Why Retreat?

There were a few comments from quilters who’ve never been to retreats so if you’ve been or even if you’ve wanted to go, why do you go to retreats or why do you want to go to retreats?

I’ll share my experience with retreats.  I don’t enjoy the ones where everything is all planned . . classes, exchanges, swaps, do this at a certain time, etc.  I enjoy the ones where we go, pick a spot, set up our machines and sew til we can’t sew any longer.  There’s usually a big room where we all congregate and sew.  Food may be catered or we may form groups and go when we’re hungry . . some may get pizza, some may get steak . . everyone does what they want.

I’ve been to retreats that some just loved and wouldn’t miss for the world and I couldn’t wait to get out of there and never return and I’ve been to some I loved and my friends couldn’t wait to get out of there and never return!   You just have to find the ones that are right for you.

But, you sew from daylight til you seriously can’t sew any more . . no housework, no cooking, no chickens, no dog, no responsibility except sewing.  I could do that every day!  I kinda do that every day except during canning season.

A couple of years ago my friend, Elaine, was my roommate at a retreat in St. Louis.  We still cannot remember what was so funny but we were headed back to the room very late that night and one of us said or did something and we fell out in the floor in the hallway laughing and couldn’t stop.  We were so afraid we were going to wake up others but we couldn’t stop laughing . . and now we can’t even remember why.  It could have had something to do with a bottle of wine . . I really don’t remember!  🙂

Elaine and I were roommates at another retreat in Arkansas where fellow blogger, Denise, was sharing a huge room with us.  Denise stays up all night . . really . . and sews.  Elaine and I short sheeted Denise’s bed and waited and waited and waited for her to finally come to bed and wouldn’t you know it . . she accidentally got under the quilt but not under the sheet and didn’t even notice.  There was quite a bit of laughing that night too.  Could have been the strawberry margaritas that night! 🙂  (Beginning to see why these retreats are so fun?)

For me, retreats are kinda like a sewing vacation with my good quilting friends.  There’s one coming up in Shipshewana in October that Ruthie set up for us and I think almost everyone who will be there is either a blogger or reads a bunch of the quilting blogs.  That will be great fun to meet many bloggers I’ve talked to for years and never met.  That’s what it’s all about!

There are probably as many reasons for attending retreats as there are retreats.  Let’s hear why you all go.


  1. 1

    Lizzy Hentze says

    I attend retreats because I am an appalling time manager and it is the ONLY time I can piece anything for myself. Plus, I love that I can just get up and the only person I really have to look after is me! I can eat or not as I please, say yes or no to the trips to a quilt store if others are going, wander off and do my own thing, or hang around in the company of other like minded individuals! I’ve just returned from a week away and now I can’t wait for another opportunity!

  2. 2

    Gwen says

    I like being with other quilters and getting some things done without the responsibility of home and family. Sorry I slept though Judy and Elaie’s late nigh laughter! I do wish my retreat options were a little more spread out. I would like to get away at another time of the year. June is a popular month1

  3. 3

    Becky R says

    Really, the only retreats I’ve been to were organized retreats. Everyone did the same project but it was fun, even with me being the instructor! Fun, but wears you out!! I like the idea of everyone getting together and sewing whatever they want so I’ll have to see about getting a group together and finding a hotel or motel where we do this. Fun, fun, fun!!

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    I go to 2 retreats a year, occasionally 3, that are proscribed: they’re mystery retreats and you make the quilt as the teacher dictates. I’ve been to 27 of these retreats over the past 10 years (no kidding!) and I recently realized that I have more UFO tops from these retreats than from any other source. Why do I continue to go? Because my quilting buddies (from 6-12 of them) go! It’s something we’d never give up! We do the margarita thing, the falling on the floor laughing thing, the staying up all hours thing and I wouldn’t trade it for the world. With that said, we do also go to a cabin in Lake Tahoe every other year or so with our own projects and frankly, we love that too. Really, it’s just about being with your buddies, the women who really understand you.

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    Kathleen says

    Friends, sharing, laughter, talking – as well as sewing. No cooking, cleaning, or others to take care of.

    My guild has a retreat twice a year. Around 90 people go. It’s at a church camp and wonderful. They provide 3 good meals a day, plus snacks. There’s about 15 of us that stay in the Longhouse – it’s farther from the main buildings and many people would not like it. But we have a blast. Everyone brings food (and beverages – chocolate martinis were a hit one time). There’s trails to walk when you need to stretch. Sleeping in dorm style (another reason some don’t want the Longhouse) in 2 buildings separate from the sewing – so quiet when you sleep and laugh as much as you want while sewing.

