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Packing for Your First Quilt Retreat

So you finally took that stitch and signed up for a quilt retreat. Congratulations! If this is your first retreat, I hope you are excited and enjoy every minute of it. Whether you are signed up for multiple days or just one, the most important packing you will do is of your quilting gear! This is what can make or break a great getaway with your "quilty" friends or by yourself. People will share if you forget something because quilters are kind people, but not having your favorite notion or extra fabric can make your retreat go awry very quickly.

So, here is what I take to make a retreat a success!

Projects--Yes multiple projects. Sometimes when you are marathon sewing, you just need to switch it up a bit. Cut and organize your projects before you leave home and be sure to include some of the extra fabrics just in case...accidents happen. Cutting space can be at a premium at some venues. Having to wait to cut and sew can be quite daunting to your plans of accomplishments.

Machine--If you have a small travel machine, it is generally best to take it. The smaller size saves space for spreading out or for other retreaters. Make sure you have cleaned and

stitched on it before you leave, so you can be more confident about using it. It is always good to take the little toolkit and extra needles as well--just in case. If you do not have a travel machine, load up the one you have, but give it a good cleaning first and check the stitching after you do. Be sure to set up your machine to adjust and mark seam allowances, and make sure you are knowledgeable about its use. There is nothing worse than having issues with your machine without the ability to fix little issues when you want to sew your heart out and accomplish much!

Sewing Cart--A roomy sewing cart with wheels is always good too. This makes moving in and out so much easier after a long drive to and from your venue. Look for one with lots of roomy pockets if you decide to shop for one and don't forget to check machine and cart dimensions.

Notions are so very important to your sewing comfort. Here is a list of what is necessary, but make sure you pack that one tool that makes all of your sewing better and most comfortable for you.

Simple supplies to pack for a sewing retreat
  • Rotary Cutter with extra blades

  • Thread snips or small scissors.

  • Rulers and templates that are necessary for your projects.

  • Small cutting mat to use beside your machine. A spinning mat can be useful if you have one, or you can take a small mat and a smaller mat to lay on top and turn your units as you trim.

  • Plenty of full bobbins and threads to match each project. I use neutral colors, so I do not have to switch out very often, but you do you in this respect. Change that thread as often as you like!

  • Seam ripper

  • Stiletto or "Purple Thang"

  • Pins or clips

  • Marking tool of some sort, and a pencil or another pen to make notes

  • Sticky notes or row and unit markers to keep your work organized in a small space

  • Ironing station if one is not provided by the retreat organizers

Many retreat venues offer several cutting and ironing stations as well as design walls, but if you and your friends are creating a retreat in a rented venue, you may want to think about how you can accomplish squaring up and pressing your blocks with as little space as possible. If you have cut and prepped your projects before you go, you can take your smaller rulers and possibly fewer of them. Wool mats with freezer paper ironed to one side and a travel iron can make a great temporary ironing station. Read the details of your venue and retreat carefully and look for what is provided--it will make your packing up much easier and possibly lighter.

Be sure to dress comfortably, and bring your favorite snack and beverage if they are not provided by the hosts. A little chocolate, your favorite tea or soda, and/or your favorite salty snack can go a long way to keep your sewing stamina on point!

Additional comfort items for a quilt retreat

It is also a good idea to have some headphones with you. A room full of quilters can be quite distracting and full of happy noise that can slow your progress and derail your plans. Looking at each other's projects and getting to know new people is just part of a retreat--a very good part. You might make some new friends. I have! So don't isolate yourself completely, but we all need a way to help us focus at times and headphones can help with that--even if you are not listening to anything! 😉

A retreat can be a great place to make lots of progress on your projects in a short amount of time. You can make new friends, learn from the seasoned quilters involved, and possibly relax and rejuvenate for the coming days. It is a day or two to do what you love without the distraction of others and all the chores you are letting go of to sew. Don't be wary of a retreat. Pack it up and treat yourself!

Happy Stitches


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