Sunday, April 17, 2016

Top 10 Tips: Extra Items to Pack for a Quilt Retreat

I mentioned in the latest issue of The Wonky Press that I've been mentally packing for the third annual Mid-Atlantic MOD Quilting Retreat for at least three weeks. In fact, I have a running list going in my Quilter's Planner! 

I've gone to 6 sewing retreats in the last 3 years, and I have a system now. I thought I'd share my Top 10 Most Important Items To Bring (obviously, your sewing machine, handwork, projects, clothes and toiletries are important, but I mean the other stuff you might not think of until you are there!). Feel free to share with your guild and quilty friends!

1. Layers. Maybe it's just me, but I ALWAYS pack layers. You never know what the temperature will be in the room you're sewing in. Included here would also be slippers or fuzzy socks (to sew in - you're not going to wear sneakers or flip flops the whole time, are you? Well maybe you are - just make sure you'll be comfortable!) and a nice pair of jeans in case you leave the sewing room to be a real person and eat dinner out. 

I was definitely wearing fuzzy socks here (this is from our annual November guild retreat in 2014). Yes, they get dirty, but that's what washing machines are for!

2. Extension cord. This might be a given depending on your home sewing setup, but you're likely going to need one! That sewing machine needle doesn't move by itself. Likely, the retreat organizers have extras if you forget. But here's me reminding you! ;)

3. Portable light. Until recently, I never realized how valuable this is. The room you sew in may not have the best light (it might not even have windows - gasp! - I love sewing in natural light). Plus, you'll be sewing late into the night, right? You need something like my super light and portable desk OttLite (13w Folding Task Lamp - not an affiliate link, just love it!) or tiny sewing machine lights. Trust me.

It's obviously daytime in this picture, but the light really helps, especially at night!

4. Chair cushion. The last two times I attended a 4-day sewing retreat, you would not believe how many times I thanked the sewing gods that I packed a cushion. It's likely that you won't have the most comfortable chair to sew in (I've never been to an actual retreat center but I would hope theirs are a bit better!). Plus, you could sew up a cover for it.

 My retreat setup from 2014 - with a very comfy cushion! Cover by Life's Rich Pattern.

5. Cash. You're gonna need it, even if you are retreating 10 minutes from home. Ordering out with a group of other retreaters? Need cash. Calculating tip with several others at a restaurant? Need cash. See that cute bundle of fabric from a vendor that you need to buy? Need cash (maybe). Retreat organizers hire massage therapists for the day? Need cash (I'm excited to say that this happens at our retreat and I can't wait!).

Last year's 4-day retreat fabric haul... I'm aiming to come home with less this year. I'm happy to see that I've used a lot of it over the year, though!

6. Mindless sewing. I'm a big believer in bringing several projects to a retreat - after all, you're there to get. stuff. done. You might also be there to socialize though (like me!). If you have mindless sewing (sewing that is already marked, easy cutting without lots of math, pressing, making binding, sewing on binding, sewing together hexagons) you'll be able to do more of both!

7. Scraps. A good segue. If you have scraps that you don't want, bring them to trade with someone. Maybe all the participants can bring scraps and throw them into a bin, which you can use for finding new scraps or making challenge or charity projects. OR, you could bring your favorite scraps and improvisationally sew something together. See, more mindless sewing. Lots of options here.

8. An extra project. Remember I mentioned multiple projects? Yep, you're going to want that extra one at some point in the weekend. You go through different moods when you are sewing, so this is important. Maybe you want to stay up for *one more hour* but can't quilt any longer - bring some pressing to do.

9. A quilt to sleep with. Why not? It might feel more like home. I love traveling with a quilt!

10. Lint roller. We all know what we look like after hours of sewing - thread EVERYWHERE. In case, again, you decide to be a real person and leave the sewing room, you'll be happy you packed this.

What other extras would you make sure to bring to a retreat or sewing day? 

P.S.If you'd like to read more about retreats, see my recaps of Mid-Atlantic Mod from 2014 and 2015. Also, check out Anna's post, "Packing for A Quilt Retreat in 5 Easy Steps!"

Previously Top 10 Tips Lists:



  1. That's a comprehensive list. I would add a cushion for my back, after sitting sewing all day I need it. Also my own pillow to sleep on, they are always too high, too low, too hard or too soft. Or maybe I'm just too picky.

  2. Thanks for the suggestions! I've never been to a quilt retreat, and wouldn't have thought of most of these. I'll keep the list for sure.

    1. Your own pillow with your own pillowcase made from favorite fabrics!

  3. I have briought my own office chair. I used to have one specifically to take for bees and retreats.

  4. I took two projects to my last retreat: Plan A and Plan B. I only intended to work on Plan B if I came to a total road block with Plan A, which I didn' I finished it, so that was good. Plan B didn't get finished for like 4 more months, but that was okay. The only other things from your list that I had were layers (always, anywhere) and cash. Things I wish I had brought were paper scissors and rotary cutter, but made due without them!

  5. Yes for sure to a light and chair cushion. I didn't take a chair cushion the first year and it was awful. I would add a cutting/pressing may if you have the luxury of an entire table like we do 😀 also, an amazing roommate!!!! Can't wait to see you.

  6. Great list! I love to take a quilt to sleep under too and an 'extra' project - oh yeah! You never know what you might want to work on!

  7. I always bring more projects than I plan to actually get to. Never know what I feel like doing each day. Good point on the cash.

  8. Slip-on shoes! I sew barefoot (I feel as if it gives me more control over my speed), so I like to wear shoes that I can take on and off easily.

  9. I have never been to a retreat (hopefully that will change one day soon). This is a great list, some items I would not have considered bringing.

  10. I wish I had brought a Bitty Buddy (small trash container you can hang wherever you like.) I don't like a messy cutting space and did not feel like walking to the trash bin constantly. Agree especially about the light and a quilt to sleep under. I will do that next time!

  11. I bring an extra machinetoo. One of the first retreats that I went to was plagued with machine issues. I wouldn't even consider bringing a computerized machine without a surge protector. There are usually a few blackouts caused by all those irons coming on, don't want to blow my machine. I e only seen it happen once- that was enough for me. Retreats are so much fun!


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