How Do You Retreat?

Do you enjoy going to quilt retreats or spending a sewing day with friends?  I do and as I was getting some things together to spend a sewing day with friends, I was reminded that almost any time there’s a large group of us together, there are some who come in with just a small amount of “stuff” and yet they have everything they need and most everything anyone else would need.  There are some who bring a car load of “stuff” and don’t have anything they need.  And, of course, there are many who fit in between those two.  I’m closer to the one who has a full load but nothing I need.  It’s amazing that no matter how much I plan, leaving at home on piece can mean I’m stuck and can go no farther.

There are two boxes I keep packed for travel.  Both contain things I cannot sew without!  These are all extra things that I leave packed.

This box contains a plug strip/surge protector, screw drivers (small and larger), hand lotion, iron cleaner, Mighty Bright light, some cushiony stuff to keep my sewing machine from rattling on a hard table and to keep things from rolling off my sewing area.  Looks like I’ve thrown in some Post-It pads too.  Can’t make it without those

This box contains my little pencil bags that have pens, pencils, bandaids, tape, looks like a few more Post-It notes, pins, extra bobbins, an extra foot, thread, scissors, rotary cutters, a ruler.

Then there are project boxes.  I usually have at least two project, and often more, depending on how long I’ll be gone.

The projects are organized into “kits” of sorts.  Flying geese are all made for the blocks, all the pieces for the blocks are included (I hope), the pattern, and the border bundle. I could come back with a completed top!

There’s another project box, a bag of cut fabric for making pillowcases (in case I’m talking too much and don’t get around to serious sewing).  I may even throw in some knitting . . just in case I decide to stay a month.

And as I finish writing this, I look up on the design wall and see a block that should be in that box.  Forgetting that would mean I wouldn’t make much progress on that quilt at all!


  1. 1

    Judy in MI says

    Not sure if I should have commented back on your kitchen post but here goes – this is a suggestion for your kitchen…
    What about a flourescent fixture in the kitchen? Everyone gasps in horror these days when you suggest flourescent lights but they are cool and give off lots of light. We had a fixture (industrial type) with four 8 foot bulbs that was finished off with wood molding and plexiglass panels. It gave off great light for the room. If you also have under cabinet lights, you will be in great shape. It’s very economical and perfect for a basement kitchen! Hope I’ve helped you.

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    I now take my own chair on retreat. Nothing worse than trying to sit on a folding chair with the sewing machine up so high on a regular table! I take advantage of the fact that the chair is height adjustable…and has back support…and is cushy on my bum!

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    I went on my first quilting retreat (four days, three nights) in February. It was such a blast, but I woefully unprepared! I kept a running list on my laptop of things I wished I’d brought, and when I put things away upon returning, noted which things had been totally useless! I hope to be a bit more prepared for the next one! 🙂

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    Diane says

    I spend approximately two weeks preparing for a retreat. I got to two a year and sometimes three. I always bring more than I need, but I travel so far to get there it is impossible to run home for a forgotten item, and there are no quilt shops within an hour.
    I really wish I could be like some who can bring everything in a single tote bag and stay busy the whole time.
    As a matter of fact I have a retreat in one month so I already have my mental list started.

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    I’ve never been to a quilt retreat so I am very interested to see what you ladies take with you. Maybe someday I will be able to go. I thought it was special when I got to go to the Long Beach International Quilt Show last year! Maybe one of these years I will be able to do a retreat.

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    Pam says

    I take my SewEzi table. I grew up with a sewing machine in a cabinet and I have never out grown it. I take Warm N Natural batting for a design wall. I have an Art Bin tote that I keep the removal fishing tackle type carriers -one loaded with machine accessories, the second and third are filled with items that might be needed or that were needed at a prior retreat. I have an iron and large ironing pad that I take to share. I take a cutting mat that is composed of three 12×18 mats that are duct taped together and folded. Then I guess as to what rulers I need.
    Oh I am so ready for September and October when I have back to back retreats.
    Enjoy yours!

    • 6.1

      Rose says

      Judy, enjoyed your comments about your “packing” list and am making up a list of my own based on your list. Didn’t see spare sewing machine needles on your list. Hopefully you keep a spare pack in your stuff.
      Read with interest all the comments of stuff all of you pack.
      Pam, your 3-12×18 cutting mats duct-taped together and folded is a great idea. Suppose keeping the mats folded also keeps the mats from bending when handling.
      I have made a case of sorts for my 12×18 mat when taking to classes, etc. Have duct taped two pieces of white 1/4″ foam core together at the bottom and then insert the cutting mat to keep it from bending. I made a rectangular bag out of twill-like fabric which looks like a long tote bag. Also carry the long rulers in that bag. I plan to add a pocket inside to tuck in the rulers (forgot when I first made the bag). I remember a quilt teacher telling us to never carry rulers in a plastic bag as they will slice open the bag and you may never notice your loss until it is too late.

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    Judy, it’s so good to see what you keep in your always packed kits. I’m looking forward to Shipshewana in October as my first ever retreat. Since I’m traveling from California, I better make sure I have everything I need and I somehow need to get it all into my suitcase. I’ve already got one scrap quilt kitted up and ready to go.

