The greater Portland area is not only the largest metropolis in Maine (Pop: 500,000), the city is also where I hold some of my Maine Quilt Retreats. As home to more than a third of Mainers, the area is its culinary, artistic, and cultural center, which makes it nice to visit even if you aren’t coming to one of my retreats. Plus it’s home to one of the state’s two “major” airports—easy come, easy go. And easy to spot your luggage if you have any the color of my student, Bea Englert’s (above)!

These are a few of the reasons why I choose to hold retreats there, plus the Hyatt Place Portland–Old Port provides a great meeting room for us, very nice accommodations, a helpful staff, and yummy lunchtime food. All well appreciated as we’re hard working ladies, after all.

Then, when the work is done, you can step out the hotel door and enter Portland’s Old Port with its many restaurants, coffee houses, galleries, boutiques, bookstores, and good ol’ souvenir shops. Oh, and there’s the working fishing wharf two blocks away, with restaurants on the piers and even on a boat—completing Maine’s maritime ambiance that makes our state the vacationland that it is.

Lobster boats ready to head out in the early morning light.
On a morning walk, husband Tom and I smiled at the name of this market that carries beer and wine in addition to a few provisions including pick-your-own live lobster.
One window display that says it all in a Maine sort of way: lobster, lobster boats, moose, lighthouses, puffins, and the Red Sox.
Window shopping the artwork of Abacus Gallery, and reflecting the old brick buildings of Exchange Street.

This was my first Maine quilt retreat of 2017, and the first “official” Portland retreat. The “unofficial” retreat was last October, open to past Maine retreat students as guinea pigs for this new location. It was successful last year, and did pretty darn well this year too, partly because of those outdoor reasons mentioned above, but mostly because of the abundant creative energy and camaraderie of the ladies working indoors.

At times the class became so quiet you could hear the proverbial pin drop—except for the carpeted floor. The concentration on this fabric collage technique is immense. Painter Terry Hartzell (above), learned how to transition to painting with fabric and was still smiling in the end. See her Cindy the Goat in-progress in the slide show below.

Little by little, as the five days progressed, the classroom and tables became more and more heaped with fabric as it was flung hither and yon. Rhoda Helmuth virtually disappears behind her table in the photo below left—as my Albie the rhino of Tickled Pink looks on.

Before you know it, the week is over and the “messy scary” stage of the projects has passed. My priority, in all my classes, is that my students know how to proceed with their projects beyond the classroom. Understanding the fabric collage process well enough to finish is my goal as a teacher.

Some students arrive with their own goals: Marilyn Wright (below left) was inspired by an Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland’s March Hare wall clock to create a “down the rabbit hole” design to showcase the clock—a first in one of my classes! Bea Englert (below right) was inspired, rightly so, by a trip to Florence and Michelangelo’s David, though her interpretation is a bit more colorful than the great master’s.

I was truly “tickled pink” seeing the impromptu working pedestal Beatriz Englert fashioned for her David.

Ellen Stevens (above) needed to head out early to beat the weather for a small plane flight with her husband back to Texas. Who knows what we were talking about with the hand gestures, but in any case, she missed the class photo below.

Starting back left to front: Bea Englert, Marilyn Wright, Wanda Rains, Terry Hartzell, Laura Eschenroeder. Tucked in the middle: Barbara Caldwell. Back row to front: Joyce Carrier, me, Becky Shippy, Rhoda Helmuth as “Sol” face, Eloise Cotugno, and Sharmie Williams.

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And so another class ends, with colorful remnants, and a unique challenge for the cleaning crew.

Next week I will be announcing the dates for my 2018 Portland, Maine Quilt Retreats (held at the Hyatt Place Portland–Old Port). I’ll make the announcement in a special blog post and in my newsletter. If you aren’t already signed up to receive this blog via email or are not receiving my email newsletter, be sure to sign up through my website here: sign up for blog and newsletter.


  • Such imaginative projects! A visit to Maine (either Portland and/or Harpswell) has definitely landed on my bucket list. Thank you again for so generously sharing your student work!

      • Hi,
        In spite of my faxing and emailing the very first minute that registration went “live”, I am the first alternate for one of your Empty Spools classes next spring. You are a gifted and incredibly popular instructor–and deservedly so! Perhaps this is the universe instructing me to visit beautiful Maine…hmmm😉

  • Great inspirational photos, as always…can barely wait to get there for the June retreat! See you soon!

  • I wish I still lived down in Wells -it would make it do much easier to attend one of these Maine gatherings! I used to go to Portland often to get a dose of the city and some culture – a marvelous city. I’m in Columbus OH – home to amazing food, culture and half a dozen quilt/fabric shops! But oh, do I miss the ocean!

    • Thanks Phoenix – yes, Wells would be much easier travel than from Columbus – though I did enjoy my little foray into Columbus once during ComFest. Interesting crowd and great craft fair.

  • While I enjoy & reference your “how to” technique posts, I really love the student project posts! Especially the progression photos. I study them carefully & wonder, “why did they use THAT fabric THERE?” & then see the end result. Gives me hope that I can do the same! Keep ’em coming!

  • Great photos of students’ work! They obviously enjoyed the class. You made me miss Portland. It’s a great little city!

  • Oh my, this looked like so much fun Susan! You continue to share your wealth of information and talents!

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