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    The first retreat I went on [long weekend], was giggles all the way with no booze! First thing my friend and I found we were given a room with 3 sets of bunk beds, and wondered who on earth we would be sharing with but in fact had the room to ourselves, hated the bunks and threw the mattress on the floor to grab a couple of hours sleep. There were 5 or 6 different classes you could choose from and were free to wander into the other classrooms.. it was all free and easy and all the food was served to you “school canteen” style.
    I made sure the next retreat I went on had en-suite rooms and a bit more luxury but somehow it was not so much fun!

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    How do you find out about retreats? I have never been on one and Would love to go before I leave fo Japan in Sept. A weekend one, I am sure I cannot aford a long retreat. Any in OK, MO, Kansas or north TX in the near future, I do not mind driving?

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    Helen says

    I pretty much go to three retreats a year, one is only one night and I wish it was two. Two are put on by the same person and are pretty much free form, the other there is a project if you want to take part (I usually don’t).
    The first retreat I went to I went by myself and made new friends. Other retreats I have gone with friends but I will try to sit with people I don’t know (two years ago the person who sat next to me was Bonnie Hunter, too cool, she was working on the Old Tobacco Road quilt which was the mystery she was presenting that year).
    Besides retreats I often go to “sew days” or bees, it is interesting to see what other people are working on, maybe get a few tips, get input on a project I am doing, take part in some swaps and generally spend time with people who really “get” what quilting is all about especially when we have completely different points of view.

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    Bon says

    The only quilt retreat I’ve been to was one that you were at in KY. For me it was too “organized” although I kinda did my own thing. Ruthie and I played a round of golf and that was a fun break. It was really fun meeting face-to-face those I’d only met online. Course I also was able to meet again those whom I had met in 3-D previously. I’d love to go again and maybe someday I will. Did I get much sewing done? NO! But got a lot of talking in and it was fun. Maybe I should mosey on down to Shipshe and pop in on you guys for a little while. Love to see you and Ruthie again.

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    eve in ga says

    My very first retreat was with you in KY in 2004. Haven’t missed a June since. I’ve loved every retreat I’ve been to, even tho’ some more than others. I have to admit that I prefer the less organized ones—more relaxing for me. I rarely get much accomplished—guess I’m too afraid I’ll miss something said or done by someone else. I stitch at home, alone, and am too easily distracted when with others.

    For me, it’s all about the awesome company!! I ‘yak’ daily with all these girls on-line, and this is my once-a-year face-to-face chance for hugs, laughter—even tears, sometimes, and complete inspiration.
    Thank you, Judy, for organizing that first retreat. You gave me a gift that’s priceless, and brings me a joy I can’t describe. Eve

    • 10.1

      Donna in KS says

      Eve and Bon….I never got to one of those retreats, June just never worked for me, until now that everyone is older and my life has changed a little, but I may not be “invited” to that one anymore. I always wanted to meet more of that group in real life! I have been going to a retreat in Aug for several years held at a hunting lodge, one in Feb held at a church camp and now am going to Ruthie’s in Oct. I am so excited for this one! Although I too accomplish more sewing at home by myself (I’m easily distracted and like to talk too!), I do get some piecing done, just relax and enjoy the company of like-minded women. Most retreats I’ve been to do offer a group project; I rarely do it, have enough UFOs already! lol

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    Jeanne Bishop says

    I go to two retreats a year, March and October, at a church camp. We sleep dorm style on bunk beds, eat, sleep and sew when we want. I love them and wouldn’t miss them for the world! I have made many friends from all over the state of Ohio that I wouldn’t know without this opportunity. Plus, I get some serious sewing done!
    In the end, though, it’s as much about the people as it is the sewing. I attended another retreat sponsored by another woman and the people weren’t nearly as compatible. It makes a huge diference.

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    I go to two retreats a year at a 4H camp, one run by my Bee and one that is just open to anyone. The camp provides dining room meals, which we all think is a big PLUS. The bedrooms are like motel rooms and we have a big workroom where they provide tables, ironing boards and extension cords.

    We go for Friday night, Saturday night and Sunday through lunch. You can come Thursday for an additional $90.

