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What do you pack for a Quilt Retreat?

What do you pack for a Quilt Retreat?

Written by: 
Jody Sanders

Have you ever attended a quilt retreat?


I’m Jody Sanders and I have participated in dozens of quilt retreats in the past three decades. I attended my first retreat 29 years ago as a new officer of the Iowa Quilters Guild. As a state guild, new officers and current officers met for a three-day sewing retreat to get to know each other and share information about specific position responsibilities. It was a wonderful way to meet new people in a setting we all enjoyed.


Most common is a retreat where attendees use sewing machines and sew their own pattern or one taught by a teacher. Many of the retreats I attend are within driving distance, which is good because I tend to overpack. To a recent retreat I took two sewing machines (in case one broke down), one suitcase with clothes, a second suitcase with fabric and projects, pillow, tote bag with hand-sewing in case I need a break from my sewing machine, show and tell, and snacks. Sometimes I also take a small pressing table and chair! 


There are checklists you can download from the internet to make sure you don’t forget things like a power strip, extra lighting or the foot pedal to your sewing machine (I have forgotten each of these things!) For me, machine sewing retreats are an occasion for uninterrupted sewing time. It’s an opportunity to get a quilt top completed in a weekend, especially if I use Moda precuts, where some of the cutting is done and fabric selection is already determined. 


Not long ago I attended a three-day hand-piecing retreat. No sewing machine necessary. How is a hand-piecing retreat different from one with a sewing machine, other than the obvious? You won’t get a quilt top completed. I completed five small blocks and a strip of clam shells for embellishment for the front of a bag. Although I didn’t get a lot of blocks made toward a quilt, I learned about different types of sewing needles, pins, threads, task lighting, and thimbles. I discovered personal preference plays a big part in the tools used for hand-piecing. A retreat is a great place to see different gizmos and gadgets in action. I used acrylic templates to line up motifs for fussy cutting, traced cutting lines, marked stitching lines, and then cut each piece with a pair of scissors. As someone who normally uses a rotary cutter, acrylic ruler, and mat to cut stacked pieces of fabric into smaller pieces, this slower method of cutting was relaxing. The sound of sewing machines humming was replaced with the murmur of small group conversations. I loved getting to know my fellow retreaters as we huddled over our handwork. It was also easy to move around the room and join other conversations or observe demonstrations. One thing I always remember to pack is several pair of cheaters. I can’t see to hand sew without them! 

ct_retreat readers

Packing is also on a smaller scale as you have fewer and smaller tools needed. 


I enjoy both types of retreats and am fortunate to have the opportunity to attend several local, state, regional, and national retreats every year. I haven’t done a quilting cruise or international retreat, but love seeing posts from those who combine travel and their passion for quilting.


If you could plan your ideal quilting retreat, what would it include? 

What are your must haves on a retreat?


You can see more of my quilting adventures @sewmorequiltsmom on Instagram. 

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