EVANSVILLE, Wis. — Baskets of colorful fabric peppered the floor, while spools of thread running the color spectrum dotted the workstations where more than a dozen women crafted squares of fabric into quilts.

Laughter and friendly chatter punctuated the hum of sewing machines.

The 15 women had traveled from throughout Wisconsin and Illinois to spend the week at The Grove Retreat in Evansville, which opened in March as an overnight getaway for crafters.

But it's not about the quilting, they insist.

"That's low on the list," said Judy Hasheider of Sauk City, quilt teacher and organizer of the "slumber parties." "It's the camaraderie, it's the support_just being with other women."

Joan Wick and Lori Woodworth fulfilled a long-term wish by opening The Grove Retreat at 5 N. Water St. The building formerly was an assisted living facility and transformed easily into a crafters retreat_the one-story building sleeps 15 in 12 rooms, many of which have half bathrooms.

The retreat has a large kitchen, so guests can cook their own meals. Each guest is provided with a table and lamp in the 900-square-foot creativity room.

Rates range from $10 daily to $30 to $75 per night, depending on the size of the group, the day and length of stay.

The building was empty for three years, but veteran crafters Wick and Woodworth knew what they wanted to do with it. Woodworth's husband, Phil, is a long-arm quilter, running his business Grove Quilt Co., from their Weary Road home. Wick has gone on quilt retreats for more than a decade.

"It's just a nice way to spend time with your family or friends to get stuff done," Wick said.

Their goal was to have 10 overnight bookings of quilters, scrapbookers, stampers, jewelry makers and other crafters between March and December. So far, they have 14.

Everyone has different ideas about what they want to do when they arrive, said Woodworth, who works full time for Oscar Mayer.

"We want them to feel at home and be able to just relax and do what they want to do," said Wick, who is a principal in Evansville and also works at Patches and Petals in Belleville.

Some groups hang out in their pajamas and slippers.

"It's just great therapy," Hasheider said. "They figure it's cheaper than going to a therapist. And besides the support, they get to leave with a project."

The group that arrived Tuesday is staying until Sunday. It's one of their three annual retreats. People meet at retreats or come with friends, said Hasheider, who organizes about 25 retreats a year through her business Quilt with Judy.

"Over the years, this (group) has developed into a friendship where they all come back year after year to be together," she said.

Hasheider said the Grove Retreat is like "an answer to a prayer" because it provides chairs, cutting boards, ironing boards and private rooms.

The women tell stories of the fun they've had through the years_from changing song lyrics to sing about quilting to their membership in the Wednesday Afternoon Strippers to the 2006 "naked" quilter calendar girls. Each month of the calendar featured a spoof of a quilt pattern, such as arrowhead, with a photo of a woman covering herself with a small quilt. The group still laughs about the project.

"I've met some really close friends on retreats," said Carol Krein of Schaumberg, Ill., who has been going on retreats with Hasheider for 15 years. The retired school librarian said she's a "retreatoholic" and goes on up to eight retreats a year.

"It is kind of like a slumber party. A lot of things get told here that you don't tell people normally," she said. "It's really good therapy."

A couple tables over, Janet Sperry worked on pictures for the inside walls of a fabric house that will hang over a card table to create a playhouse for her grandchildren. Sperry has quilted with the group for years, but she didn't have to travel far this time from her Evansville home.

It's nice to have locals along to give tips on the area, said Corinna Plachetta of Oregon who was working on an appliqué at the next table over. She has lived in Brooklyn but had never been to the Monticello quilt shop, where a group of the women visited Wednesday.

Wick and Woodworth said they hoped their retreat would bring business to town. "Retail therapy" often is part of a retreat, demonstrated by a carload of women who played show-and-tell after returning from an area shop Thursday. Members of the group dined out in Evansville and went out for morning coffee, while some planned to hit the downtown shopping.

"We stay up late, sleep in in the morning, if we can, and we don't starve!" Plachetta said with a laugh.

This is an AP Member Exchange shared by The Janesville Gazette.