STAFF WRITER JENNIFER FIERRO
Faced with a broken marriage, the death of her father, and having to put down her beloved dog — all in the same year — Mary Clendennen picked up a needle and thread.
“Please don’t let this be one more thing that I start and don’t finish,” she whispered as she began sewing together the pieces of a quilt — and her life.
The quilt she pieced together during that tragic time answered her prayers.
Now an award-winning artist whose quilts are valued in the thousands of dollars, Clendennen is a perfectionist with a reputation for pulling out inexact stitches and starting over. During the past 12 years, she has worked diligently on her quilting by taking classes and going on retreats, even sailing on quilting cruises.
As she uncovered her talents, she discovered a network of women with more than quilting in common.
“I’ve not met anyone yet who doesn’t have wounds,” Clendennen said. “We share our experiences of healing. These stories are what give other women courage.”
Clendennen opened her Marble Falls-area ranch home to quilting, building up a reputation and retreat well-known throughout the quilting world for its beauty, comfort, and excellent workshops. She has developed local quilting circles as well.
Just about every Tuesday morning, a group of quilting friends meets at Clendennen’s Cimarron Ranch Retreat, where she also holds weekend- and week-long workshops. To help her quilting friends, Clendennen started buying bolts of cloth wholesale, which she then sells from an on-site retail store. She calls the appointment-only store History Quilts because most of the fabrics are Civil War-era replicas.
Along with the Sacred Tuesday retreats, she hosts Second Saturday Club gatherings every second weekend of the month. Quilters from across the state meet in Clendennen’s spacious sewing retreat with its beautiful hilltop vistas to cut up, patch up, and mend.
They also work on quilts.
“We stay up all night long; we tell stories,” she said. “These stories are what develop friendships.”
The women share the stories of their lives along with quilting techniques and patterns. Clendennen can name just about every pattern on her quilts and who among her quilting friends shared their knowledge and expertise with her in making that particular item. Clendennen also knows all the names of the quilters who sat with her, laughed with her, and sometimes even cried with her as they carefully pieced together their art.
Their friendships go beyond the sewing machines lined up along the windows at the Cimarron Ranch Quilt Retreat. When a fellow quilter needs help, the others are there, preparing meals during a health crisis, holding bridal showers for children and grandchildren, supporting each other in times of need. At the funeral of one quilter’s husband, the Sacred Tuesday stitchers took up an entire pew.
“That’s the kind of bonding experience you have,” Clendennen said. “It’s all about healing.”
Every quilt has a story, she continued, and represents a specific moment in each quilter’s life. Every seam illustrates advice, insight, and instruction regarding life’s challenges.
“I’ve never found a selfish quilter — never, ever,” Clendennen said. “Quilters are the most generous people I’ve met in my life.”
Quilting, like life, is not easy. Those looking for instant gratification won’t find it in the planning, cutting, stitching, ironing, and piecing involved. What comes with the discipline, however, goes beyond the reward of a completed project. Most important, quilters find belonging, friendship, and support.
“I love it when I have all my friends together,” Clendennen said. “We do become family.”
The Second Saturday Club holds Block of the Month programs at 10 a.m. those days. Quilters should call (830) 265-0202 for more information.