Still Connecting

My word for 2020 is Connect.  The goal at the beginning of the year was to make as many new connections as I could and to strengthen my existing connections with friends and family.  I also set a goal to connect as it relates to quilting.  I was determined to complete as many projects as I could by “connecting” pieces of fabric.  When I picked the word this year I had no idea the difficulty we would all be facing with COVID. 

It turns out that I find it much easier to connect pieces of fabric than it is to connect with other people.  I’ve made a lot of progress on my quilting projects, completing many UFOs and starting many new projects.  I’ve figured out that I have a lot more fabric than I thought I did.  For the first few months of the pandemic, I spent a lot of time in my sewing room.  I avoided leaving the house, was able to get groceries delivered via Instacart and did a lot of cooking.  Quilting became an escape for me, and I am so grateful to have had that escape.

Connecting with people this year is another story, though.  I had not foreseen how challenging that would actually be this year.  I’ve had to get creative when it comes to connecting with friends and family.  Through Zoom meetings, group texts, FaceTime, and email I have been able to stay connected with friends, family, and fellow quilters.  My weekly Zoom meeting with one of my quilt guilds has been a lifeline for me.  It’s been a wonderful way to stay connected and to see what the other ladies have been up to.  I love being able to see them and talk to them and seeing all of their projects continues to inspire me. 

Another way I planned to stay connected this year was through the many quilt retreats at Koosa Mountain Lodge that were scheduled.  Unfortunately, all but a few of these have been canceled and rescheduled for 2021.  I was able to host two retreats this summer, and it was a wonderful way to connect with fellow quilters.  Carol Stanek, of www.colorwiththread.com hosted a retreat where attendees worked on Judy Neimieyer projects.  The quilts at that retreat were amazing!  I even improved my paper piecing technique. 

Koosa Mountain Lodge was also able to host a birthday retreat for a special quilter.  Sandy and her friends enjoyed a weekend of quilting, relaxing and celebrating.  The guests took field trips (wearing masks of course) to the Common Thread, Quilt’n Kaboodle, the North Georgia Zoo, and Tantrum Brewing.  One of my favorite parts of the retreat was sitting by the fire at Koosa Mountain Lodge and roasting marshmallows and eating s’mores, laughing with my fellow quilters.

I also wanted everyone to know if they are looking for ways to connect and want to book a retreat at Koosa Mountain Lodge, we are providing 100% refunds if you need to cancel or move a reservation because of COVID.  Not all retreat venues are doing that but I want you all to know that we understand the risks associated with COVID and will work with you to find a time to visit when you feel it is safe to do so for your group.

The importance of having meaningful connections has been reinforced many times this year. Limited in person social interaction has made me realize just how valuable my connections with friends and family are.  As the need for limited social interaction continues, it is my wish for all of you that you remain connected to those that are important to you, to the ones who lift you up and inspire you.  Please stay safe, healthy, and connected—with your quilting and your family and friends!

Challenge Completed!

Happy Easter!  Lent is over!  I’m sure many of you are wondering how I did with my Lenten challenge of finishing 40 projects.  Well, due to the extended period of social distancing, I have spent a lot of time in my sewing room hiding from the outside world!  I was able to easily complete 40 projects. 

In addition to the masks I’ve made, I finished:

4 pillowcases

3 mug rugs

2 Fold It Hold It bags

7 quilts

24 table runners

I’ve also spent a lot of time organizing scraps, planning new projects, watching YouTube videos, taking virtual classes, sewing more quilt tops to be finished, cooking, and reading.  My longarm machine was running pretty steadily until I ran out of batting.  After seeing the amount of fabric that I have, I have decided not to do any online fabric shopping!  I’ll wait for my local quilt shop to resume normal operation before I go purchase backing fabric for the multiple quilts I’ve finished.

During this very stressful time, I’m very grateful for the ability to lose myself in my quilting.  I’m able to relax and let go of some of the anxiety I’m feeling.  I’ve also gone from being a fabric hoarder to being someone who is prepared! 

