Homer Alaska - News

Story last updated at 5:28 PM on Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Quilting retreat

Guild's annual event helps participants stitch together memories, lasting friendships

By McKibben Jackinsky
Staff Writer


A little too big for a neighborhood quilting bee in someone's living room, the Kenai Peninsula Quilting Guild's retreat, held at Land's End Resort Feb. 16-19, was buzzing with more that 60 sewing machines brought by the attendees.

Add to that the hot irons standing ready for pressing, displays of colorful quilt blocks covering the walls, the exchange of ideas and the months of hard work by the Kachemak Bay Quilters to make the retreat happen.

"It went well," said Margaret Lau of Homer who, along with Alice Krivitsky, coordinated the event that drew 61 quilters from across the Kenai Peninsula, Anchorage and as far away as Port Alsworth, on the shores of Iliamna Lake. "The attention to detail and scheduling and having all the materials there ahead of time which drove us crazy made it all go so smoothly."


These quilters represent three levels of quilting experience evident at the weekend quilters' retreat: Louise Kempker of Anchorage, left, recently took up quilting, encouraged by her daughter Lisa Williams of Seward, middle, who has been quilting for six years. Right, Joyce Simpson, also of Seward, has been quilting for about 15 years and is one of the founding members of the Kenai Peninsula Quilting Guild.

Anchorage quilter Pam Ventgen kicked off the retreat with a technique class on a quilt design known as "Storm at Sea," a fitting pattern for a retreat being held on the shores of Kachemak Bay.

An accomplished quilter, Ventgen is known for designing patterns specifically for the annual retreats. The personal project she worked on over the weekend came from a pattern she found while traveling in Australia that incorporated embroidery, appliqué and quilting.

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While the untrained eye might see scraps of colorful fabric stitched together, quilters go beyond that. They value the gifts many of their creations will become, the bond quilting develops among family, friends and other quilters, and the stories that accompany many of the projects.

"That's the neat thing about quilting, the stories," said Lau.

Homer quilter Rita Weber was hard at work on a table runner for family members. The colors and patterns of the fabric were carefully selected not for her own tastes, but to match those for whom the project was intended. Yolanda Ochoa of Homer said since learning to sew and quilt in 2009, she "can't stop." Her brightly colored project was destined to become a gift just like other blankets she has made.

"Fabric for me is like chocolate chip cookies," Ochoa said of the pleasure she gets from the craft.

A sampler quilt being created by Ruby Nofziger of Homer was from fabric she and her husband had found in stores they visited while traveling across the country. Ellen Halseth and a non-quilting friend, both of Homer, looked through quilt designs to fine one Halseth could make for her friend.

Having already made quilts for all her children and grandchildren, Homer quilter Vicki Steik happily announced the one she was working on was "for me."

Phyllis Halstead and her daughter Jennifer Dye, both of Kenai, worked elbow-to-elbow on individual projects. Across the table from them was Mary Quesnel of Kenai, who, at 90, had the distinction of being the oldest retreat attendee.

Sitting back-to-back, Tona Bravo of Kenai and Alice Dubber of Homer bypassed new technology in favor of Singer featherweight sewing machines made in the 1930s

Using the retreat as an opportunity to complete a project she began 10 years ago, Anchorage quilter Laura Combs completed a "Bad Hare Day" wall-hanging pattern she redesigned as a baby quilt.

Sitting together were Seward quilters Joyce Simpson and Lisa Williams and Anchorage quilter Louise Kempker. Simpson is a 15-year-quilter and one of the guild's founding members who value the camaraderie and friendships she's developed through quilting.

Williams, whose sewing machine sparkled with stick-on "jewels" applied by her young son, saw the conference as a way to focus on quilting without the interruptions of family responsibilities. Kempker recently began quilting after years of encouragement from her daughter, Williams.

Homer quilter Laveda Youngblood began quilting in Colorado in 1989. She praised the "quality of the group" at the retreat.

"They're all so talented," said Youngblood, referencing what can be learned from other quilters.

Wherever the quilters came from, by the time fabric was neatly packed, sewing machines and irons were boxed up and necessary accessories were sorted out, getting to the retreat was no small matter.

"It's the time of year when you need to get out of your house and go someplace, but if not a U-Haul, it takes at least a van with lots of space," said Lau.

The guild's individual clubs take turns organizing the annual event. Seward and Soldotna have sponsored past retreats. This is the third year Homer has played the host and T-shirts designed by local quilters mark each of those three years.

Next year Kenai will organize the event, but it's anticipated the retreat still will be held in Homer.

"As far as we know, Land's End is the only facility on the peninsula that has room, food and hotel space, and the power for that many sewing machines and irons," said Lau.

With Lau and Krivitsky's retreat-planning efforts complete, including hours spent putting together goodie bags and making gifts for each attendee, Krivitsky used the retreat to work on a quilt that will be a gift for a grandson who is a senior in high school. Her attention to drove inspired a web search where Krivitsky found fabric to match the college her grandson plans to attend.

Similarly, Lau carved out some retreat time to work on a project.

"I sat down Sunday afternoon and actually had a chance to get something accomplished," she said, laughing.

Locally made quilts will be on display at the Kachemak Bay Quilters show at the Elk's Lodge over Mother's Day weekend, May 12 and 13. The show includes a silent auction that benefits service quilts the group gives to victims of house fires, one quilt going to each member of the family.

McKibben Jackinsky can be reached at mckibben.jackinsky@homernews.com.