Prepping for Retreat 1

In less than two weeks, I’ll join 15 other local quilters, mostly from my guild, for their annual spring retreat. Okay, sure, the first half of February does not really count as spring in Iowa, but it will be warm and sunny where we are.

Have you ever been to a retreat? This will only be my second time, but from my prior experience, it seems that it is good to be well-prepared. Besides bringing snacks to share, most quilters bring projects to piece. Though there will be ironing stations and cutting tables set up, it’s more efficient to use retreat time for stitching, rather than cutting.

I plan to take at least two, and maybe three or four projects to work on. That way I can change gears if bored. The first one will be a quilt for the local VA hospital. It will be simple with 32 6″ puss-in-the-corner blocks with 31 alternate blocks, for a layout of 7 x 9 blocks. With borders, the top will finish at 48″ x 60″.

I’m working from stash, but also from some pieces my small-group friends gave me for another project. They each said they DO NOT want the fabrics back! So I’ve pulled out what I want for the other project and figure a great use for the rest is donation quilts.

Cutting is almost done for this one. These are most of the fabrics:

Yes, that plaid was sold as a Christmas fabric, but who cares, right? I think it will do well for most of the alternate blocks. Here is the basic plan:

I still need to choose something for the alternate alternate blocks, because I am ONE BLOCK SHORT of having enough of the plaid for all of them. So I figured, make do! Switch them up and dress up the layout at the same time. But given the large floral with the blue background something rusty might be the right thing there.

It’s not fancy, but I think it will make a pretty quilt and something quite useful for one of our veterans.

What do you take to work on at retreats?ย 

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32 thoughts on “Prepping for Retreat 1

    1. Melanie McNeil Post author

      Some people love them and some people don’t. If you think you’d enjoy yourself, you probably would. If you aren’t part of a group that organizes them regularly, you can look at options for doing so yourself. Sew-days are easiest to do, where you might reserve space to sew a couple of days in a row, even if everyone “retreats” to their own home for overnight. Churches and banks and libraries and senior centers often have space that can be reserved for that type of thing, especially if some of the output is dedicated for charitable giving. Thanks.

      Reply
  1. Kerry

    I’ve been invited on my first ever retreat in March. I’ve no idea what to expect – apart from lots of sewing! I’ve decided to take my ongoing cathedral quilt which should be quite relaxing to wind down with. I’ve just purchased a 221K Singer and both it and my Janome are going in for service on Friday. I need to practice on the old girl first so she needs a new motor at least!
    I figure I’d do a log cabin with stars, perhaps a Civil War number. Also I promised my son another quilt – I have had the fabric forever! I’m still quite slow so although I know one of the ladies going took 3 things and completed them all last year (her first retreat – they had to visit a quilt shop a few miles away to restock!) I may not complete all. I’m attempting to use my stash and not buying any more.
    I’m a bit concerned about sitting down so much – so do you make sure you have a walkabout at regular times in between? Any tips gratefully received!

    Reply
    1. Melanie McNeil Post author

      I don’t have enough experience with them to give a lot of tips. I would say take a book or something quiet you can escape with, if you need to get away from the group. You might want to take your own chair, if your back is fussy about what you sit in. Check with others who have been to that location to see what they think about that. Where I live, the weather could be lovely for walking outside (not likely, but could be) or it could be brutally cold or icy or lots of snow. So for this time of year, we can’t count on getting out to walk around.

      For your projects, take things that don’t take a huge amount of concentration or decision-making. Having so many people around is quite distracting, one of the reasons easy piecing is a good idea. Have your things well organized when you go in, so you don’t need to spread things out for sorting. You might not have enough room to do much of that, and again, it’s more difficult with the distractions. Just plan on having a relaxing time, without difficult projects to work on. And have fun.

      Reply
      1. Kerry

        I gather there are two types of ladies – those that like a brisk walk really early and those who rise late and sew past midnight. I think I’ll be in between, but if I can go for a walk and a little explore I might if it’s sunny – we’ve had precious few sunny days lately it would be awful to waste a little of it by being indoors the whole time (and I do like exploring). Mid March will hopefully be more pleasant. I like the idea of the book – I tend to multi-task reading too, unless I’m hooked and I hate putting it down.
        I think cutting pieces in advance will be a good idea. But I understand what you mean by people distracting – perhaps Irish chain on the cards. So thank you for that heads up!

