Piecing together inspiration and friendship
Quilting was both an essential skill and form of art on the frontier. That’s why, more than 20 years ago, we started celebrating quilting with the annual Montana Cowgirl Quilt Retreat. For a week each fall, we open the ranch to international quilting artists who teach techniques while sharing new patterns and ideas. You can quilt to your heart’s content, drawing inspiration from the retreat classes as well as from the magnificent mountain surroundings. One day is reserved for a field trip into Bozeman for a “quilt crawl,” the fiber-fabric-antique equivalent of a pub crawl. The “cowgirl” element of this retreat is that you’ll have plenty of time to ride horses, hike, fish, explore, relax on the porch or whatever you wish. If you bring your non-quilting partner, never fear. They’ll have more things to do than you’ve got fabric scraps.
These longtime friends have forged their own “western history” and indulged their inner cowgirls at an annual fall retreat in the wilds of Montana. Cowpokes and trout streams. Bunnies and coyotes. An unlikely setting for patchwork and quilting, but one that works for us. Twenty years of retreats at the Nine Quarter Circle Ranch in Gallatin Gateway, Montana, have resulted in our close friendship and many growing and learning experiences besides. Each year, on a Sunday morning in September, I hop a plane in North Carolina to fly across the country, while Charlotte loads up her car in Salt Lake City and heads north. When we arrive in Bozeman, “it’s like being in our western home,” as I like to say. Other quilters join us, coming from as far and wide as Florida, Illinois, Minnesota, England, and even New Zealand over the years. The charming log cabin accommodations include a cozy, handmade quilt for each bed, out of which we roll bright and early each morning at 7:00 A.M. The clanging of a bell signals breakfast at the lodge. Clothespins marked with our names clipped to red bandana napkins show us our assigned seats. Almost as important to quilters as fabric and fun is the food, and at meals we mix, mingle, and get to know each other better. Charlotte and I teach classes on Monday, Tuesday, Thursday, and Friday mornings. Keeping the surroundings in mind, we design class projects with western themes. Projects have included a pieced horseback rider, cowgirl, wolves, bunnies, coyote, moose, elk, bison, a 100th anniversary wall hanging, foundation-pieced flowers, Setacolor processes (fabric painting), a Montana mountain scene, horse portraits, and other ranch-related projects. Afternoons are for fly-fishing, hiking, striking out on the trails upon our “assigned” Appaloosas, or simply enjoying the scenery. The west entrance to Yellowstone Park is just 40 miles down the road, and a trip to the park with a picnic lunch is a wonderful day excursion. We’ve climbed nearby Lincoln Mountain, a challenging hike. Last year, we discovered an easier route to the summit, signed the logbook at the top, and had fun reading the comments of previous hikers. Some retreaters stay in class and work on their class projects or other quilting, and some just relax. On Wednesdays, we take a field trip to Bozeman, a lovely ride along the Taylor Fork of the Gallatin river. Main Street Quilting offers a wealth of western fabrics. Across the street is the Silver Thimble with a diverse fabric inventory. A couple of blocks off Main Street is Margo Krager’s shop, Reproduction Fabrics. Her specialty is vintage reproductions fabric, catering to the movie industry and museums. On the outskirts of town is Jane Quinn’s shop, Quilting In The Country. We always find Jane catching her breath from her big August quilt show where quilts literally cover the barns, an event that turns the town into quilt heaven. As we head out of town, there is one more shop – Beverly’s Bernina. We head back to the ranch, but wait a minute – there is just one more antique shop calling to us on the way out of town… By the end of the week, we marvel at the animals seen on the trails, the “one-that-got-away” fish stories, and the results of all our stitching. We’ve even recruited a few ranch hands and ranch guest to join our quilt world. It is always with great nostalgia that we pack our bags and head home, but we always know the ranch awaits us next year. And we have the quilts we’ve made individually and together to remind us throughout the year of our western home. If you have never been to a ranch, or if you want to soak up the marvelous surroundings and do some quilting too, come join us next fall. Until then, Happy Quilt Trails!
The adult-only retreat features international quilt teachers Charlotte Warr Andersen and Georgia Bonesteel. For further information on our renowned teachers, please visit their personal websites via the links provided at the bottom. Come join us for another wonderful week of quilting, riding camaraderie and wonderful scenery. Bring your husband or friends, and they can enjoy the riding and fishing while you quilt to your heart’s content! Please e-mail us for further information on this quilt retreat. Quilters, can you imagine a more perfect vacation than a combination of quilting, horseback riding, fishing and just plain relaxing? This will be our 24th year hosting the retreat with our great International Teachers, Georgia Bonesteel and Charlotte Warr Andersen. Each year they design a pattern that is associated with the ranch and its surrounding beauty. Classes are taught in the morning, leaving afternoons free to ride, fish, hike, or continue quilting or relaxing. Most evenings find us back quilting in the lodge. Wednesday we venture to Bozeman to visit our local quilt shops and all the wonderful, unique stores in our historic downtown. The camaraderie, sharing of tips and ideas, and making new quilting friends are wonderful experiences shared by many quilters returning every year. Husbands are welcome, or you can make it a vacation for yourself alone or with girlfriends. There is plenty for the non-quilters to do, so you are free to quilt to your heart’s content! The rate for double-occupancy for 2020 will be $2,630 per person. For more information or to reserve your spot, please contact us at [email protected] or call 406-995-4276. Or click below to download our reservation request form.
Just A Couple Of Quilting Cowgirls – by Georgia Bonesteel with Charlotte Warr Andersen