Friday, May 5, 2023

Quilty Retreat Prep / Beauties Pageant 215

My guild’s annual spring retreat happens next week in Maine, and I’ve been getting ready for the event for the past few weeks. I approach retreats as more guild socials/sweat shops. I do a lot of catching up with friends and go out for all my meals. When I’m at my machine, I’m go-go-go—it’s more of a time to make progress on many projects and less about tapping into the collective creativity around me.

That being said, I pack several projects, knowing full well I won’t touch them all—the variety helps me make the most of my away-from-home sewing time. My retreat projects generally fall into one of three categories: fast finishes, marathons, and challenges.

Fast finishes are projects that I can bang out in less than a day (think baby quilt tops) or those that are far enough along that I can wrap them up quickly. Checking a fast finish off my list helps propel me into another project. For example, my Brightly blocks (pictured at the start of the post) are completely pieced; I just have to assemble the rows and then sew them into the top. Brightly will come together quickly at the retreat. And my Patchwork Sky (pictured below) is well on its way. I still have to do some piecing, but then it will be smooth run to the finish line.

Marathons are those that require a lot of mindless chain piecing. I won’t start and complete one at retreat, but I can make good progress on several. So, when I’m bored of snowballing a hundred pieces for one project, I can move on to sewing the nine-patches for another. I have three of these ready to go: Legendary (by Elizabeth Hartman), Pineberry (by Pen and Paper Patterns), and my own Irish Twist.

A challenge or two helps keep things interesting. I have prepared many blocks from the Bonnie and Camille Quilt Bee Sampler to that end. It’s not that these are hard blocks; they’re all different and will require some effort from me to sew. I cut everything and bagged the components for each block in a separate plastic bag. When I want to work on something interesting while on retreat, this is the project I’ll reach for.

All of that aside, I think the most important thing for me to do in preparation is to read through each pattern, make sure I will have everything I need on hand, and cut out all the fabric in advance. After a few days of socializing and staying up later than I should, it’s best—for me and for my projects—that I steer clear of my rotary blade!

Do you have any advice from your own retreat experiences? I welcome the wisdom!

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  1. Have fun at the retreat! My best advice is to get up every hour or so and walk around the room. I'm way older than you but even your young body will appreciate it. Happy stitching!

  2. Great way to think about the kinds of projects to plan! Categorization helps! I bring at least 6, preferably 8, and with various concentration requirements. Recently I went to a retreat with a particular quilt I wanted to hit hard, and came to a screeching halt when my seam allowance turned out SO much bigger than the one I’d been using at home, (different machine, much less attention to detail,) that two blocks ended up more than an 1.5” different in size. It was a big, huge block with 144 pieces on a grid. My whole quilty world was rocked!!! I needed to put that baby aside for a few days to regroup and was thankful to have a lot of alternatives while I figured out my next move. When things like that happen, it’s great to be with friends who understand. I doubt non-quilting family would get the gravity of the situation!!!

  3. I agree that having everything cut in advance (as much as possible) is really the key. Sounds like you have a lot of great projects kitted and ready to go. Have fun!

  4. Gosh, it must be "retreat season," because I know of at least three bloggers who are prepping for a retreat this month. How long is your retreat? I'm going on one next weekend - Friday, Saturday, and Sunday - with Central Florida MQG. We'll be at a church camp the entire time, as we are way off the beaten path. There's no going out for meals, but happily, we get great food prepared for us. I know what you mean about preparing what to take along. You're making your own kits, and I agree wholeheartedly with that idea. I have two quilts and a crossbody bag cut out to take along. Also, I'm taking handwork - EPP - as I find that sometimes, I just want to leave my machine and sit with handwork while I have a chat with someone else in the room, or we head outdoors to a screened-in porch. It's not a bad idea to take along too much stuff. I'd be horror-stricken if I ran out of things to sew! :-) Hope you have a great time!

  5. Enjoy your retreat. Sounds like you have a nice program!

  6. I'm also getting ready for a retreat! I like your suggestion to read over the pattern BEFORE I go!!! It's often harder to concentrate at a retreat with all the chatter and laughter! Thanks for the tip!

  7. I've never had the privilege of going to a retreat. I bet it's wonderful. I might never want to come home! Thanks for sharing the experience so I can live vicariously through you. I would think having several projects with you helps as well since us artists can be fickle. Sometimes you're in the mood for this...and other times for that. It's best to be over prepared I suppose. Hope it's a blast!!

  8. I have everything cut before I go too. But I am that obnoxious quilter that chain sews miles of pieces with a vintage Bernina that shakes the table :) Hope you have a great time there!

  9. Ohhh, have fun on your retreat! My last one was before covid and I soooo would love a new one :) I always pack a few different style projects too and try to be prepared. I have come to realize with all the different conversations going on, I might not be very focussed so simple FPP or chain piecing is my favorite way to go. xo

  10. I've never done a quilting or sewing retreat, but it sounds fabulous! I love the way you categorize your projects as "fast finish, marathon or challenge." I usually prefer the Challenge projects with easier ones as palette cleansers between finishing one beast and starting on the next ones. I find it difficult to alternate between different projects-in-progress, though -- it takes me to long to transition and refocus my brain with "now, WHAT was I doing here?" ;-). I hope you have an amazing time at the retreat and return with lots of progress completed! Curious -- what kind of retreat is this, and how did you find out about it? Is it something your guild does together periodically, something you and a few friends put together on your own, or a commercial enterprise?


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