“Material Girls” Gather to Sew and Reconnect at Mill FallsPosted on April 6th, 2012 No comments
Since this lakeside NH resort opened in 1985, it has hosted many groups of people who return year after year for business conferences, corporate retreats, and special social events. One family has even been gathering at the Inn at Mill Falls for its annual reunion for over 25 years! But there is one group of friends who have a distinctive place in the Inns’ varied history—they love it here so much that they come back for their reunions not just once, but twice every year.
The Material Girls Quilting Group has been coming to The Inns & Spa at Mill Falls since 2000 for their biannual getaway weekends, every March and November, when they set up their sewing room for a few days of sharing ideas, working on individual projects, and nurturing longtime friendships. In the Cummings Room at the Inn at Mill Falls, the sound of laughter can often be heard over the hum of the machines.
Janice Bye, the Material Girls coordinator, began booking these getaways twelve years ago. Originally from Toronto, Janice married an American and lived in Rochester, Minnesota before moving to Massachusetts in 1993. At the time, her children were very young, and she was looking for a way to meet people. An avid knitter and quilter, Janice joined a knitting group as well as a quilting guild. “This is a quick way to meet friends with similar hobbies,” she says. The North Parish Quilters (NPQ) had been holding annual March getaway weekends at a 4H Center in Ashland, MA, but when the center was planning to close in 1996, the quilters needed a new place to gather. That’s when some of Janice’s friends asked her to organize the event and find a new location. As it turned out, the 4H Center stayed open for four more years and Janice was able to coordinate the getaway there. However, a new home for the weekend gathering would be needed soon.
“I had heard that a group from Reading went to the Inns once a year. (The Nimble Thimblers still come to the Inns, but I was never part of that group.),” says Janice. “I contacted the Inns and set up our first getaway in March 2000. I extended the invitation to the girls from NPQ as well as a few other friends. The girls loved the place so much that we booked another one in November too . . . We have continued to come in March and November every year, and I seldom have an open spot.”
These getaways are the only time that most of the quilters get together now. Although they started out with many members of the same quilting guild, the group has evolved. “We gave ourselves the name ‘Material Girls’ many years ago when we realized that we were a special group that met on these getaways,” explains Janice. The Material Girls hail from Maine, New Hampshire, Rhode Island, and Massachusetts, with one quilter coming all the way from Cape Cod.
While most of the women come back to Meredith every March and November, sometimes someone can’t make it and there is room for another friend to join in. The waiting list is short, but the 24 available spots are always full. “Bob Strang [Sales Manager for the Inns] can look at those old rooming lists and see the same names,” says Janice. “We have lost a few quilters that have different family responsibilities or interests so they don’t come anymore. We lost our dear friend Frances Duffany a few years ago to cancer, and we still miss her. She was in her 80s, and had never been away from her husband and family ever. A trip to the Inns was always a highlight for her, and she would share quilting tricks and dirty jokes.”
The quilters are so comfortable at the Inn, many of them like to get into their pajamas and slippers after dinner to relax and sew in the cozy Cummings Room. “My favorite time is late at night when most of the girls have gone to bed,” says Janice. “There are only a few good friends, and we chat and help out each other with any quilting problems. We usually don’t get to bed until 2 or 3.
“The staff at the Inns is always terrific. We have seen so many of the people over and over. Besides Bob, we usually have a visit by Andy. Vicky loves to come to see what we are working on. And Linda has brought some of her quilts to share with the group, much to our delight.” In the early years of the group’s visits (before the Mill Falls renovations), all those sewing machines and irons often knocked out the power, so the girls were frequently calling the front desk to turn the circuit breakers back on. “Sometimes we were doing that every hour, and the staff would always come down with a smile on their face,” says Janice. “At some hotels, they are kind of are annoyed that you even disturbed them, where at the Inns, they’re always happy to help you, no matter what you request.
“A few years ago, we made a wall-hanging and presented it to Bob as thanks . . . it hung in the Cummings Room for a short time, but now hangs in the head office.”
The Material Girls have been coming to Meredith for so long, they know many of the local shopkeepers personally and look forward to reconnecting with the folks at the Inns as well as with each other. The regular visits have become more than just a getaway. “Nobody wants to go anywhere else,” says Janice. “Every once in a while I say, ‘Does anybody want to try a different location?’ And they all say, ‘No, we like it here.’” According to Janice, some of the girls have remarked, “Let’s go home, we’re going home for the weekend.”
Mill Falls Blogging Team
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