Manitoba Prairie Quilters

Virtually Fabulous!

Bonnie Hooley, Manitoba Prairie Quilters


February 8, 2023


Who wouldn’t want to Cruise Down Under, on a cold January weekend? Or would you prefer to try your hand at the virtual Escape Room? That’s how the Manitoba Prairie Quilters (MPQ) spend their weekends during the cold days of January. 

What am I talking about?  Well the Zoom virtual retreats of course!

When Covid-19 was declared a pandemic and threatened to interfere with the guild’s ability to thrive, like many guilds, MPQ began Zoom meetings. Quilters, being the resilient type, were jumping into tutorials being offered to get familiar with Zoom.  MPQ, through the guidance of Kathy Paul, was determined to take the guild one step further.

Kathy Paul had only recently joined the guild and had dived head first onto the Executive, when the pandemic was declared. Being familiar with zoom through work, she was not going to let a pandemic get in her way. She believed that through Zoom we could offer our guild all the pre-pandemic adventures they had always enjoyed. Thus, the Virtual Retreat was birthed.

Manitoba Prairie Quilters boarding pass

Kathy recruited herself, sister Bonnie Hooley, and Alice Gibson to MPQ’s first virtual retreat committee. The ambition was to ensure we offered, through Zoom, a retreat experience that would rival any in-person retreat.

MPQ has offered a Quilters Safari, a Murder Mystery Cruise, and most recently enjoyed the sites of Australia by Cruising Down Under. The retreats have been a huge hit, with just under 100 members lining up to get on board.

The last retreat started weeks ahead of time with members signing up for their favourite Excursion. Options included Kaola Ankle Biting, Skygater Vakaying, Kangaroo Rooying, or Roo Pup pouching. All mini workshops held while on board during the retreat weekend.

While packing for the weekend their personalized ticket appeared, complete with name, dates and of course, individualized cabin numbers. A menu for the tasty ship cookies and ship’s signature drinks also arrived, to ensure the cabin was ready to set sail.

Manitoba Prairie Quilters schedule

While on board the Daily Ship Compass arrived in mail boxes, outlining everything from the weather to the many onboard activities. While embarking, passengers were encouraged to put together a team and sign up to join in the evening entertainment. This weekend, they were competing at Quilters Feud.

Scattered amongst the open sewing, excursions and chatting, passengers were exposed to a number of ship demos. They learned to “Bind Down Under” and master Koala towel folding. They went “Bird Watching” and  “Zip Lining”. Needing to take home some souvenirs, the “Heart Pendant” and “Koala Cards” demos were just the thing.

The workmanship suffered a little for those who continued to sew after Happy Hour. But they learned more than they wanted to about their fellow guild members, after playing; “Never Have I Ever” – information that will keep members in stitches for years.

If that wasn’t exciting enough, most of the cruise fees were returned to passengers in one of the 36 prizes from the 18 separate weekend draws.

These virtual zoom retreats have been a huge hit. A safe way to get together and have a whole lot of fun, without having pack up your studio for travel. The retreats have drawn out members who thought retreat days were behind them. It has attracted  members of all ages and from varying distances throughout our province. 

These retreats will not replace MPQ’s in-person retreats. Rather, the Zoom retreats are providing an additional way to bind members together from near and far, in a way only a retreat can.

Winters can be cold in Canada. MPQ has proven that a Zoom retreat can be a warm and inviting way for a guild to cut loose and escape the elements.

Bonnie Hooley is Co-President of the Manitoba Prairie Quilters.

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