For some of us, the creative juices begin to flow the minute we leave the City limits. There is something so wonderfully powerful about being surrounded by nature and all its splendour….wide open spaces, fields filled with seasonal crops and unparalleled beauty.
Last week, I took a trip to Carseland, a tiny hamlet south east of Calgary. Travelling on Stoney Trail, I headed south as far as I could, then turned east on highway 22x. But rather than taking the left turn into Carseland, I went right heading to the Bow Bench Retreat. I was meeting with Nancy Strath, the lovely, accomplished, entrepreneurial founder of the Retreat. Nancy smiles a lot…but then, she has a lot to smile about!
Outside the Retreat itself, stillness is the first thing that strikes you. Then, you notice how many birds are singing. Next, you open your eyes to the spectacular beauty of the surroundings. Overlooking the Bow River and Wyndham-Carseland Provincial Park, Nancy’s retreat is the visual definition of bliss.
Nancy began this place from scratch, on family land, taking over the barn-like structure and filling it with “all things quilting”. There are sewing tables and chairs, power outlets everywhere. There is a cozy little kitchen and metal bars in the rafters where her quilts are hung. She wanted the retreat to not only be her sanctuary, but a sanctuary for all quilters who venture out. She says, “This place was created out of love and joy”.
Nancy is a certified Judy Niemeyer quilt instructor and loves to teach the foundation paper piecing style that Judy advocates. “It’s like putting together a giant puzzle, says Nancy, Or like painting by numbers. Although Judy’s patterns initially look daunting, they are detailed and organized, methodical and quite relaxing to work on,” she adds.
Quilters come to Bow Bench not only to stitch and learn from Nancy, but to also experience her gentle and kind manner. She’s like a quilt counsellor….who offers therapy sessions! Novice quilters are welcomed with open arms at Bow Bench and are free to use all of Nancy’s quilting supplies, such as scissors, rotary cutters and mats as a way to “try out quilting” before they purchase all the supplies for themselves.
Nancy will be teaching Judy’s newest technique, called Vintage Rose, at Bow Bench for one Saturday per month commencing in September. Since Nancy does not offer overnight accommodations at Bow Bench, she hosts the occasional workshop away from her Carseland location. Upcoming is a foundation paper piecing retreat at the Lazy M Lodge near Caroline, Alberta. Here, participants will be able to stay overnight, eat great food and sew to their hearts’ content for an entire week.
Nancy is amenable to renting out her facilities at Bow Bench Retreat to individuals and groups. You can contact her at 1-403-934-3491 or email email@example.com.
I keep thinking I want to drive back to Carseland just for an opportunity to practise some yoga poses on Nancy’s deck! In the sunshine. Above the Bow River. Amazing!