        Reply
  2. katechiconi

    I’ve never been on a retreat. I think they may be less of a ‘thing’ in the Australian quilting community; for one thing, there are fewer of us, and for another, we’re more far-flung and widely spread so it’s harder to assemble a group outside the major cities and population centres. I think I’d enjoy it, but I suspect the opportunity will never arise. I don’t tend to attend workshops or classes, either, but that’s because mostly I’m not interested in what’s being taught. My loss, perhaps…

    Reply
    1. Melanie McNeil Post author

      I’ve been pretty picky about classes/workshops, too. When I was working full time, it really wasn’t an option. Even since then, though, it’s hard to gain my interest. If it is a class on technique, I may well be interested. If it is on how to build a block, I’m not. (Last spring I attended one that was a block. It was a lot of pieces but nothing special about construction. And the supplies directions were WRONG! Which substantially annoyed me, as I had brought material as per directions. And then the teacher didn’t explain to the group or apologize to them or to me, she just blithely went on, as if it never happened. ugh.) My guild does have a couple of interesting workshops coming up, though, so I’ll probably be joining in.

      Reply
      1. katechiconi

        I’m with you; a particular technique would be interesting, but for the most part I can work out how to construct things for myself. And as I design my own quilts, I’m unlikely to be interested in a workshop that covers a particular pattern.

        Reply
  3. tierneycreates

    The best pre-retreat advice I ever got was to cut all the pieces for your projects before you get to the retreat. Sure you can cut at the retreat but you will have a more laid back time if cutting is not “cutting” into your time to visit and have fun…and sew your project together at the retreat. Plus at the retreat you have an unfamiliar cutting area/mat and maybe rulers and rotary cutter (unless you bring it all from home) AND you are battling for cutting mat time/space with other retreaters. So I try and bring my pieces cut. I used to bring too many projects to retreats but now I usually bring something traditional and easy/fun to sew. One time I brought an improv art quilt and had everyone trying to give me design advice – and I wanted to say after awhile: “back off, this is my art!” Now I just bring things I do not care if people give their input or not. Or I have brought hand sewing so I did not have to lug my machine. I used to treat quilt retreats like a “quilters sweatshop” where I would get as much done as possible, now I am all about actually RETREATING, laying back, relaxing and visiting with my quilting buddies (with maybe some sewing here or there!) ๐Ÿ™‚

    Reply
    1. Melanie McNeil Post author

      I’ll take my laptop with me. I always need to clean up stuff, and always have writing to do. So if I don’t feel like sewing (or just feel like playing solitaire) I can do something else.

      Reply
    2. Kerry

      Very helpful. My cathedral quilt is by hand – but I see what you mean by sweat shop as I’m amazed at how many things people knock out in a short space of time. I have a Civil War block of the month project that I’m way behind with – but then I’m doing it by hand. Melanie’s tip about cushions and pillows are helpful too – i always take my own pillow to sleep on, but uncomfy chairs I hadn’t thought about.

      Reply
        1. Melanie McNeil Post author

          I take my pillow everywhere. ๐Ÿ™‚ I’ve learned to put a brightly colored case on it, so it stands out compared to the hotel or whatever bedding. It helps me remember it. Sorry about your loss. ๐Ÿ˜ฆ

          Reply
          1. tierneycreates

            That is a great idea! I had just a regular pillowcase on it and funny I actually grieved it when I discovered upon returning home (the retreat was 5 hours away and I was not able to turn back around to go get the pillow!) ๐Ÿ™‚

          2. Melanie McNeil Post author

            Oh, I would feel AWFUL if I lost my pillow! I should tell you about what happened when I left my gloves on the counter of Walgreens just before Christmas… ๐Ÿ™‚

      1. Melanie McNeil Post author

        It’s good to have that extra perspective. Since I’ve only been to one before, I don’t have a good sense for it. At that time I worked on making complex blocks for my son’s graduation quilt. They were all cut before going, but construction required some focus. This time I’ll have more choices but easier going. AND plan to take breaks when I feel like it.

