Monday, January 27, 2014

Packing for a Quilting Retreat

When packing for a weekend retreat, it's important to remember a few guidelines or 'suggestions' if you want to get some sewing done. Remember, these are just my ideas, and I have some experience in this area, also, I've witnessed some 'not so successful' packing and preparation by fellow retreaters.

In my black box on wheels I pack my Janome travel machine (including all feet and accessories I might need), extension table, manual, extension cord and power strip, back pillow, small rotary mat, ruler, and rotary cutter. These things stay permanently in this storage box and are ready to go at all times. I take this to retreats as well as workshops and sewing days. ** Please note: all of these items are labeled with my address labels or with permanent marker so they can be returned to me if I leave them by accident.

Then I pack project boxes to stack on top. In one box, I have an entire quilt top cut, ready to piece and press, and assemble (if I get that far...which I did!) I also include a small sewing kit with extra bobbins, thread, seam ripper, needles, thimble, and pins. I include all of the instructions and diagrams I will need, specialty rulers, and any notes I might need.

In another box, I have strip sets cut and ready to be sub-cut or strip pieced. I got enough blocks made from these strip sets for another quilt top. By having the strip sets pre-cut, I was able to maximize my time at the machine, and minimize the possible mistakes I might make. My sashing fabric will be added this week.

In the smallest box, I have all of the steps for the mystery quilt I am leading to help with any questions my friends may have. Several others were working on this over the weekend and it was nice to be able to show them the samples of the steps and help them move ahead in their progress.

In the last box, I had enough pieces cut to make a set of blocks for yet another quilt. I knew I wanted to make the alternate blocks and centers of the main blocks in black and white, so I pieced all of those on Friday night. Now I am ready to play with some accent colors on the design wall. Making decisions like that is not recommended at retreat for several reasons. I couldn't bring enough of my stash for auditioning, the lighting isn't always the best, and there are way too many opinions present. :) But I got the bulk of the piecing finished, so I will be able to whip out the rest in no time.

I also brought two small quilts that only needed the binding stitched down by hand. I was able to do this when I didn't want to work on my machine. I got SO much done, and didn't lug anything extra that I didn't need.

I am constantly amazed (and confused) by quilters who bring a 20 lb case of thread, or the largest cutting mat ever made. Why lug stuff around that you don't need? Make some decisions ahead of time and be realistic. By packing one or two projects per bin, you can minimize time spent looking for the matching thread, or the instructions. By pre-cutting strips, you can maximize sewing time. By having blocks pre-cut, you can avoid the need for large cuts of fabric that will need pressing, and large rulers and mats that will be required.  "Travel Size" your projects before you leave home, and you will spend more time sewing and less time setting up and getting situated once you are arrive.

 For personal items, I always bring my favorite pillow ('cuz you will need your rest after all that quilting!) I also bring two quilts because I don't like hotel bedspreads. Besides, it looks and feels so much cozier. In my duffle bag, I pack a book and mini iPad for reading and entertainment. I bring warm sweats and layers of clothes because temps will fluctuate between the sewing room, the dorm room, and the cafeteria. Walking shoes for a nice afternoon hike. Soft jammies, toiletries, slippers, hair dryer, and an extra change of clothes. Also, don't forget any medications, or first aid items you might need. I always travel with cold medicine, pain relievers and bandaids...I didn't need them but you never know!

I pack my sewing stuff last, so I can unload it first. Sometimes the sleeping quarters are not ready when we arrive, so being able to pull out the sewing stuff and get started first allows me to leave the sleeping stuff for later. Also note that I only used half of the back area in my car and left the other half for my sweet roommie for the weekend. She never brings as much as I do, but I always make sure there is enough room in case she does.
There it is...all my weekend stuff, and boy did I get lots done! Oh, I may have had a little fun too. The laughing is so good for the soul, and the friendship is so good for the heart...the quilting was really just a bonus.
Honestly, I can't wait until next year's retreat!



  1. I just got back yesterday from a 4-day retreat. I do the same things as you do--have precut kits and projects already to go. I also didn't take much in the way of tools--I ended up using someone else's large cutting mat when I needed it as well as a large ruler. I will tell you that the number one most popular item brought to the retreat was a heating pad that is designed to go around the neck. My roomie brought it and I think she could have covered the cost of the retreat by renting it out, but of course, she was just like any other quilter and extremely generous and let whoever needed to use it, use it. These are great tips!

    1. Ooh, I will have to check out the heating pad for the neck. That sounds heavenly! I think quilters are the most generous folks ever, it is so fun to see all the sharing and experience the generosity on a retreat. What would we do without each other?

  2. Such great organization - I love it! You really got a ton of projects done - very impressive. Glad you had a great time, and thanks for sharing your tips!

    1. Thanks so much, I do love a good retreat! I think a little prep ahead of time can go a long way toward making the weekend more fun and productive. Have a great week!

  3. You are very organized and it obviously pays off! Great tips.:)

    1. Thanks, I'm not always organized, but I like to pretend I am. :)

  4. what is the brand name of the black carrier??
    i've seen them on the quilting blogs, but don't think i've ever seen them in stores??? where could i find one??
    lovely tips on packing,
    AND.... lovey your blog!!

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  6. Interesting post, thanks for sharing. I was recently on Antarctic, I really liked it there. I looked at your advice, and I want to add. If you want to go to where the cold, for example on North Pole, you need these tips Stick to these tips, as the North Pole does not forgive mistakes.

  7. I also would like to know the brand of the back box on wheels. It has a lid and looks different than the Staples one. We go on week-long quilt retreats and the amount of stuff we take is amazing. This would be so helpful


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