Packing for a Quilt Retreat in 5 Easy Steps

Pack for a Quilt Retreat

Personally, I think there isn’t really ever a BAD time for a quilt retreat. The guilds I’m in usually plan theirs in the Spring time when the wildflowers are blooming and the weather is pretty nice (not too hot and not too rainy/cold). This makes for a pleasant drive because well, let’s face it, in Texas, if you’re going on a retreat, you’re going to have to drive a little bit. I like to go on retreats in the summer because it’s so darn hot and it’s a perfect excuse to stay inside and sew! (The same applies in the winter when it’s so darn cold.)

I’ve been thinking about the best way to pack for a retreat (I hear this question a lot) so I thought I’d share my personal packing steps. You can choose to follow these or share your own in the comments (I like to believe that real people read this blog). I’ve never attended a retreat in another state. I can’t imagine the planning that would have to go into packing for an adventure like that but I hope that someday I’ll get to experience it.

How to Pack for a Quilt (or other) Retreat

1) Meticulously plan every single project you are going to work on, this would be the perfect time to tackle your UFO list. Make sure you WRITE down this list because you’re going to use it in step 2. Hold nothing back, this is YOUR weekend to get stuff done so you don’t want to leave stuff at home and then run out of things to DO!

[OK, seriously, you may want to pick a couple specific projects to work on and then one or two bonus projects]

At the SAMQG retreat of 2014 I only made quilt backs. I had at least 13 quilt tops that needed backs (so I wouldn’t have an excuse to NOT quilt them) and I spent pretty much all three days making backings. How many of those are finished quilts now? Uhm, maybe one. The ones I’ve managed to quilt actually still need binding! (But I am now one step closer to getting them finished!)

2) Spend time gathering your supplies for the projects on the list in Step 1. If this means you have to temporarily ignore the house work [who am I kidding, I ALWAYS ignore the housework] and make sure the kid is situated on the couch binge watching episodes of Daniel Tiger (gotta love auto play) then do it! Probably should consider ordering pizza and let your hubs know he may not see you for the next few hours.

Remember: It takes time to find all those supplies you’ll need, especially if you’re going to tackle some old UFOs or if you haven’t been in your sewing space in a while (which is why you NEED this retreat!) So you may want to start earlier in the week and spread this step out over a few days. Be sure to designate an area to gather all these items. I have a GIANT rolling cart that I use to “pack” my supplies (i.e. madly throw everything in it as I find them). I bought it back when I was “selling” scrapbook supplies and it works perfectly to pack up for retreats. Of course, once it’s packed it usually takes a Herculean effort to get it down the stairs but that’s what husbands are for!

3) Don’t worry if you get distracted by the pretty fabric that will be left behind when you go on this trip. Take a few moments to say “hello old friends” and then get back to packing!

4) Pack up the car. This will probably require you to remove the car seat for the weekend. Just face this fact, you won’t need the car seat (the kid is staying at home) and this will make more room for SUPPLIES! Also, you may want to wait to pack the car under cover of darkness. My child is very attune to my movements and he asks “Where we going?” when I change any article of clothing or take a shower (he assumes that means we’re going somewhere) and he doesn’t like it when Mommy leaves and he stays behind even though ALL his toys are at home. So it is just easier to pack the car after he’s gone to bed, or better yet, in the morning after I’ve dropped him off at daycare before I leave for the retreat. The other benefit of packing at night is that it’s not as hot and in my house we park cars in the garage so it gets stuffy. Just do whatever works for you.

Personally, I have a Toyota Corolla which is a great car for the price but is not very big, so I need every inch I can get of cargo room. So out goes the car seat. I can’t wait until I finally get that SUV we’ve been talking about!

If you don’t have children, the same load-the-car-at-night principle applies to pets and spouses. I had a dog once who would run and jump into the back of my Mazda 3 hatchback when I opened the hatch and said “Let’s go to Gigi’s!” They know when you’re leaving, I mean, isn’t Instagram full of pictures of pets sitting in suitcases and tote bags?

