How often do I dream of being able to sew surrounded by other people who have a passion for quilting? Most times I sit down to my sewing machine the telephone rings, my two little girls declare world war 3 on each other or the cat decides to roll around on all my quilt block pieces.

I’ve searched for Quilt Retreats in my area but have never found anything. When I lamented about this to Krista from Poppyprints she told me tht she runs her own quilt retreats and would be happy to share her experience with us.

So get a cup of tea and read all about how to run a quilt retreat and you never know perhaps you’ll find yourself running your own!

To Retreat, or not to Retreat?.?

Are you a home-based quilter who socializes via the internet? Do you work full-time, quilt, run a household and raise kids simultaneously? Would you like an entire day, or better yet a whole weekend, free from family/work obligations to just SEW, EAT, LAUGH and (possibly) SLEEP?

Then you need a quilting retreat!!

For five years I?ve been hosting a day retreat for 25 women every 7 or 8 weeks. We are together from 9:00 a.m. to 10:00 p.m. I cater the food, provide coffee/tea all day, set-up 3 ironing stations, an iPod loaded with chick-approved tunes, 2 large cutting mats, raised tables for basting/cutting, door prizes and goody bags. As is standard retreat protocol, every quilter gets her own table with plenty of room to spread out. Never in my wildest dreams did I imagine the success of this retreat ? it has become a great small business that pays for my fabric obsession annually. Participants pay $65 Cdn for the day.

Once I?d had all my retreaters in training for a couple of years, I decided we should take the plunge and make a long weekend out of it. The biggest challenge was finding an appropriate venue. Luckily, a lodge on a local island fit the bill and off we went. We?ve been for three years now, every November, and it?s a cherished weekend for us all.

If you would like to start retreating with some friends, I have lots of ideas and recommendations for you?first and foremost: DO IT! The amount of work you can accomplish is incredible, the camaraderie priceless and, if you plan it well, the food amazing! Start small and watch your group grow as friends invite friends. I advertise my day retreats via email distribution list on a Sunday evening and am typically sold out by 5 p.m. the next day.

Here are some considerations when planning your retreat.

Bowen Lodge By the Sea

VENUE

? Church or community halls are ideal for day retreats ? they are inexpensive and typically have tables/chairs included in the rental. Find out if the caretaker will help with set-up and if this costs extra. My husband helps me set up the room the night before.

? Is it far enough away that your family won?t be tempted to visit, but close enough to be accessible to most participants? The hall I use is 25 minutes away by car.

? Be sure to confirm the electrical situation: we?ve blown our fair share of fuses! Irons are a massive draw and should be on their own breaker. Three irons/boards is plenty for 24 people.

? How is the lighting? Washrooms? Kitchen & cupboard supplies?

? Is there a sound system? If you plan to have music, make sure your participants know this ahead of time ? believe it or not, this can be the most contentious issue at retreat.

? Is there enough parking? Always encourage carpooling.

? How early can you get in and how late can you stay?

sandwiching Chinese coin quilt

SCHEDULE

? Be very clear with your participants as to start and finish time. I do not assign seats (too complicated), nor do I let people in early to save spots for their friends?it?s first come, first serve and when I open the door at 9:00 a.m., it is a stampede!

? Morning baking (scones, granola bars, muffins) are available upon arrival. Lunch is served at 12:30, dinner at 6:00, wrap up and departure at 10:00 p.m.). We usually have show and tell around 4:00 and do door prizes at that time as well.

? My retreats are all ?UFO? style, meaning everyone works on their own projects independently. Sometimes one of us will do a brief demo of a new technique, or show a new notion/quilting tool we have discovered.

retreat view2 2009

PARTICIPANTS

? Start with people you know or who have been referred ? they will be more understanding and appreciative of your organization and effort. It can be a challenge to have a room full of disparate folks who do not know each other, or you. An extraordinarily needy participant can suck all of your energy and, quite honestly, really ruin the day.

? Be clear about what you are offering ? will you be available to give advice and help? Will you assist people basting quilts? Will you carry machines back and forth to cars? Can you accommodate allergies and dietary restrictions? Do you provide extension cords & power bars?

Retreat Feet

WHAT TO BRING

? The key to happy participants, is well-prepared participants. Create a checklist of ?Items to Bring? for your quilters. The most devastating item that is inevitably forgotten by a home-sewist is their foot pedal!

? Everyone needs: sewing machine, rotary cutting equipment, a desk light, cushion to sit on (or their own office chair!), extension cord/power bar, all project supplies.

? At my retreats we have a swap zone for sewing room items no longer wanted ? my only proviso is that whatever doesn?t get scooped up must be taken home by it?s
original owner!

lunch

Once you are ready to take the plunge to overnight retreats, I think the two most important factors are comfortable beds and decent food. In my experience, participants are very happy to pay for these amenities. Also fairly important: will you have free reign of the venue so that you can quilt in your jammies into the night, or when you wake up at 5:00 a.m.? This is tough to do in a hotel setting, which is why small lodges typically run by non-profits, universities or church camps are perfect retreat venues.

If you have any questions or need more specific information on hosting a retreat (like sample dinner menu for 25), I would love to hear from you. Please feel free to contact me via my blog!