        Reply
  4. knitnkwilt

    Like you, I cut at home and sew at the retreat. There just isn’t enough space to cut for a long time. I have a small mat that I take for trimming HSTs, again so I don’t hog the group cutting area. I take very simple patterned quilts for charity: one square alternating light and dark; Blocks (already made) and sashing to assemble into tops; blocks to make.

    If I am doing anything other than the above, like something with detail, I write out notes about the order to proceed in.

    I take knitting and a book in case I get tired sewing, but so far haven’t pulled them out.

    Reply
    1. Melanie McNeil Post author

      Yes on keeping notes! As I was cutting yesterday I thought about how to keep parts grouped together appropriately. I happened to have a package of sandwich-sized bags available and began putting individual sets in with a tiny note of how many there were. Then all the little bags will go in a big bag. Once they are in order, I’ll do a pretty good job at keeping them that way. Thanks for the comment.

      Reply
  5. zippyquilts

    I often work on donation quilts at retreats because usually they are simple, leaving the mins free to socialize! And if you’re only one ly one alternate block short, you could use a plain background and embroider a favorite quote on it, though I quite like your modified design.

    Reply
    1. Melanie McNeil Post author

      That’s a very nice idea to add embroidery, but I have now already cut another fabric to fill! Another time that will work great, now that it’s been add to my file box of ideas (in my brain!) Thanks, Mary.

      Reply
  6. snarkyquilter

    My basic advice for quilting retreats – take extra extension cords and sewing machine needles. Someone will always need one or the other. A travel iron is also nice as you can use it at your station and not have to queue for the ironing board. Just use a towel as your board if you don’t have a small ironing surface. Make sure that any fusible used doesn’t get stuck to or gets cleaned off communal irons. Yes, don’t try to do a lot of cutting at a retreat. It’s too easy to lose track of measurements and counts. Consider a special pillow for your chair if you’ll be stuck with a folding chair or the table and chair heights don’t work for you. I now go to art quilt retreats where the participants give demos on arty techniques and the other retreaters get to try them out. Finally, don’t forget chocolate and wine. Have fun!

    Reply
    1. Melanie McNeil Post author

      I don’t think we’re allowed alcohol at this location. But chocolate always works! I will take my own iron and my own chair. A lot to haul, but I think my life will be better if I do. THanks for the tips!

      Reply
  7. Paula Hedges

    I have only been to one retreat, but loved every minute of it! Good suggestions by all. I truly felt like I was taking way too much, but was grateful I did. Might suggest taking one of those fold up wagons for hauling everything in and out of the retreat, or even a hand-truck if you box things. Sure cut down on the number of trips back and forth. I just may have to spearhead a local retreat. Any Oregon or Washington quilters out there that may be interested? You can leave me an email at stitcher@sewingwithstitcher.com and if there is enough interest, I’ll see what I can put together!

    Reply
    1. Melanie McNeil Post author

      Thanks, Paula. Yes, good idea to use a wagon or cart to move stuff around. I bought one last year at Staples, which will help a lot. Also I have a rolling cart that is rather large for my machine, so I can pack a bunch in there, too. Those 2 things, plus my chair, and I should be good for working. And my pillow and small bag for clothing, etc. ๐Ÿ™‚

      Reply
  8. KerryCan

    The only retreats I’ve been on were academic ones, where the dean wanted department chairs to think big thoughts and plan big plans. I think that has ruined the word “retreat” for me. But i hope you have fun!

    Reply
    1. Melanie McNeil Post author

      No kidding — that would spoil the notion! If you’ve taken weaving or quilting classes away from home, think of it as the same idea, except you get to work on your own priorities instead of the instructor’s. I’m still not positive I’ll enjoy it, as I really do like my quiet, alone time. But this year seems to be a year of doing stuff I’m not used to, so … !!! ๐Ÿ™‚

      Reply
  9. Cindy Anderson

    I enjoy going to retreats! I take a variety of projects to keep my interest. I take my own, smaller sized, cutting mat, and a rotary cutter. I also take my own iron and pressing board or pad. I typically donโ€™t like the irons they have. I go on excursions to shops and coffee shops, etc. The center I typically go to is in a small, crafty type town so lots of options to entertain. Iโ€™ve done both free style retreats and classes. Love both of them! ๐Ÿ™‚

    Reply

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