For a week in July more than a dozen women put other summertime tasks on hold and retreat to concentrate on something they all love. In the past, they have gone away to vacation destinations in Colorado, Missouri and Arkansas, but for the past five years they haven’t left the county for their “quilting for the soul” getaway.


For a week in July more than a dozen women put other summertime tasks on hold and retreat to concentrate on something they all love. In the past, they have gone away to vacation destinations in Colorado, Missouri and Arkansas, but for the past five years they haven’t left the county for their “quilting for the soul” getaway.

The Apple Patch Quilters, a group of mostly teachers and staff at Skyline School, gathered for five days this month at the United Methodist Church in Sawyer, bringing along their sewing machines, cutters and mats and all the paraphernalia needed to turn a stack of fabric into a bed cover or wall hanging. They sign up ahead of time to bring food and drinks for meals and snacks and put money in the kitty to reimburse the church for utilities and supplies.

There doesn’t appear to be a particular reason they no longer travel. Meeting close to home for most of the women just works out well and there is plenty of space to leave projects spread out, Beth Novotny said. The local setting also allows people to retreat when they have time and also take care of things that need to be done elsewhere. It’s difficult to carve out a whole week of time, Novotny said, although some of the women did, arriving early in the morning and staying until late at night.

They started out with some group projects. One team worked on a striking 8-point star design of red and green on a white background for the church’s annual fund-raising auction. Others pieced together a quilt to be sold for the Skyline National Education Association scholarship fund. Some Apple Patchers worked on quilts to be presented to new babies in the “Skyline family” and to staff retirees.

After the group quilts were well underway, the individual projects came out. Kathie Thurman showed a stack of western scene blocks she pieced together with triangle sashing. She estimates she has made 20 or more quilts but has kept only five or six for herself. Most are given to family members — the nieces and nephews get married and need a quilt, then they have babies, then the babies get older — “I’m not done yet,” she noted, apparently satisfied with a continuing opportunity to give away quilts.

Jane Melroy made a Christmas tree skirt for daughter Erin. Ruth Ann Barker was working on a holiday gift and Novotny was piecing a collection of blue fabrics for her son and daughter-in-law.

Bernita Lawrence, a retired school nurse, pledged to either finish a challenging quilt she had started earlier or throw it out. Finishing seemed the best option.

Brenda Piester’s project was a pattern she called “County Lines.” She’s relatively new to the skill, having taken up quilting after her younger son graduated from high school.
“They’re teaching me everything I know,” she said of more experienced Apple Patchers.

When a project was completed, it was time for show and tell. The “oohing and aahing” attracted the attention of Flynn, a Skyline therapy dog attending with Novotny, who is his caretaker. Novotny knows he was responding to the voices, but added, “we think he likes quilts too.”

Along with the cutting, stitching, pressing and trying out different arrangements for blocks, there was plenty of time for visiting, catching up on each other’s lives and viewing pictures of the latest grandbabies in the group.

“It’s become a staple of our summertime activity,” Novotny said.