Getting the Most out of a Retreat

by Featured

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Just goofing off with my friend Cindy at a retreat last summer.

Quilter’s retreats. Why go? What do people do there? Isn’t is easier to just leave your stuff at home and sew there? If I do go, what should I take?

Let’s talk a little bit about the quilt retreat. Some of you have been to many retreats, and some of you have never been. There are a lot of questions out there, and I thought that I would attempt to answer a few, since I just got home from a weekend retreat yesterday.

First of all, how do you find a retreat? That’s a good question. Many quilt guilds have a retreat once a year. If you do not belong to a quilt guild, that would be a good first step to take. Perhaps there isn’t a guild available in your area. You should start one! They are a fabulous way to meet people and to enjoy the art of quilting with others who are also passionate about quilt making. Other ways to find a retreat are to check out quilting groups online, such as on Facebook or Instagram, to ask at your local quilt shop, or to look for opportunities with well-known teachers such as Edyta Sitar or Bonnie Hunter. Retreats are sometimes advertised in magazines, too.

Why would you want to go to a retreat when you can just sew at home? Well, I can only speak for myself, but they are a lot of fun. You can learn new skills, make new friends, get away from the drudgery of everyday life, and sew without being interrupted for a couple of days. There’s no laundry calling your name, no demands from spouses, no other “shoulds” hanging over your head. There is only the magical sound of your machine making something beautiful. An added bonus is the probability that you will make some new friends for life! I have met so many wonderful ladies through quilt retreats, and my life would not be the same without them.

Debi and Bonnie met at a Bonnie K. Hunter retreat a few years ago, and have remained friends ever since.

So, once you find a retreat, the next step is packing and getting ready to go. There are all kinds of good tips out there in blog-land for quilters packing for retreats. Here are a couple of good resources: , .

My best tips for retreat are the following:

1. Pack comfortable clothes and shoes…this is not a beauty contest! Everyone is there to have fun and believe me, as long as you shower, no one will care what you look like!

2. Pre-cut everything before you go. You are at retreat to sew! If you cut, bag, and label everything before you get there, you can get away with just bringing a small mat, ruler, and cutter to trim what you need to.

3. Bring your own small cutting mat and ironing station for your table so that you don’t waste a lot of time getting up and down (Here are a couple of my favorites: Omnigrid rotating mat and wool pressing mat ) …but remember to get up and down once in awhile to keep from being stiff and sore!

4. Pre-wind plenty of bobbins in a the colors that you will need.

5. Bring at least once project that is close to being done to try to finish, and one project that is an ongoing, lots of steps project to make some progress. There’s nothing like having some one to visit with when you have 200 flying geese to make! It helps the time go faster and the process seem less tedious.

6. Bring a snack or two to share. Quilters always have snacks, and it’s good to contribute! Bring something healthy, if you are afraid that there won’t be anything healthy available.

7. Bring a bit of handwork, if you think you might get tired of sewing by machine. You can sit and work on handwork while you visit with others, or even find a quiet place to unwind a bit if you are an introvert who needs some “alone time” now and then during the retreat.

8. If you are new, or you are stuck on a certain step in a pattern, don’t be afraid to ask for help! Quilters are very happy to share what they have learned and to help you figure something out, if they don’t already know. We are a family of people who simply love to create and to help others create!

9. Set boundaries with family and workplaces! Make sure that you let the people in your life know that you will be unavailable unless there is a true emergency! Like I used to tell my kids, “If no one is bleeding, in the hospital, or has seen an intruder in the house…DO NOT BOTHER ME!” Life is short, busy, and a little overwhelming. We all deserve a couple of days to ourselves once in awhile. Take your days, and leave the guilt at home!

10. Finally, HAVE FUN! Meet new people. Step out of your comfort zone to walk around and see what others are working on. Introduce yourself when you don’t know someone. Quilters are the friendliest and nicest people, as a group, that I have ever met. They are welcoming, inclusive, and helpful. If you haven’t met every one that you possibly can, you are missing out. Even a task-oriented introvert like myself can learn to truly enjoy a couple of days at a retreat 🙂

Sandi Griepenstroh

Sandi Griepenstroh


I started quilting in the early 90's as a young mom while I was still teaching high school social sciences and English. Now it is my full time job, and I love sharing the joy that quilting has brought into my life through lecturing, trunk shows, teaching everything from piecing to machine quilting, and longarm quilting the pieced quilt tops that others have made. I am a maker through and through, and I can't wait to meet my fellow makers and talk quilting!

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