My hope is that everyone reading this post has something similar in their lives that will help them through this difficult time.  I’m also praying that each of you stay safe and healthy, and that we can celebrate each other’s accomplishments when this difficult time is over.

Forty Finishes for Lent

I was raised Catholic, and every year in preparation for Easter, Catholics observe Lent.  When I was a child, I would give something up, like soda or sweets, for 40 days to represent the 40 days Jesus spent in the desert.  The last few years, instead of giving up something for 40 days, I would focus on doing something to improve my life or someone else’s for 40 days.   One year it was exercising for 30 minutes a day, another year it was donating 40 bags of clothes and household items.  Keeping with the theme of self-improvement through Lent, I decided to complete 40 unfinished projects during Lent.  

Forty Finished For Lent also keeps in mind my word for the year.  Finishing 40 projects during Lent means connecting fabric together to create quilts, table runners, and bags.  Many of the projects that I plan on finishing are either gifts for others or they are intended to be donated to charity.  I believe the act of creating for someone else gives you a connection to that person, at least in some small way.  I think of that person as I create a quilt for them, and I hope they think of me when they use the quilt. For me, creating is connecting.

I have a lot of unfinished projects, in various stages of completion.  I have a large number of quilt tops that are ready for quilting. I am a longarmer, and I will usually finish my clients’ quilts before I do my own.  I also donate my quilting services for charity quilts, so those also get done before my personal quilts.  I’ve started alternating which quilts I do, doing a few client quilts and then one or two of my own.  That doesn’t always work out, and I’ve gotten behind on my personal quilts.  I will focus on finishing as many of those during Lent as I can.  Since I send most of my quilts to my mother for binding, I will count a quilt as finished if it is ready for binding. 

In addition to finishing quilts, I have several bags I’ve started, a lot of table runners, and a few pillowcases.  It seems as though I have a lot of grand ideas for fabulous quilted gift items while I’m in the quilt shop.  Those grand ideas don’t usually translate into finished projects; therefore, I’ve gotten quite a collection of wonderful gift ideas that are 90% finished.  For those items, they will be counted as finished when they are ready for gifting.    

Forty in Forty sounds like a lot of finishes, but I have quite a few projects that will truly only take 5 or 10 minutes to finish.  When I get on a roll, I’ll be able to do several of those a day.  Many of the quilt tops I have to finish are also quite small and can be completed in a couple of hours.   I’m very optimistic about my chances of Finishing Forty For Lent.

I don’t think that I’m the only one that has an embarrassingly large number of UFOs.  I would like to challenge my fellow quilters, crafters, and creators to Finish Forty For Lent.  If you can’t imagine finishing 40 projects in 40 days, maybe you can get a few of your friends to join you and together you can finish 40 projects total.  You can count your finishes however you’d like. Will you join me?

#fortyfinishesforlentchallenge

My Word for the Year

Last year I decided that instead of making any New Year’s Resolutions, I would choose one word that would be the focus of my year.  I chose “Finish” with the intent to focus on finishing many of my UFOs.  Beyond quilting projects, I had several other projects I wanted to finish.  I wanted to finish the website for my longarm business and several home improvement projects we had planned for a while now.  So, I wrote the word finish on my sewing room whiteboard and on the mirror in my bathroom so that I had a daily reminder of my goal.  2019 was a good year.  I finished a lot of quilts, my website, and the home improvement projects I had planned.  I also finished a few things that I had not envisioned at the start of the year, including one unexpected finish in particular, the purchase of Koosa Mountain Lodge. 

With 2020 upon us, it was time for me to pick a new word for 2020.  This year, my new word is “Connect”  I want to focus on making new connections with quilters and crafters.  I also want to strengthen my connections current friends and my family.  Of course, there is a quilting element to the connect theme.  I want to connect pieces of fabric together to make beautiful quilts.  

