If you’ve ever been to a quilting retreat, you’ve probably encountered some wonderful quilting characters. There’s the one who brings 5 “almost finished” quilts and looks like a superstar at show and tell. There’s the one who brought a truck load of supplies and hardly tackled one project. There’s the one who generously helps everyone else with tips and techniques all weekend and has one block of her own to show for it. There’s the one who spends all her time wandering and pilfering everyone’s stash because one of her fabrics just doesn’t work. And there are so many more. All of these are good problems to have, because after all, you are enjoying a quilting retreat and what are friends for? We love to share, mentor and have fun. But one thing that seems to be a common theme among retreat goers is that they often have such high expectations for those few days and never quite seem to finish what they had hoped.
Here are some tips on how to maximize your time and efforts at your next quilting retreat;
1. Get into your studio and take an inventory of how many UFOs and new projects you want to work on. Find a space and lay out the projects, ideas, and patterns.
2. Number them in order of importance or urgency. Does one have to be done before a baby is born? Is there a show coming up and you are inspired by the theme?
3. Now look at your top 10 projects and determine which projects have all the fabric and supplies you need and which would warrant a quick shopping trip before the retreat.
4. Determine the size of each project and the length of time you think it would take to complete it.
5. Finally, determine which projects you enjoy doing most and who they are for. It is rewarding to bring at least one project to the retreat that you are making for yourself.
Use all of these variables to get the list down to your top 3 or 4 projects depending on the size and the work involved and the length of the retreat.
The idea here is to bring several exciting projects that are most relevant on your list of things to do. Then start with the most difficult the first day and move on in order of hardest to easiest as the retreat goes on. I can’t tell you the countless sighs of disdain I’ve heard from quilters trying difficult seams and points in the wee hours. Those late evening hours are best saved for the mindless tasks of simple chain piecing or hand sewn binding while you chat into the night.
For my last retreat in November my top 3 projects were;
1. A difficult and detailed landscape that was a private commission with a deadline.
2. A smaller tumbling block table topper that I was making for myself that was already pieced.
3. A fun and easy beach blanket project for my sister at Christmas.
These were all projects I had fabric and supplies for already. I started the difficult landscape and when I needed a break I worked on the table topper or laid out fabrics for the beach blanket. I completed them in order of difficulty and importance but jumped back and forth between projects. I always moved to the easier tasks later in the day and evening to avoid tired mistakes (Who doesn’t detest ripping seams?) and started fresh with the tough stuff in the morning. This was the first time I went in to a retreat with such a plan and I was pleased with the results. I completed all 3 projects during the 4 day weekend and I even had enough Amy Butler fabrics left over to make 2 extra beach blanket tops for future gifts.
Keep in mind that my friends call me a smoking gun quiltaholic at retreats because I love to chat and sew into the evening and I’m an early riser, so be sure to plan your projects around your own comfort level. Don’t be afraid to bring just that one favourite project as long as you think it will last the weekend and you won’t get tired of it. And most of all, be sure to take time to visit, check out what everyone else is working on and just relax and enjoy your friends.
Brandy Lynn is a freelance writer and fibre artist in Canada. To see photos of the projects mentioned in this article check out her Fibre Works blog. Grab a cup of tea and become a follower!