Ever Wonder What It’s Like to Attend a Modern Quilting Retreat?

Quilting retreats are fun places for like-minded fabric enthusiasts to gather together and indulge in their favorite creative hobby! Quilters are able to leave their cares at home and sew to their heart’s content, usually without having to worry about the cooking or cleaning. There are numerous retreats out there to fit practically any budget, quilting style or time frame.

Two Quilters at Sewtopia Quilt Retreat

Sewtopia’s global logo symbolizes a worldwide sewing community where everyone is welcome.

It’s all about the people (and the sewing!)

Recently I was able to attend a brand new retreat that was aimed at a more modern, tech-savvy crowd. Founded by Amy Newbold and Jemellia Hilfiger, Sewtopia is a twice-yearly event that takes place at different cities around the U.S. For the inaugural event, participants flocked to Salt Lake City, Utah, for an extended weekend full of friendship, laughter and fun (and of course sewing!)

The modern take on this favorite pastime included all the hallmarks of a great shindig: catered food, a shop hop, lots of open sewing time and the luxury of a dedicated space for an entire weekend. Attendees came together from all over the U.S., and a few international folks joined us as well. The online quilting community has fostered a spirit of friendship that was evident in the squeals of delight heard throughout the event when virtual friends met each other for the first time in person. New acquaintances began and friendships were renewed when like-minded souls came together under a common roof.

Sewtopia Attendees A room full of 80 enthusiastic quilters were in attendance at Sewtopia.

From the organizer’s perspective

Organizing a quilt retreat or any quilting event is a lot of work. It takes a dedicated team to create a successful event. Some retreats are staffed by volunteers (usually from a local quilting guild), while others are more of a joint venture where business partners can combine their resources and skill sets to create an over-the-top event.

Man Making a Quilt at Sewtopia EventSewtopia attendee Matt Peterson lays out his blocks on the large floor space.

From the attendee’s perspective

Although most of the quilting events I attend cater to women, more and more men are hopping on the quilting bandwagon, especially among the modern quilting crowd. Matt Peterson, the only male at the event, fit right in with the dozens of women in attendance. First-time retreat attendee Erin Ackerman said all she needed for a successful retreat experience was a sewing machine and a friend. Pattern designer Sharon McConnell of Color Girl Quilts came by herself, realizing she would easily make friends with anyone in the room.

Two Different Quilt Tops Made From the Same Pattern and FabricsErin Ackerma & Stephanie Leuiere sewed these quilt tops from the same pattern and fabrics.

Things to bring to any type of sewing retreat (modern or not):

  • Comfortable clothing, both for warm and cool temperatures. Although you will most likely be indoors the whole time, the temperature settings may be out of your control. So bring an extra sweater or pair of shorts, just in case.
  • Plenty of things to work on. This is a great place to knock out some WIPs (works-in-progress). Bring a variety of projects so you can easily switch from one to the next. A hand sewing project is also great to have on hand, in case you want to stitch and chat without the noise of your machine humming away.
  • All parts and accessories for your sewing machine (unless one will be provided for you). Plus all the basic sewing supplies: thread, needles, seam ripper, cutting equipment, etc.
  • Snacks and/or chocolate (if allowed). Bring plenty to share with those around you and you will make instant friends!
  • A positive attitude and a helpful hand. Sometimes things can go awry, even with the best of planning. If you are prepared to roll with the punches and pitch in when needed, it will make for a more fun experience.

Goodies from Sewtopia Quilt RetreatMy roommate Kati, the blogger behind From the Blue Chair, surprised me with a handmade pouch full of chocolate and goodies!

How to find a quilting retreat near you

The easiest way to find a retreat close-by is to call up your local quilt or fabric shop and see if they know of any venues. You can also do a Google search for “quilting retreat” to discover a wealth of options!

If you have the time and means to travel, check out the advertising section of your favorite quilting magazines, and look under the teaching tab of your favorite “sew”-lebrities’ blogs.

Once you find a retreat that looks interesting, add it to your calendar, or sign up for the hosting organization’s email list. Even if it’s too late register for the current year, most retreats host their quilting events every year. Sewtopia will be in Chicago in the spring of 2015, and then in Portland, Oregon in the fall of 2015.

Quilts from Sewtopia Project ChallengeSome of the quilts made by Sewtopia attendees for the challenge sponsored by Michael Miller.

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