The connections we have with others impact our creativity, our physical health, and our emotional well-being.   When we connect with others who share our interests and are supportive of our endeavors, it lifts us up.  People who have emotional connections with friends have fewer cases of depression, they report higher levels of happiness, and they have more fun. 

“The connections we make in the course of a life–maybe that’s what heaven is.” – Fred Rogers 

We all know that connecting with others is important, but how do we do it? One of the easiest ways to connect is to get out of the house and do the things you love to do.  For my husband, it is his love of hunting and fishing that allows him to connect to nature and to other people through shared experiences in the woods, a dove field, or a boat.  For me, the love of quilting has helped me connect with so many wonderful people.  When my kids were younger and needed more of my time, I did most of my quilting at home.  I wasn’t connected to many quilters, although I did have a small group of friends that got together on a regular basis to sew.  Over the years, the ladies in that group moved away or had changes in their lives that made it difficult to get together.  I needed to find more and new connections.  The best thing I did was visiting my local quilt shop.  I started taking classes and attending the sew-ins and retreats.  Through those classes and retreats, I made new connections which led me to join two guilds.  I’ve connected with the ladies in the guilds, and I feel like I now have a tremendous support system.  That support system gave me the confidence I needed to start Koosa Mountain Lodge. 

If you are trying to connect with other quilters, there are many on-line groups you can join.  Facebook is full of groups of quilters, and these can be valuable resources, especially if you don’t live near a quilt shop or guild.  These groups are great, but they have a hard time comparing to the connections you can make with other quilters in person.  Attending classes at your local quilt shop and joining a guild are great ways to connect.  In my opinion, however, the best way to connect is to attend a retreat.  Spending an entire weekend with a group of quilters gives you the opportunity to share meals, enjoy a sunset on the deck, and have great conversations into the wee hours of the morning.  It’s become my favorite way to connect. 

One of the amazing things that I love about owning a retreat center is the connections I make with my guests.  I’ve held a couple of “dry runs” at the Lodge, and the ladies that I have gotten to know through those events are amazing.  They are so creative and talented.  I’m in awe of their abilities.  I continue to be inspired not only by their quilting, but by their stories.

An unexpected treat for me has been witnessing the connections these ladies are making with each other.  I’ve watched as ladies who didn’t know each other at the beginning of a weekend make connections that have lifted their spirits, inspired their creativity, and expanded their friend group.  I love that I’ve been able to help quilters connect with each other. 

I’m very excited about the opportunities to connect at Koosa Mountain Lodge.  I believe the more we connect with others the richer and happier our lives are.  I hope to form and strengthen many connections in 2020 and beyond.

Please support your local quilt shop.

Every day I get several emails from online fabric sellers with great deals, great ideas, and limited time offers.  Once in a while, I give in and purchase fabric online.  I love getting stuff in the mail, and what better stuff to get than fabric, notions or patterns? However, I realize that every time I purchase something online, that’s a purchase that didn’t support my local quilt shop.  Because I’ve been paying more attention lately to exactly what my local quilt shops mean to me, I’m shopping online less and less.  I want my favorite quilt shops to stay open, and in order for that to happen, they need my support.

What exactly does a local quilt shop mean to me?  So many things.  The most important thing to me that my local quilt shop provides is a sense of belonging.  The good ones greet you with a warm friendly “Hello! How are you today?” and follow it up with “What can we help you with?” or “What have you been working on?”  I love it when I bring a finished quilt top in to pick out a matching backing.  It never fails to result in an impromptu show and tell session throughout the shop.  I know that when I go to my local quilt shop, I will be greeted with a smile, usually a hug, and an invitation to browse for a while. 

My local quilt shops have been invaluable resources when it comes to learning new techniques.  You can watch a YouTube video and learn just about anything you want to learn, but it’s really hard to ask a video, “What did I do wrong here?”  Just having someone to show your project to and have them give advice is a tremendous resource.  Many times, when I’ve taken a class, I’ve learned tips and tricks not even related to the particular project we are working on.  That’s not something you can get from YouTube.  