5) Now that the car is packed up with the essential supplies, look around and see if there is any extra room. Are the floorboards empty? Is there room in the trunk or glove compartment? If so, you can use that space to bring more fabric! That means there is room for just one more project! I mean, maybe you’ll only really have 1 full day out of the 3 days you’ll be gone to work but I’m sure you’re as productive as I am and can get at least 10 projects finished in that time right?

Don’t get discouraged. If all else fails, grab a bag of scraps and just do some wonky improv piecing all weekend!

And in seriousness, here’s a list of the ESSENTIAL supplies outside of your project materials which may help you pack for your retreat:

1) Sewing machine AND POWER CORD and PEDAL (very important)

2) Presser feet (I use the 1/4 inch – it has an edge to guide the fabric, flat foot – for paper piecing, walking foot – for quilting, darning foot – for free motion quilting) and I always need a little screw driver with my machine for the feet

3) Travel (or regular) iron plus pressing mat

4) Cutting supplies – I always bring a small mat, rotary cutter and small ruler because I like to paper piece and have these supplies right next to my machine

5) TV tray (great for extending the table and keeping the cutting supplies handy)

6) Pillowcase to gather scraps and “sewing trash” for a dog bed to donate at the end of the weekend

7) Seam ripper, scissors (large and small), extra machine needles, pins, basting spray, batting

8) Travel coffee mug (with a lid to help lessen spills), I like to bring my own little hazlenut creamer cups

9) Snacks to share and keep up your energy while you’re sewing, also great for long road trips

10) Camera, phone, CHARGER cord

11) PILLOW – I have a special Bamboo pillow that we purchased recently and it’s AMAZING so I’m definitely bringing it! Even though sleeping is rare when I go to a retreat, the idea of spending a night not waking up at 4 AM to get my son a cup of milk or without a kid kicking me all night is VERY appealing.

12) Cute PJs that you don’t mind other people seeing, fuzzy socks or slippers (feet may get cold and I sew barefoot anyway), sweater OR a personal fan (depending on your preference, if you are warm natured)

13) Sketchbook, always bring a sketchbook and pencils or markers

That’s about it. Is there anything that you bring that helps make your weekend more enjoyable? Also, I’d love to hear if this list was helpful.

Happy Stitching!


8 thoughts on “Packing for a Quilt Retreat in 5 Easy Steps

  1. Andrée says:

    I love your list! One weekend I went away and didn’t feel at all like measuring (everything I touched was off). Thank goodness I had brought my box of scraps. I ended up sewing and cutting scraps all weekend. It’s exactly what I needed. Those scrappy triangles are all done and waiting for their solid cousins to make a quilt!
    Have a great retreat.

  2. Ida says:

    This is an awesome help, Anna! Just going for the day to a “sit and sew” or a technique class, i usually forget SOMETHING!!! I am a fairly new quilter and read all the tips and hints that i can:)
    Thank you so much!
    Ida in Wentzville, Mo

  3. Bernice M says:

    Years ago I set up a box with my extra tools
    so I don’t have to worry I will forget rotary cutters,pins, scissors, etc. I just grab the box and I am ready to go except for my rulers, mats and projects.

  4. Susan Blair says:

    Great list- the only things I would add would be extra thread – you really don’t want to run out, and extra blades for your rotary cutter as well as any fabric spray for using when you press. I use Mary Ellen’s. I am actually getting ready now for a retreat at the end of July – my planning needs to be good as I am flying to get there so have to pack really carefully (I borrow a machine). One other suggestion which I read recently and am trying to do this trip- make sure you have things precut and organized so that you can just sew. I have some BOM’s that I am a little behind on so they are going to be all cut and ready to go for this retreat. I LOVE your list idea- I am a big list maker and it really helps!

  5. Alice says:

    I bought a tackle box that has all my tools as I call them .( blades markers needles therad all the things you need ready to so I don’t have worry about that it’s pick-up and go ) . I did not think about scraps. That’s a good Idea. I also take a second machine encase the one I’m using messes up and I can’t fix it.

  6. Kathy N says:

    It is good to go over your list when packing up to come home…seems I am always leaving chargers and rotary cutters behind.

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