The fabric of friendship is stitched at the biannual Camp Horseshoe Quilt Retreat.
A couple times a year in the remote woods of Tucker County, a group of friends old and new gathers to escape the trappings of everyday life. Strangers cease to be strangers, old friends reunite, and everyone feels they belong. The Camp Horseshoe Quilt Retreat, held each spring and fall, has been going strong for over two decades, and it’s always a special occasion.
Yes, there’s quilting, as the name of the retreat suggests. The group, primarily women, learn to sew, hone skills they already have, and pick up tricks from others who have advice to offer. Participants also do charitable work at these retreats—creating potholders for mission trips or crate mats for local animal shelters.
But amidst the work, there are also friends to be introduced, food to be shared, stories to be told, and memories to be made. At brunch, participants might hear how the tablecloth they’re eating from is someone’s treasured family heirloom and learn about the history it holds. They find themselves in a group of around 50 to as many as 100 people in any given year.
The spirit of the retreat is about much more than the fabric between participants’ fingers, says organizer Mary Smith. “It’s a time to be outside some and just relax.” You can sew or not sew, she says. You can go for a stroll and take in the blooming flowers of spring or the changing leaves of autumn. You can revel in the freedom from reliable cell phone service and the responsibilities that usually take up your days. “It’s just a nice space to be in,” Smith says. “You’re away from home, and you’re away from your daily routines. You can just go to relax and let the world fall away for just a few days.”
And you’ll never have to relax alone—some women haven’t missed the event in more than 15 years, keeping in touch with friends they’ve made via email or social media but rarely get to spend quality time with in person. “There’s a bond,” Smith says. “They’ve bonded and have become friends, and this is the time they see each other, in May or September.”
Although the group skews middle-aged or older, a new generation is coming along to the event, too: This past spring, a 16-year-old took part in the quilting activities. Young people will stop by to visit and take a peek at what’s going on, Smith says, if they’re camping nearby. Sometimes they’ll even join in and learn how to make a pillowcase and think about returning when the event happens again. “The younger generation has an interest,” she says.
So if you’re ever looking for a reunion of chosen family and dear friends, you might have to look no further than the quilting ladies of Camp Horseshoe. They’ll welcome you with open arms.