11 Sewing/Quilting Retreat Essentials

Who doesn't like a good sewing retreat? I love being able to get away for a weekend with some of my quilty friends. The fellowship is wonderful and the inspiration is endless. I always walk away from a retreat with a fresh mind and new motivation to tackle new projects. I was more than nervous when I signed up for my first retreat. I didn't know what to pack, so I packed everything. Literally. I took so much "stuff" that was unnecessary and I quickly learned some of the items that were and were not essential (like my entire thread and fabric collection, a trunk full of batting and more). I've compiled a list of my must have items when I pack for a retreat.

1. Supply organizer

There are many different patterns out there for organizing your supplies, but the Sewing Date

Traveler is my favorite! It is SO useful for retreats. Not only do you can you keep most of your supplies and notions in it, but it super cute and totally portable since it has handles. This is a free pattern and is available from Robert Kaufman Fabrics.

My supplies include: extension cord, surge protector, seam ripper, scissors(paper and fabric), rotary cutter, add a quarter ruler, thread, bobbins, extra machine feet, needles, Flatter, machine oil, pins, binding clips, tweezers, screwdriver, basting glue, pen/pencil, small notebook, hand lotion, quilting gloves and chap-stick.

2. Portable ironing table and mini iron

Last fall I took a wooden TV tray and converted it into a portable ironing table. It's the perfect size to keep next to your sewing space for small ironing. I've found that it's really nice to have this at a retreat to avoid extra trips to the shared ironing station. Elizabeth Hartman, Oh Fransson, has a really great tutorial for this if you're not sure of how to get started.

3. Small cutting mat with rotary cutter

I like to work on paper piecing projects at retreats. The uninterrupted sewing time allows me to get more than just one or two blocks at a time. Rather than bouncing between my sewing station and the cutting area to trim, I like to use the portable ironing table as a cutting table as well.

4. Pattern/project binder

I'm sure I'm not alone in the "so many patterns, so little time" club. When I purchase or download a pattern of any kind (bags, pouches, quilts, etc.), I like to put them into binders according to what they are. This makes it so much easier to find what I'm looking for when I need it. When I'm going to a retreat, I like to compile the patterns that I plan to work on into one binder so that I'm not taking multiple binders, but also to ensure that they aren't lost or damaged in travel. Use page protectors so that your pattern pages last longer. If you are cutting a small pattern that needs cut multiple times, cut the piece out of template plastic and stick it in one of the page protectors as well. This ensures it doesn't get lost in your other supplies.

5. Scissors

This probably seems obvious, but seriously, DO NOT FORGET YOUR SCISSORS! Take both paper and fabric scissors. If you have the space in your basket, take an extra pair that can be borrowed if necessary.

6. Snacks/Drinks

You're going to be spending a lot of time at your machine during a retreat, so pack your favorite items. And be prepared to share...nobody likes a snack snob. ;-)

7. Alternative project

Like I said, you're going to be spending a lot of time at your machine, so pack something to pull out when you need a break. A book, sketchbook or even a hand stitching project are all great when you need to step away from the machine.

8. Ear plugs/Ear buds

I really learned the hard way on this one, so just trust me. Retreats are great...but they often mean that there isn't much separation for sleeping. Ear plugs and/or ear buds just might be the key to helping you get a few hours of sleep between the late night chats and the early morning coffee call. Not to mention, you might just need to escape the noise and chatter while you are working. I highly recommend the Modern Sewciety Podcast. Stephanie has great guests each week and who provide the answers to many of the questions that we all have about sewing and quilting!

9. Table light/LED Machine light

If you're attending a retreat that has enough room, take a small table light with you for extra light at your space. Or, if you prefer a permanent fixture, consider investing in one of these LED sewing machine lights. I can't live without my LED...it really changes your sewing experience!

10. Surge protector and an extension cord

With so many machines, irons, etc. in one room it's best to take a surge protector and an extension cord, even if you think that will already be taken care of for you. By the time people start plugging in their machines, lights, irons, cell phone chargers, etc. the plugs will fill up quickly!

11. Fabric

Do not pack your entire stash. I've done it. It's silly! Spend some time selecting the fabric you know you want to work with. If you know what pattern(s) you plan to follow, use shoe box totes or large zip lock bags to separate your fabrics so that you can pull out one project at a time based on what you want to work on. It's even better if you have the time to cut your project ahead of time so that all you can avoid spending so much time at the cutting table. It's a sewing retreat, not a cutting retreat.

Notice I didn't say SEWING MACHINE? Well, that seems like the most obvious item to pack if you don't have a machine that will be provided for you on site. However, DO NOT FORGET TO PACK YOUR PEDAL! Speaking from experience here...that's a huge issue.

Be realistic in your planning (I say that as I look at what I have set aside for my upcoming guild retreat, knowing that I need to scale it back!). If you are attending a large retreat, I don't recommend taking bating because it's not likely that you'll have the space to spread out your quilt for basting, let alone the table space to feed it through the machine. Take enough to keep you busy, but don't expect to finish all of it. If you do, you're a rock star! If you don't, I can guarantee you still had a great time!

What are some of your must have items when you are away at a retreat? I'd love for you to comment and share!

Happy Sewing!

-Neysa Lyn

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