Inspiration comes in many forms, and it is all around us if we remember to look for it.  The easiest place to find it is in your local quilt shop.  The beautiful fabrics, the shop samples, the patterns and the quilting books are all in one place ready to inspire you.  Additionally, when you take a class at your local quilt shop, your classmates are huge sources of inspiration.  A pattern or book usually gives just one or two colorway options, but when you are in a class with 10 other people, you see 10 other color choices. 

Have you ever purchased fabric online and been disappointed with the quality or the color?  Was the print not quite the right size? I’ve had all three happen to me, and one sure way to avoid that disappointment is to purchase fabric from your local quilt shop.  Many times, the colors on a screen are not true representations of the actual color.  When you are looking for a particular color of fabric, it’s best to go to your local quilt shop so you can make sure your fabrics match.  Color, quality, and scale of print are sometimes difficult to determine when shopping online.  

I split my time between Atlanta and Dahlonega, and I’m so lucky to have wonderful quilt shops near me in both places.   My favorites are Stitch and Quilt in Mableton, www.stitchnquiltt.com, and Quilt’n Kaboodle in Cleveland, www.quiltnkaboodlega.com .  If you are in the area, check them out!

I love my local quilt shops and I want them to be available to me for a long time.  In order for that to happen, they need our support.  Looking for a particular line of fabric, a pattern, or a notion? Check out your local quilt shop, and if they don’t carry it, ask them to order it for you.  Your requests give them feedback about what products they should stock.  Need inspiration for a project?  Just stop by and browse, take a class, or ask questions. They are great sources for so many things.  Once in a while, pay full price, it won’t hurt you that much, and it just might help keep your favorite shop open.   

What types of projects work best at a retreat?

The short answer is any project you want to work on!  There are a few things to consider when deciding which projects to bring along.  How is the retreat set up? Will there be enough cutting tables available? How many irons?  Will you have a design wall to work on? Will you be able to concentrate on a complicated set of instructions?  The good news is that at Koosa Mountain Lodge, you will have a good number of cutting tables, irons, and design walls.  However, you will still have other considerations.

When I go to a retreat, I like to have a variety of projects in different stages to work on.  I always try to bring at least one project that is already cut out and ready to sew. I like to be able to start sewing as soon as my machine is set up.  I don’t want to have to wait for a cutting table to be open in order to begin a project. I also don’t want to take up an entire cutting table for the time it takes to cut out an entire project.   Most people need to use a cutting table occasionally to trim up a block or to cut a few pieces, so I always feel bad when I monopolize the cutting area for long periods of time. Having at least one project ready to sew means I can start sewing right away.

Another consideration is the complexity of the project you are making.  I find it is a good idea to at least have one project I am familiar with and can make without having to concentrate a lot.  One of the wonderful things about a retreat is the group of people you are attending with, but one of the challenges is the group of people may be more interesting than your projects!  It’s a good idea to have a project you can work on despite being distracted. It’s usually best to leave the detailed projects for your sewing time at home. My “go to” projects are either scrappy or have a lot of pieces that can be chain pieced.  

One exception to this rule is a project that your fellow guest can help you with.  Are you struggling with a certain pattern that your friend knows by heart? A retreat may be a good time to enlist your friend’s help with a project that has you stumped.  

When I’m at a retreat, I can only work on the projects I’ve brought along.  In my sewing room, I have so many possible projects that I sometimes work on several in one day, never really accomplishing anything.  By bringing just a few projects along, it’s easier for me to stay focused and complete an entire project before moving on to the next. The limited number of projects is a perfect opportunity for me to finish UFOs.  I have a large, embarrassingly large, number of UFOs. Some of them are beautiful patterns with lovely fabric, but an overwhelming number of pieces. They are projects I want to do, but I just sort of ran out of steam while working on them.  These are perfect to bring along on a retreat.  

