vegetables, salad and the best brownie topped with vanilla ice cream. My first day had been most satisfying. Some of us were going fabric shopping the next morning. I planned to work on the left half of a crazy quilt vest later in the day.

Shopping was a great success; sewing the vest was not. I did not have the instructions with me and figured I could wing it since I knew the basic method of crazy quilting. I was so wrong. I needed a pattern. I needed directions. So I spent most of the time holding up scraps of fabric to the muslin and then cutting and sewing them on. I just finished ripping the scraps off the muslin and will start again at home.

The last day of the retreat was given to door prizes and awards. I won a gift certificate for Fabric Depot. My award was the Spark Plug Award for being so enthusiastic about the retreat and joining Northwest Quilters.

Now all I have to do is to learn new techniques, how to create a fabric art quilt and complete my projects in less than two years. Wish me luck.

Joan Waldron is a member of the Lake Oswego Adult Community Center.

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