    I do a lot of sewing and don’t do the shopping tours or lots of conversation. I get a lot done because I’m not confused by ALL the projects in my sewing room at home. I take about four projects and all the materials; then I just work, work, work.
    And I listen to some of the conversations around me.

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    Oh, I absolutely LOVE retreats!! I seem to get so much done – when I am not organizing or responsible for 15 people! 🙁 I think that the momentum of seeing what everyone else is doing and finishing helps keep me on track to get so much more finished than if I was at home with the distraction of the PC and TV. Not having to worry about taking the dogs out or feeding them is a big plus, too!

    And I can’t wait for October!! Shipshewana, here we come!!! 🙂

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    Diane says

    A few years ago I retreated for the purpose of getting away from my responsibilities at home with three teenagers. Now I retreat to keep up with friends I have moved away from. I go to two a year put on by my former guild, one of those being structured with a teacher and a planned project. I have only done the planned project once as I prefer to spend my time talking and singing old show tunes with my crazy group at my table. The other retreat is totally bring your own project (BYOP). The retreats are held at either a former military base that still has a resturant that serves us three meals a day, or at a church camp that has a fully staffed kitchen that also serves three hot meals. Everyone brings snacks and drinks for sharing. Some of the retreaters bring exotic drinks to share. I got my first taste of a pomegranite martini there. 🙂 We used have a quilt shop that stayed open late one night for us, but it closed.
    Retreats are just that, a retreat from daily life. I have been to them as close as 10 miles from my home and as far as a 17 hour drive. I highly recommend them!

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    I love retreats. I go to as many as I can..
    One is with quilt guild members for 4 days in the middle of the week in August.
    I go with two friends at least twice a year to a condo I have a part ownership in…
    and I go to a state park with a quilt shop in St Louis…

    At my quilt guild I am responsible for a “secret project”…I can’t tell you what it is this year cause too many of them read your blog…lol

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    Gwen says

    What kinds of a facilities to your groups use? My local group may be losing our facility. Please share so we have some new ideas about where to look. Thanks!

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    Diane Hines says

    Both guilds in the Rio Grande Valley have retreats; one at a tennis ranch, one at a Methodist camp. Both require a 4 to 5 hour drive, but there are quilt shops to visit up and back. My bee also found a retreat house built especially for quilters just a 2 hour drive away. The closer place only holds 16 people, the Methodist camp retreat usually has 60 to 90 people, the tennis camp one usually has 20 to 30 people. We laugh more at retreats than any other time of the year. You are free to sew all night if you choose, or get up very early if you choose. The sewing rooms are separate from the bedrooms, so everyone can do their own thing. You can just get a few friends and go to a motel somewhere far enough away so that you can’t go home to fix meals etc.

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    I love going to retreats because it is my time away from responsibility. My guild holds 2-3 a year. All meals are made for us except breakfast. We have snacks, etc. There is a retreat the 5-8th of August, that I can’t attend because that is my daughter’s birthday – but the next one is Halloween weekend and I have already put my money down for it and found a sitter if my husband is deployed.

    I hold a bee once a month (usually the second Saturday of the month) at my community center – I have about 15-20 show up each month. We sew together from 10-6 and sometimes I host all-day bees; 9am to 11pm!! It is like a mini-retreat. When my group was smaller, we used to do sleep-overs at someone’s house. But it is too hard to find a house big enough now for that!

    It is great to sew with friends and talk and laugh and learn new things and see new things. It is great to be able to socialize outside of guild meetings because break time is NEVER long enough.

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    What a good post. I’ve enjoyed reading every bit of it. There is a group of 8 to 10 who “retreat” annually. The group changes sometimes but there is always a few that are there each time. We started off going to Lake Arrowhead CA to a vacation home (big one) of one of the attendees brother’s wife’s parents….still with me? To bad the couple got divorced–there went the Lake Arrowhead location. It disolved just weeks before our planned schedule. Instead it was at my home that year. We weren’t able to sleep over, and it was a small amount more for me, but it worked okay. My husband left us alone and no children to be concerned about. The next year we went to Denison IO to a bed and breakfast again through an attendees sister’s business. This was okay too but the group was much smaller only 4 of us. The “family” wanted to be involved too much. Two years ago we found quite by chance a church group with a former convent turned retreat/offices to have our retreat. It is located in Lakeside CA. Close enough for our last group to be 12. We all do as we want with our schedules. We have tried different ways to share the cost of expenses for the usually 4 days. Our current method is either one or two cook one meal for the entire group (and clean up afterwards) once that weekend. It’s been working out very well. There are those that do and those that don’t enjoy adult beverage–but we all laugh and share our projects well into the early morning hours of each day. As you’ve all said a great time to share with friends. We’ve been thinking about increasing these retreats to twice a year!