For the retreat I am currently attending, I brought along a bin of scraps that range in size from 5 to 15”.  I know Koosa Mountain Lodge has an Accuquilter with a wide variety of cutting dies. I’m using this opportunity to iron my scraps and cut them into useable sizes.  This weekend I’m concentrating on 2 ½” strips and 5” squares, with a few 2 ½” squares depending on the size of the scrap. I’ve already made a dent in the bin of scraps, and I will go home with fabric I can then organize by color and size.  I’ve found some really great scrappy patterns that use 2 ½’ strips and others that use 5” squares. 

When you are getting ready for your retreat, my advice is to bring a project you can do mindlessly, projects that your friends can assist you with, projects where an Accuquilter will save you cutting time, and projects that have turned into UFOs you just haven’t finished because of distractions in your sewing room.  

Why should I book a retreat at Koosa Mountain Lodge?

A retreat at Koosa Mountain lodge is like no other.  The peaceful setting, the luxury accommodations and the spacious working area set it apart from other retreats.   Koosa Mountain lodge is located in the beautiful North Georgia Mountains.  From the Lodge, you’ll have easy access to restaurants, shopping, wineries, hiking, quilt shops, and more. 

When I saw Koosa Mountain Lodge for the first time, before I even walked into the front door, I fell in love with the view.   As I drove up the hill, the woods opened up, and I saw the lodge sitting on top of the hill in the middle of a clearing.  It was breathtaking.   I’m still a little awed by the fact that I’m running a retreat in this beautiful lodge.  Even more awe-inspiring than the view of the Lodge as you come up the hill is the view of the mountains from the deck.  On a clear day, you can see Blood Mountain, the highest peak in Georgia.  The Lodge faces due west, so it is the perfect place for viewing spectacular sunsets.  

Every time I come to the lodge, I spend a few moments taking in the view, then I’m ready to go inside.  The lodge offers spacious bedrooms on three different levels.   The large bedrooms on the top floor have enough room for 4 beds in each room. The main level has two bedrooms with two beds in each room, and the lower level also has two bedrooms with two beds in each room.   The large closets and dressers allow guests to unpack and to make themselves at home for the weekend.  The main floor has a fully equipped luxury gourmet kitchen. Guests can gather in the large living and dining rooms.

The lower level of the lodge is set up to allow for maximum productivity while working.   The work room has ample room for 16 guests to work. Several cutting tables are available, including a large cutting table in a smaller room adjacent to the work room.  Also located in the cutting room is the inspiration corner.  A variety of books, magazines and patterns are available for you to use.  Feel free to borrow one or two.  An Accuquilter, along with a number of dies, is available to help make cutting your fabric easier.  Ironing stations and generous sized design walls are conveniently spread throughout the work area.   A kitchenette in the work room makes snacking and hydrating easy.  Additional lighting and electrical outlets have been added to the work area. 

While the Lodge is the perfect place to hide away for a weekend to work, some guests enjoy a field trip or two during their stay.  For quilters, the most popular field trips include stops at local quilt shops. Two quit shops are located within a 20-minute drive from the Lodge. The Common Thread , south of the Lodge, in Dahlonega has a wonderful selection of Batik fabrics.   Quilt’n Kaboodle to the northeast, in Cleveland offers my guests a 10% discount when they visit as a group.  They have a wonderful selection of panels and a wide variety of fabrics.  https://www.quiltnkaboodlega.com

One of my favorite things to do when I visit the Lodge is to spend some time exploring downtown Dahlonega.  The square has a variety of shops and restaurants and offers some unique gift ideas.  Brad Walker Pottery is a favorite stop of mine. I have several of his pieces at the Lodge, and his mugs make great gifts.  A favorite stop for my children has always been the Glass Shop.  Always friendly and welcoming, the owner can often be seen making some of the pieces offered in the shop.  Cork and Canvas is another wonderful business just off the square in Dahlonega.  They offer wine tasting and art classes and will give a special group rate to my guests.  http://canvasandcorkdahlonega.com

The Georgia Wine Highway is a rout that takes you to a collection of wineries and vineyards in the North Georgia Mountains.  The Georgia Wine Highway runs right past Koosa Mountain Lodge.  Three popular wineries are within 2 miles of the Lodge.  Frogtown, Kaya and Three Sisters all offer wine tastings and occasional live music.  If guests want to venture further than 2 miles down the road, almost a dozen wineries are available.    