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    When the Sundae Quilters get together we usually just do hand work and talk, talk, talk.

    When we go to our guild retreat… it is more heavy-duty packing. I always try to cut out at least two projects for retreat ahead of time and pack them in boxes… then pack the essential tools and the machine.

    Any time to get together with the girls is a great time indeed!!

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    I love getting together with other quilters, I love watching them work, but I have a very difficult time sewing with other people around. I simply can’t get in the groove, it’s like their energy totally distracts me. I’m weird.

    • 9.1

      Gwynette in NW Arkansas says

      I’m with you, CJ. I love to get together with the girls for quilting, but I’m not very productive in a group. Do much better in my studio alone, but the comraderie is hard to beat with a bunch of giggling, chocolate eating quilters.

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    Never been to a retreat either, so don’t really know. Just wondered what happened to your new website design – it’s back to the old version?

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    I have ONE small carry on size suit case that holds machine., iron,cutting mat,ironing mat, 2 rulers,drop cord, grooming bag of general sewing box goodies and fabric. When MR travels for work we are often gone 3 days to 2 months. MOst hotels these days have furniture in them. Altho Last week I sewed on a picnic table outside for 3days, rocks held down the small bits.

    I have watched many ladys spend hours carrying all the crap, thensetting up all the crap, fussing the details till they cant function.. Retreats are suppose to be relaxing ! not comparison of how full you can pack the van

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    Gwen says

    I have learned that less is more! Of course it depends on how far from shopping the retreat takes place. Precutting projects is a must. I do needleturn applique so there is always handwork to go along. For just a sew day that is usually all I take unless we have planned a special project we are all doing. I have flown to one retreat and used a borrowed machine( THANKS, JUDY!)and took everything else.
    I would reccomend that if it is possible. Hugs, Gwen

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    I am also am looking forward to my first quilting retreat in Shipshewana in October. Thanks for sharing some of the items you take. I know I’ll be one of those that don’t take what I need, but take what I don’t need.

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    Still hoping I can leave a comment. This will be my fifth try. So far, no luck, and no idea why. Anyway . . . my phantom comment is this: what do people do at retreats? I really hate packing everything up just to go to a class, and so I’m not sure why I’d want to do this. I know that people who go really enjoy them, but what do you do on a retreat? Why would you do that rather than just stay at home to sew? There must be something I’m missing. I’d like to hear from those of you who’ve done it.

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    I love to go on retreats as it is concentrated time to work on projects. I usually try to have at least three projects with me…one near the last stages, one in the middle and one that hasn’t even been cut out. I never know what will float my boat during the retreat.

    I usually have everything packed 🙂

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    I find that I do more socializing at retreats than sewing, but it is such fun to be with like-minded people. We are going for the second time on a retreat of several days to the Amish area of PA. There are quilt shops galore, so we never have to worry about finding something to do (or where to go if we have forgotten something).

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    Trish says

    I, like you, love going on quilt retreats. My favorite ones are unstructured. I have a sewing machine and bag that stays packed and ready to go. It has all the basics and essentials. Depending on which projects I’m taking, I’ll pack whatever special tools are needed for the projects. I also take a variety of projects … some that are ‘mindless’ and some that are more complicated. I need the ‘mindless’ ones to work on in the morning (because unlike you, I’m not a morning person) and love to work on the complicated one when I’m hitting my stride … about 9:00 pm. 🙂

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    Darlene S says

    I love going on retreats IF I can take projects that are nearing completion or pre-cut. I’m like CJ in that I usually get more sewing done (and more accurately sewn) if I am by myself in my sewing room, but it’s so much fun to see what others are making, And of course we always have great snacks and funny things happening at a retreat. Sometimes we do a theme night — everyone comes dressed to sew in our jammies and slippers (in Nov.) so we don’t have any baby dolls pj’s!:) 🙂 Or maybe we wear a funny hat that fits our personality. We usually do a secret sister event where someone leaves you little gifts every once in a while during the weekend and you don’t know who it is until it’s over. We eat chocolate, drink a little wine or chocolate martini’s or some other fun drink one night and laugh a lot. We are a small group of 10, so we know each other very well. Everyone should try it at least once . Dar

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    krisgray says

    I love retreats – all sewing and no cooking or cleaning! With my limited space and a 3 year old in the house, I use my June Tailor ironing station bag as permanent storage for mats, rulers, etc. – basically anything I need when going to LQS for a night of sewing or to a class. For a retreat, I make a list of projects and then what I need while working on those projects right down to color of thread. I like to cut projects ahead too, so that I can hit the retreating stitching. Imagine my surprise after my first retreat when I realized my feet were swollen from sitting at the machine most of the day – I mean I got up to press and snack! So, I also take my yoga mat to do some leg and back stretches before bed.

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    Liz says

    Last year, I wrote a post about retreats because I was trying to think of all possible things to take to a 3 day retreat. This year, I am going back to the retreat, but I opted not to take any classes, just go to the sewing room and sew on projects.

    I just checked it and it reminded me that I need to start thinking about what to take this year… I am looking forward to some cool September weather and sewing!

    Here is the post, in case anyone wants a list to review –