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What to Pack for a Quilting Retreat

Blog Post Written By: Carolina Moore

Packing for a quilt retreat is a little different than packing for a “regular” vacation. Not only do you need to pack your clothes, toiletries, any medications, and your cell phone charger… but you need to pack all your sewing projects as well! If you’ve never been to a quilting retreat before, or it has been a while, here is our guide on what you should be sure to pack in your bag!


What kind of retreat are you attending?

Knowing what kind of retreat you are attending is the first step in deciding how diligent you need to be in packing for your quilting retreat. If you are at a full-service quilt shop for your retreat, you won’t need to worry about running out of thread or forgetting your scissors because you can easily purchase what you need on-site. Similarly, if you’re attending a retreat with daily group trips to visit local area quilt shops, you won’t need to worry about running out of projects because you can get new ones during the retreat. However, if you’re attending a quilting retreat in a remote location without an on-site quilt shop, you’ll want to make sure you bring everything you need – without overpacking and weighing down your luggage!

Also, check the kind of retreat you are attending. Is the retreat providing project kits, or are you bringing your own projects to work on? Will the retreat provide basic quilting supplies such as a machine, iron, and rotary mat, or are they simply providing a table and access to power? There are many kinds of quilting retreats, and you want to make sure you’re preparing for the experience that you’ve signed up for.


Basic Retreat Quilting Supplies

If you know you are attending a retreat soon, a great way to prepare is to work on a project at home and note all the things you use while working on that project. This will become your list when packing for the retreat. Depending on your preferences, your list may look a little different from another quilter’s list. A standard list of quilting supplies would include:

Sewing Machine (with foot pedal and power cord)

Small iron and ironing mat (may be optional) or seam roller

Rotary cutter, ruler(s), and mat


Extra machine needles

Extra bobbins

Thread Snips

Pins in a pin cushion

Seam Ripper

Marking Pens

Binding Clips

Small bag for scraps/trash

Fabric and pattern for any projects


Specialty Quilting Tools

The project(s) that you’re working on may require specialty quilting tools that you’re not used to using. Make sure that you read over any patterns and supply lists. For example, when working on foundation paper piecing, you may need an add-a-quarter ruler or a zipper foot when making a bag. Techniques such as machine embroidery may require multiple specialty tools and supplies to complete. If the retreat is to learn a new technique, the instructor should have a complete supply list available so that you will have a successful retreat. The instructor may have kits available that include the specialty materials – in these cases; it is often easiest to purchase the instructor’s kit rather than source all the materials on your own.


Storing your quilting supplies

As you pack your quilting supplies, consider how you’ll use them and want to access them while at the retreat. Packing your quilting tools in ways that make them easily accessible will keep them organized and handy while you work. A caddy or zippered pouch with a wide opening is a great way to store your tools, so they are not loose on the table but are still easily accessible while you work. Another great option is a stash-n-store tool. Tuck your needed tools into the stash-n-store while at your table to prevent them from rolling away or taking up too much space.


Comfort supplies at a Quilt Retreat

If you’re used to sewing in your own home rather than a classroom or retreat, you may not have thought of the comfort supplies that are readily available at home but need to be packed with you when going to a retreat. The most common of these are slippers. If you prefer to sew barefoot or with stocking feet, you won’t be comfortable sewing with shoes on at the retreat. You’ll want to take your shoes off to sew. But every time you get up to go to the ironing board or walk to the bathroom, you’ll need to put your shoes back on. Make yourself more comfortable by bringing slippers that you can quickly put on each time you get up. This will keep your feet clean and keep you safe from any pins your fellow quilters have accidentally dropped! You may also want to bring warm socks and a favorite sweater – large rooms are often kept at lower temperatures than we are used to sewing in.

Not all retreat center chairs are made equal. You’ll likely be spending many more hours than you’re used to sitting at your sewing machine. Make sure you’re comfortable by bringing any cushions or back supports you’ll need to be comfortable in your chair. In case you forget, a rolled-up towel from your room may work in a pinch.

Meals are often scheduled at a retreat. If you like to snack while sewing or eat small meals throughout the day rather than three large meals, make sure to pack snacks in your retreat bag. And use this as an excuse to treat yourself to your favorite snacks! Make sure to bring extras so that you can share them with your tablemates at the retreat. You’ll quickly become everyone’s favorite!

Even if the retreat center has irons and ironing boards available, you may want to bring your own small iron and wool pressing mat. Waiting at a shared ironing board can be a great social activity. Still, if you enjoy getting down to business and finishing projects at retreats, you’ll appreciate having your own ironing station right by your machine for quick pressing and small seams.


Bringing gifts to a Retreat

Unless the retreat organizers have clearly stated it in advance, you are not expected to bring gifts to a retreat. However, if you have time and are so inclined, gifts are always welcome. If you have a roommate at an overnight retreat, a roommate gift is a kind gesture. This might be a small zippered pouch with a treat or notion inside, or if you know your roommate well, Fat Quarters of fabric from their favorite designer.

Snacks to share are a great gift to bring for the group. If people are attending the retreat from all over the country or worldwide, a shelf-stable regional treat is fun to share. If your area has a flavored popcorn or chocolate factory it is known for, your new retreat friends will love learning about it (and tasting it)!

Teachers at retreats do not expect any gifts – they are being paid to teach the class. But if giving gifts is your love language and you would like to bring a treat or gift for the instructor, they will be touched by your thoughtfulness.


Don’t Forget!

Before you zip up your bag to head to the retreat, make sure that you have the essential items that you won’t be able to live without. You can always borrow thread snips from another retreat goer, and if you discover that you forgot extra machine needles when yours breaks, there is sure to be someone else with a needle you can use. However, some items will be nearly impossible to replace.

Make sure that you have your reading glasses as well as the foot pedal and power cord for your machine. It bears repeating: glasses, power cord, and foot pedal should all be double-and-triple checked before you leave the house.


Final Packing Tip

As you leave the house to attend your quilting retreat (with your glasses, power cord, and machine foot pedal), make sure that you’ve brought with you your excitement and sense of adventure. Going to a quilting retreat is so much fun! You’ll enjoy hours of sewing with other quilters; you’ll meet new friends, share stories, and work on sewing projects. You can leave the day-to-day of laundry, dishes, paying bills, and even meal prep all behind you as you enjoy some well-deserved “me time” and your favorite hobby. Make sure that your sense of adventure is packed as well. While there is occasionally a “perfect” retreat, usually there is a last-minute room change, misplaced luggage, or some other unexpected event that can take you by surprise. By seeing these events as an adventure rather than a disaster, you’re more likely to enjoy the whole experience. And you’ll leave with a great story to tell at your next retreat!


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