Heather Ross Sewing Retreat in Palm Springs

A weekend at the Ace Hotel in Palm Springs with Heather Ross, Anna Maria Horner, Denyse Schmidt, Gretchen Hirsch, and twenty other amazing ladies.  All on sewing machines.  It was heavenly.

I think I was most surprised at how lovely and collegial everyone was.  The older I get, the harder I find it to make friends, and there are no words for how downright friendly each and every one of these women was.  Just open and interested and kind and smart and sassy and funny–oh, my gosh, SO FUNNY.

And it seemed as though every one of them had something so cool going on, such interesting lives and amazing accomplishments, in so many fields.  Jane lives right here in Atlanta and raises backyard chickens and makes the prettiest quilts.  Kristen is a federal agent and was making pants for her enviable figure.  Rachel is working on a deal with Bernina and is consulting for J. Crew and Anthropologie (!).  Josie teaches middle school science and can knit like a fiend.  Jean makes the most delectable modern quilts, and also is a vet with a heart of absolute gold–plus she has the most amazing dog ever.  Annabel teaches kids to sew from her home studio and has a book coming out early next year.  Emily takes such gorgeous photos and makes wedding dreams come true (plus she has a baby due in the summer!).  Just a really impressive group of women, across the board.

And then there were the instructors.  Heather Ross, of course, who is everything you already know her to be but also the best hugger in the world, and such a humble and kind and generous person.  And Anna Maria, who is both brilliant and talented but also funny and thoughtful and welcoming.  Denyse Schmidt, who easily has the most gentle manner I have recently experienced, and who was truly interested and intrigued in every project she saw this weekend (not least of which was Tony Danza).  Gretchen Hirsch, better known as Gertie, who has a delicious, dry sense of humor and a keen eye, and who is sharp as a tack, crazy talented, plus adventurous and engaging and maybe a bit of an enabler (like I was really going to order the LAMB, for heaven’s sake).  Every one of them there with a spirit of camraderie–not just with one another, but with all of us, too.


Naturally, there was, like, a serious TON of fabric.  More than half of us confessed that we’d taken clothing OUT of our suitcases to make room for more supplies.  For my part, I cut out the squares for my Tony Danza quilt, and then fiddled with the pattern a bit to break it into 36 12.5″ blocks.  Of which I sewed three in Palm Springs–which is practically 10%, so I am thrilled.  I also did a little hand quilting on my sampler quilt and finished hand-sewing in the lining of my LBD, which I didn’t finish in time to wear on my date but will SO be wearing this Saturday when hubs and I go out.  Very successful weekend for me–if you don’t consider the fact that now I have 25+ people who have seen the beginnings of Tony Danza and will now be holding me fully accountable to bring the project to completion.  When Heather Ross and Denyse Schmidt take photos of your quilt project with their cell phones, and Denyse tells you, “I CAN’T WAIT to see the Tony Danza quilt finished!” you get your fingers moving and make you a quilt.  The world demands it.

And as if all that wasn’t enough, there was the sheer exquisiteness of the setting.  Southern California, 78 degrees, sparkling pool water for our exclusive use, Butter the Greatest Dog Ever, citrus trees outside your room, the hippest hipster hotel, it was all so lovely.  So relaxing.  Dreamy.

I am already dreaming of going back next year, if only to see that puppy face again.  Oh, who am I kidding? It’s to hang tough with my fabulous new sewing friends and soak up some mid-winter sunshine.  To get some inspiration and to make some connections and to recharge tired batteries.  To eat great food and to swim and to gaze at the peaks in the distance, framed against a crystal clear sky.  (And to see that puppy face again.)

More photos on Flickr.


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  • Karen Chatters
    January 31, 2012 at 3:21 pm

    I’m just oozing envy! This seems so amazing. And as for that TD quilt, you’ve told us all about it and we’re all holding you accountable!!

    • Deborah
      February 1, 2012 at 7:54 pm

      Oh, no. Another 25 of you, watching over my shoulder?? Alright. Lemme finish this book first, and it’s ALL-Tony-all-the-time. 🙂

  • Emily Steffen
    January 31, 2012 at 4:14 pm

    This is such a fabulous post my friend! Captured just perfectly with words and photos….I am dying to be back there today as I stare out the window at the snow! 😉 And, I too, can’t wait to see that Tony Danza quilt finished! 🙂 YAY!

    • Deborah
      February 1, 2012 at 7:53 pm

      It rained and rained all day today–what I would have given to be by the poolside in a caftan, sipping root beer and dreaming of fabric! Glad you made it home safely, LOVED your post and INCREDIBLE photos! See you soon!

  • Kim
    January 31, 2012 at 5:21 pm

    Puppyface nothing, howsabouts the beefcake poolside, sister?

    OK jokes aside, looks like an absolutely delicious, fantasy weekend. Sewing, wonderful people, sewing, southern California, sewing, OH! and did I mention sewing?

    Welcome back.

    • Deborah
      February 1, 2012 at 7:50 pm

      One is Anna Maria’s husband–who, if possible, is nicer than he is good-looking–and another is Heather’s brother-in-law (who I didn’t meet, but if Heather’s husband is any indication, is also crazy nice).

      It WAS delicious and amazing. Am glad to be back, but SO glad I went!

  • Kim
    January 31, 2012 at 5:22 pm

    PS Speaking of poolside, are people out there in their JAMMIES? Could it get any better????

    • Deborah
      February 1, 2012 at 7:51 pm

      They provide you with caftans!! In every room!! It was like a sleepover vacation. Yum.

  • EG
    January 31, 2012 at 8:42 pm

    I’ve been seeing Anna’s postcards. Looks like a sublime experience! Glad you had a great time!

    • Deborah
      February 1, 2012 at 7:48 pm

      It was lovely! And it’s been so cool to come home and see everyone else’s photos and posts, and see it a bit through their eyes, too. What great memories!

  • Ellen
    February 1, 2012 at 11:27 am

    Next time I’m hopping into your bag and going with you. That looks like it was such a great experience.

    • Deborah
      February 1, 2012 at 7:47 pm

      It really was every bit as dreamy as it sounds. You’d love it!

  • Rachel at Stitched in Color
    February 2, 2012 at 7:50 pm

    Ohhhhhh! What can I say?

  • Jane
    February 2, 2012 at 9:24 pm

    So very well documented! I felt so honored to room with our very own Atlanta sewing star 😉 I may snag your lovely photo of my sweater for a tutorial I’m working on- your pics are great!
    Hope to bump into you around town(unless you are so buried under your kitchen, book and Tony Danza project that you never again leave you house 😉

    • Deborah
      February 3, 2012 at 10:34 am

      Totally! We don’t even live very far apart–we should have sewing playdates. 🙂

      Next time you’re heading to the shop, let me know and I’ll meet you there!

    February 3, 2012 at 1:26 pm

    Wow! What a fun bunch of gals to spend time with sewing and laughing! My kind of vacation, for sure!

  • Mika
    February 7, 2012 at 1:51 pm

    OMG – I am so jealous, but so equally glad you got to be there.