Google+ House Revivals: Quilting Retreat at a Franciscan Monastery

Tuesday, November 1, 2016

Quilting Retreat at a Franciscan Monastery

Around this time last year we were traveling in New England. We were having one of those rare vacations, where two of our children and our granddaughter were able to join us. Now that we're empty nesters, we grab at any opportunity to spend time with the kiddos!

When the kids were growing up, we liked to stay in interesting places when we traveled.
We've stayed on boats and barges, camped, rented beds in hostels, etc, but we'd never stayed in a monastery... until this trip!

We were traveling between Boston and Penobscot Bay, and I thought Kennebunkport would be a great stopping off point. When I realized there was a guest house at  a local monastery, there was no question of where we would stay!

Originally built by a wealthy Buffalo family, the monastery estate was built around 1900. In 1947, the property was purchased by a group of Lithuanian friars who had fled Soviet invasion. The friars started a school on the site. Additionally, they turned the stables into temporary housing for immigrants.

photo Franciscan Guest House

These days, there are still monks at the monastery and there is a daily mass, but the property is also a full time not for profit guest house and retreat center. The old dorm rooms and converted stables are now guest house rooms.

photo Franciscan Guest House

The website was clear that the rooms were plain, and they were plain, indeed. They were clean, however; and the staff was friendly, and the Lithuanian style breakfast was amazing. 

On the week that we arrived, we discovered there were two different quilting retreats being hosted in what had been the school gymnasium/ auditorium! 

I met some of the quilters at breakfast -- Jean, Ruth, Terry, and Liz -- and they invited me to check out the retreat and see their projects. This group got together at the monastery every year, for a week of quilt making. By the end of the morning, I was ready to move to Maine, and join their group!

The facility provides quilters with tables, including a large counter height cutting table, lamps, power strips, chairs, and flannel boards. The flannel boards are made from large sheets of insulation, wrapped in batting -- not pretty, but definitely functional. As I walked around the room, it was apparent that the flannel design boards were being put to good use.

(Clearly, this gal, with the floral applique was just showing off -- wowza!)

Everywhere you turned, quilters were busy cutting and piecing bits of fabric to create their art.

Many of the participants brought small tables, including the occasional TV tray, to place next their chairs for cutting and pressing.

Participants brought their own sewing machines, including this old Singer Featherweight.

The group I met at breakfast were set up in a smaller, partitioned off section of the gym.

They were so warm and friendly, and talked about the importance of handcrafts to the Maine tradition.

They shared their lovely quilt projects, including scrap quilts...

... and table runners...

and more scrap quilts (scrap quilts are my favorite)!

I loved this modern take on a traditional pattern.

And here's one more look at that lovely Featherweight! 

A few rebels brought non quilt related projects to work on...

... like this amazing piece of tatted jewelry.

Over all, our autumn stay at the Franciscan Guest House in Kennebunkport, Maine was a great experience. If you only want to stay at the Four Seasons when you travel, this is not the place for you. If you love history, learning about other cultures, meeting interesting people, Olmsted designed grounds, great food, the occasional quilter, and possibly an outdoor morning mass, I recommend this guest house highly. 

If you love old quilts, you might love this post about upcycling orphan quilt pieces.

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