Right now, I’m at the biannual quilt retreat that I attend every fall and spring. It’s at a beautiful location in Door County, Wisconsin. I’m writing this from the great room with Lake Michigan lapping the shore just a few steps out of the huge windows. It truly is wonderful here.
But despite the beauty and the great surroundings, we come here to sew. It’s so nice to get away from the family, the TVs, the phones (I have no cell phone reception up here), and just sew to your heart’s content. There is a chef here who prepares all of our meals, and staff to clean up all of our dinner messes, so we just sew and sew and sew and eat and sew and sew and eat. We have 27 women here this time. The fall retreat is usually less attended than the spring retreat. In spring, we’ll be at capacity with 40 women.
The huge messy pile here is how I actually pack every time I go anywhere. It’s really not as bad as it looks. It’s organized chaos. I go around the house gathering things I need to take with me, and pile them all in the livingroom. I’m sure this bugs the heck out of my husband, which is an added bonus. Once I’m satisfied that I have everything I need, I start packing them into suitcases.
See? Everything you saw in those pics is in these suitcases. The only things you don’t see here is my big purple suitcase with clothes, toiletries, pillow, flannel sheets, and quilt. That suitcase was actually already packed in the above pics. My serger, serger thread, and rulers are in the brown case; my sewing machine, thread box, and iron are in the purple case; fabric, notions, and patterns for projects are in the red case; my sewing essentials are in the SnapWare containers, the clear tote box holds large things like batting, fusible stuff, interfacing, lamp, freezer paper, and large pieces of fabric that wouldn’t fit in the red case; my laptop (which I normally don’t bring) and a few books are in the tote bag. This is how the room looks before all the women get here to set up. It will look much different shortly after this picture.
If you’ve never been to a quilt retreat, you really should consider going to one. It’s several days filled with great company, uninterrupted creative time, lots of inspiration and ideas, laughing until you cry, and you get to go home with several completed projects.
I’ve been to several different types of retreats. At this one we have people who cook and clean up after us, and there are several bedrooms where we sleep 4 to a room, with a bathroom in each room. I’ve been to other retreats where there is just one big room with lots of bunk beds (like a summer camp with a boys room and a girls room) and camp-type food that is cooked for us; retreats at hotels where we sew in conference rooms, sleep either in your own hotel room or share hotel rooms, and eat in the hotel restaurant or go out to restaurants; and retreats at summer camps where we sleep 4-6 per room, share one big bathroom, and everyone brings a dish for potluck meals. There are many other types of quilting retreats out there, and costs vary greatly.
When looking for retreats, ask at your local quilt shops. They may run one, or know of someone who does. Your local quilt guild may also sponsor a retreat. Most quilt shops have an area near the door where people post flyers, etc. Check there to see if there are any flyers for upcoming retreats. Ask quilt guilds in neighboring cities about retreats. Some may allow non-members to attend their retreats. If you can’t find a retreat, but have a group of friends that would like to get together for a weekend, consider renting a space doing your own mini-retreat. There are several places in my area that rent a home that sleeps 8-10 people, with large open rooms for sewing. Many of these already have cutting mats and irons provided. Again, look at flyers in your local quilt shop or in the ad section of your guild’s newsletter.
Once you’ve found a retreat you want to attend, there are several questions you want to make sure you get the answers to before going, such as: Do you need to bring your own iron and ironing board? Cutting mat? Is food included in the cost of retreat? Are bed linens provided? Towels? Do you need to bring a table? Again, retreats come in a million different varieties with different levels of amenities provided. At this retreat, the facility lets us store ironing boards, irons, extension cords, large cutting mats, etc. in the storage room. So we have 5 ironing stations and 5 cutting stations throughout the room, and attendees don’t need to brings irons and cutting mats. But you may need to bring them at other retreats. Some retreats I’ve been to require that you bring your own 2x4 table. Make sure you know that ahead of time. This retreat does provide bed linens and towels, but I like to bring my own flannel sheets, pillow, and quilt anyway.
Cutting mats, irons, ironing boards, tables, linens, towels, and chairs are all things that you may or may not need to bring with you. Things that you definitely want to bring with you to EVERY retreat include: power strip, extension cord, lamp (like a small ott table light or floor lamp), your own rulers, rotary cutters and scissors (it’s a good idea to put your name on them), and the power cord and foot pedal for your sewing machine (yes, I have been to retreats where people have forgotten them), your phone charger, and your own toiletries.
Bring several projects with you. Some small things you can get done in an hour or two, large quilts, some hand sewing, etc. Try to bring enough so that you don’t run out of things to do and you have lots of variety, but not too much so that your vehicle is jam packed with stuff you’re never going to get to. Some quilt retreats have themes where the whole group works on the same projects. Materials are usually provided to you and is included in the costs of retreat. I personally don’t like these types of retreats. I like the ones where everyone just sews whatever the heck they feel like sewing, but it may be something you’re interested in.
Things you definitely need to bring with you include: freezer paper, fusible products, batting, and interfacing you may need for your project, as well as all of your sewing essentials. I keep all of my scissors, rotary cutters, bobbins, pens, seam rippers, machine parts & feet, pins & needles, etc. in SnapWare containers. I like them better than those plastic drawers that a lot of people use in their sewing rooms because I can stay better organized with smaller containers. And the added bonus is that I just put a lid on the top, and the whole thing comes with me to retreat.
This one runs from early Thursday afternoon until Sunday afternoon, so I’ll keep posting pictures of the retreat that over the next few days to show you how much fun we’re having. I hope you will consider looking for a retreat in your area. Don’t worry if you don’t know anyone else who’s going. Just go! I promise you’ll have a great time and you’ll come back with lots of new friends and maybe a finished project or two.