My first visit to the Minnesota Renaissance Festival was in the fall of 2000. I was 19 and my first love had just ended our relationship. I was heartbroken.
As a way to cheer me up, my family insisted I join them at the festival the next day. That day was the start of a love affair so grand that it is impossible to describe in words.
Over the next five seasons, I visited fest almost every weekend. I bought a corset and renaissance dress on ebay. I bought my very first sewing machine and taught myself to sew in order to make my own dress one year. I flirted, I danced, I made lifelong friends.
I learned to talk to people. I learned to be confident. I learned that I didn't have to fade into the background. I went from a shy 20-something with low self esteem and social anxiety to a confident young woman who could think on her feet and hold her own in a conversation.
And most of all, I discovered that I belonged somewhere. Just as I was. It was like coming home to a family I had never known but had known in my heart all along. They were all there, just waiting for me to find them.
Those were glorious years! A very special, happy, stressful, interesting time of my life. Memories I hold dear, faces I can still call to mind. So much of my life happened there, so many of my thoughts focused on fest, year round.
It has been six years since my last visit to the renaissance festival. It was a gradual slowing down, a growing up, a growing apart. I now no longer obsess about fest, count down the days, go to the places where my fest friends hang out. Fest was there for me when I needed it most and gradually, I outgrew that need.
But there is and always will be a piece of my heart that belongs solely to the festival. I left it there the first day I set foot on the grounds. Even now, the smell of new woodchips sets my heart racing. So many reminders in an average day, memories pulled from the depths. It's all still there, just as if it was yesterday.
In the summer of 2010, Lizzy House's Castle Peeps came out. I bought a full yard set of prints the very second it came out. I knew I would someday make a very special renaissance festival quilt. Something that would capture the excitement and drama, the laughter and tears. The colors and noise and wildness of it all. The love, real and imagined. The adventures and the friends and the heat and the rain and music and morning sunshine curling through campfire smoke. Those busy, sunny, tiring, lovely, lovely days.
It took five years but I finally found the perfect pattern for my renaissance festival quilt. I knew as soon as I saw S.O.T.A.K Handmade's version of Katy's Fly the Flag pattern that this was THE pattern!
It reminds me of the bright flags hanging everywhere out at the festival. Their flutterings are in the background of every memory.
Fest started two weekends ago and will continue on through September. I'm taking this time, my favorite time of the year, to finally make my festival quilt. I'm adding in some Heather Ross Far, Far Away unicorns. I'm watching Once Upon a Time on Netflix. I've already made a few blocks and I love them! I hope that by the end of the month when the evenings turn chilly and wood smoke is in the air, I'll have a bright and lovely quilt to wrap up in. Stitched inside will be all the memories, good and bad. And wrapped up inside it, my heart will be whole.