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    Rebecca says

    I go to two types of retreats for different reasons, although they both are at the same type of center.

    At both, we are fed (perhaps overfed), and there are fewer distractions: no TV, phone coverage is poor, and no family coming in with whatever is on their mind.

    Local guild retreats are for sitting and sewing and accomplishing.

    Then there are the annual retreats where I gather to meet people from across the country. I don’t necessarily get a lot of sewing done, but do strengthen friendships.

    I always get inspired by seeing what other people are working on, and take lots of pictures!

  21. 21


    I have been to two retreats the first I loved the second I couldnt leave quick enough.The reason sewing machine set up next to me did everything the woman set the machine and walked away.Other retreaters were remarking to me thats not what this is about.I was doing hand stitcheries and becoming frustrated with these comments.Other people certainly make a difference to our enjoyment to things.The first one a lady set up next to me knew about the same level as me quite often we giggled about one another mistakes and helped one another through the retreat.It was great maybe the answer is in like abilities near one another.

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    I have attended many retreats over the years, ranging from a Girl Scout Camp with no showers, to a military base, to a Church Camp, to a small cabin with no running water, to a hotel. Retreats are great fun. I used to have goals in mind (this has to be done before dinner, this has to be done before I go to bed, etc) but since I gave that up and “let the chips fall where they may” it has been more relaxing and I probably end up getting just as much done. For almost 5 years now I have been the Retreat Coordinator for retreats held at Thunder Bay Resort in nothern Michigan. It is a lot of work but also lots of fun. I have met over 900 people who have attended our retreats and made lots of good friends. Unfortunately the poor economy has taken a toll on us and the retreats will end this fall. I will miss them but will treasure all of my memories and the quilts that I have made with our instructors. I highly urge everyone to give a retreat a try.

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    I certainly get the sew until you can’t sew any more idea. That would be great. Since my kids are grown and my husband still works (I’m disabled), I have plenty of days when I can sew without thinking about another single thing. I’ve been quilting about two years, and so I haven’t really accumulated a lot of quilting friends or family members. Maybe as I get more comfortable in my guild (slow, but sure) and take more classes, I’ll find a group of people I’d want to spend this much time with.

    One problem I have with the retreats I’ve known about is sharing a room with someone. Maybe I’m antisocial, but I need my privacy. Heck, I can barely share a bed with my husband because we both snore so much. (I’m sure he’s worse than I am.) I’m wondering what others think about that.

    Thanks, Judy, for addressing the questions about retreats. You did a good job explaining it. I can see why it could be a lot of fun.

  24. 26

    Kate says

    I’ve never been able to go to a retreat. The LQS used to offer two retreats a year before they closed, but you had to buy their kit for the retreat on top of paying for the retreat. The LQS I patronized in Texas never had retreats, but they would occassionally have “sew ins” starting early afternoon on Friday and go until you couldn’t sew anymore. I was able to do one of those, but due to my day job couldn’t get until early evening. But it sure was fun. How do you find out about retreats if you don’t have a LQS or can’t join a guild because you work during the day (when the guild only has meetings on weekday mornings)?

  25. 27

    LisaS says

    I am so jealous that you are going to Shipshewana. I belong to an online group that has had a retreat at the Farmstead for the past 12 years. It’s a great experience!! The hotel is great – very clean and very quiet – and the town is wonderful too. Enjoy yourselves!!

  26. 28

    Carol says

    I’ve been to only one retreat and I loved it. The quilt shop I regularly go to has an annual retreat. We stayed at a local hotel. Everyone made the same mystery quilt using different fabrics and colorways. It was a great three-day getaway. We spent a lot of time sewing, talking and enjoying ourselves. I don’t think anyone complained about not having to cook! I look forward to attending it again next year. I’m ready to go on another retreat and need to see what’s available in my area.

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    Darlene B says

    I go to one retreat a year. I agree that I don’t want any planned agenda….I just want to accomplish all the projects that I’ve been working on all year and couldn’t finish. I love the fact that I don’t have to cook while I’m gone!