I like this picture. Matthias Steiner of Germany – circa 2008.
Matthias won the Gold Medal in the Heavyweight Division for Weightlifting in Beijing. There’s a sweet, sad story that goes with this picture – I think you know I love a good story. But before I get to that, we’ve been chatting about what the Quilting Games would look like. What sort of events there would be – and who we knew that might excel.
Let’s start with Matthias and his expertise – how many 30 gallon tubs of fabric do you suppose he could lift? Every quilter who stores bins of fabrics on the top shelf of a closet would have experience in this kind of competition. (Seriously, it is a most excellent
hiding place storage solution.)
Speed events? How about a 42-inch Dash? The winner is the person who can un-sew a 42″ long seam the fastest. Ripping is not allowed – some sort of tool must be used. Tears in the fabric will result in automatic disqualification. This could even be a relay event – four quilters, four seams… no starting until your teammate is complete and passes the tool.
I’d be a contender there – I’ve had enough practice that I am quite fast at un-sewing.
Clover could be my sponsor.
Instead of the 400-meter hurdles, we could have the 400 Four-Patch race. The first person to piece 400 four-patches accurately – that’s the hurdle part of this race – wins. Lisa Bongean, Sherri McConnell and Tammy V. could represent Moda – we’d be medal favorites.
Then I got thinking about a Retreathlon. Ten separate events that comprise a “retreat decathlon.” Points are awarded based on performance in each event – it will test skill, versatility and endurance.
We’d get to wear stretchy pants – though maybe not this tight.
(That’s Ashton Eaton of the USA. He won the gold medal for Decathlon in London in 2012 and is a favorite to win the gold in Rio.)
Packing. The first event for anything retreat-related is packing.
Competitors start with the same amount of stuff and the same vehicle. Points are awarded based on speed in packing the vehicle, neatness and how much leftover space there is. The vehicles get smaller and more stuff is added in each successive round of competition.
Most Items Brought to Retreat. If you’ve ever been on retreat, you know that there are a couple of requirements – 1. Bring what you need. 2. Bring what you think you might need. 3. Bring what you probably won’t need but might want. 4. Bring what you’re pretty sure you don’t need or want but are bringing “just in case”. 5. Then add ten more things because there’s a teeny bit of room left in the car. (Local competitors will always have a home-field advantage in this event.)
Forgetting an essential item – needles, thread or the power cord for your sewing machine – will result in automatic disqualification.
Projects. You’ll need something to work on. Points are earned based on the quantity, variety, difficult, and the amount of stuff related to said-project. Contestants who do not actively work on every project they bring are disqualified. Bonus points are awarded for projects that are finished during retreat.
Bobbin Vault. Ten points are awarded for every bobbin used during retreat. Adjustments are made for bobbin size – 100-meter bobbins earn twice the points as a 50-meter bobbin.
The competition to make the Moda-team for this event is fierce, there are some seriously fast sewists here… the Juki-effect.
Chain-piecing. Think of this as a 1-mile race – competitors race to finish 260 – 6″ sawtooth-star blocks. Blocks must be pressed and accurate to count toward the total. Broken needles, rotary cutter wounds and turning pieces around the wrong way are false-starts that require the contestant to start over.
Hand & Machine Skills. Just as there are different apparatus in gymnastics, there are different apparatus in quilting. Contestants will demonstrate their versatility by bringing hand- and machine-projects. The level of difficulty – skills required – will be considered in awarding points.
Lisa Bongean, Joanna Figueroa, Edyta Sitar, Brenda Riddle, Sandy Klop and Anne Sutton are among Moda’s top competitors – all excel at a variety of hand- and machine skills. Embroidery, applique, piecing and quilting.
Endurance. Come on, part of the reason to go to retreat is to stay up into the wee hours. This isn’t about sewing so much as not sleeping. Whoever stays up the most – sleeps the least – is the winner. (They are also not allowed to drive home.) Anyone who is the first to go to bed and the last to appear in the morning for two days in a row is disqualified.
Doping is allowed in this competition – caffeine is the only substance approved.
Yes, you may bring your own coffee-maker or espresso machine.
Snacks. Of course it’s a competition!
Points are awarded in the following categories:
- Quantity – enough for you and enough to share. And enough to last the retreat!
- Variety – salty & sweet! Fancy and anything that falls into the old-fashioned, comfort-food category.
- Uniqueness – bonus points for every person who has never heard of what you’ve brought
- Share-ability – if nobody else wants to try your snacks… you’re out!
(Yes, I had the most fun searching for these pictures.)
Gold Quilter. I like that better than “Iron Quilter” but the gist is the same. This is a start-to-finish competition. Contestants start with the same pattern and the first to cut, sew and complete the project wins. Fusibles and glue-basting are disallowed for this competition – as is machine-stitched binding.
And finally… the nitty-gritty.
Up Close & Personal. Who has the cutest t-shirt? The coolest socks? The best pajamas? (I’m sorry but as adorable as they are, enough people have the sewing pajamas from Tar-jay that they are the retreathlon equivalent of doing a cannonball in the springboard diving competition. They’re great but you won’t get any points for wearing them.)
Do you have the newest gadget that nobody else has even heard about? A piece of some out-of-print, everybody wants it fabric?
And because this is still a retreat, contestants who make an appearance with their make-up and hair totally done will receive a lifetime ban from retreathlon competition – and perhaps, from retreats.
All that said… none of the competitions matter. The Gold Medal winner at every retreat is the person who laughs the most.
The young woman in the picture is Susann, Matthias’ wife. She’s the reason I remember his name and story – this column by Ron Judd in the Seattle Times will tell it. Grab a tissue first.
It’s also why I will always like watching the Olympics. Life is messy and there are parts of it that aren’t neat, pretty or particularly rational. There is corruption and greed, cheating and commercialism. But there are always stories of extraordinary people doing extraordinary things – people who shine more than a gold medal. Even if they win one.