Koosa Mountain Lodge was designed to give quilters and other crafters a creative home for a weekend.  With ample workspace, comfortable common areas, and large bedrooms, you can spend the entire weekend working on your projects.  The location of the Lodge is convenient to entertainment and shopping options if you decide to explore beyond the Lodge.

Koosa Mountain Lodge: The creative and cozy Georgia quilting retreat.

I’m so excited about my new Georgia quilting retreat, I can barely sleep at night! When Adam and I found this property, I knew right away that it was the perfect location for a quilt retreat.  I love so many things about my retreat! 

 The spectacular view calls to me!  It makes me want to sit still and take in the beautiful surroundings.  It relaxes me, slows me down, and inspires me.  After spending a little time taking in the view, I’m recharged and ready to create. 

A quilt retreat in the North Georgia mountains has so many unique things to offer.   Georgia is a beautiful state, and a Georgia retreat is like no other.  Our Georgia retreat offers beautiful views, proximity to quilt shops, wineries, and outdoor activities. 

Georgia offers multiple quilt shops, and two of the cutest shops are within 20 minutes of Koosa Mountain Lodge.  One of them is in Cleveland, Georgia and the other one is in Dahlonega, Georgia.  The owners of both are very helpful and friendly.

A Georgia retreat in the North Georgia mountains also offers the opportunity for an outing to several wineries.   The Georgia Wine Highway runs right past Koosa Mountain Lodge, and there are several wineries that offer lunch options as well as tastings.  Many of the wineries also host live music on their patios in the evenings. 

Many outdoor activities are available when you book our Georgia retreat.  The Appalachian trailhead and Vogel State Park are both within 20 minutes of the Lodge.  Some of the best fly-fishing streams in the south are a short drive from the lodge.  Tubing and Kayaking are also available nearby.  Another fun destination nearby is Helen, Georgia.  While Helen does not have any quilt shops, it has a number of other shops that may be of interest to guests at Koosa Mountain Lodge.  Helen has wonderful gift shops, restaurants, tubing, and mini golf.

Studio 180 Retreat led by instructor Tammy Silvers

The retreat will be held at Koosa Mountain Lodge, 1263 Damascus Church Rd. The lodge has a large work room, as well as 6 bedrooms with a total of 16 beds. The Lodge will be open for your use Thursday morning so that you can take full advantage of your weekend getaway. For more specific information about the lodge, visitwww.koosamountainlodge.com

The Studio 180 retreat will be led by Tammy Silvers. She is a certified Tucker University instructor. She will be teaching three technique classes and one project class. The classes will be held Friday evening, Saturday morning and afternoon, and Sunday morning. The Sunday morning class will be the project class which will use one or more of the techniques learned in the previous sessions.

The retreats are scheduled once a quarter. Each retreat is a stand-alone retreat, you do not have to attend all 4 retreats, feel free to pick and choose which ones interest you.

First Quarter: January 24-26
Tucker Trimmer
V Block
Wing Clipper
Project Class: TBA

Second Quarter: April 30 – May 3
Square Squared
Corner Beam
Corner Pop
Project Class: Silver Linings – TBA

Third Quarter: August 7-9
Lemoyne Star
Advanced Lemoyne I and II
Project Class: TBA

Fourth Quarter: November 6-8
Split Rects
Diamond Rects
Large Square Squared
Project: Spark – TBA

The cost for the weekend will be $350 per person and includes your stay at the lodge, catered meals, snacks, and class fees. Supplies are not included. Space is limited to the first 16 people to sign up.

$100 deposit required to hold your spot.

Any further questions, please call Mary at (770) 309-2804 or email at Mary@koosamountainlodge.com