It's Quilt Retreat Week here at A Scarlet Thread and while I'm focused on the million little things on my task list like food and demos and name tags, the timing seemed perfect to share a few tips that will be helpful whenever you're preparing for an upcoming retreat.

Quilt retreats are a great way to make quilting friends, get a bit of a break from reality, and get a lot of sewing done! Just like a massage or a mani-pedi, a retreat plucks you from your day-to-day life and puts you in an environment where you only have to consider yourself.
Beyond the obvious sewing and project supplies you'll want to take, I thought it might be helpful to share a few of my favorite hints and tips that lead to a successful retreat experience.

·         Begin your preparations for retreat at least a few days in advance (a few weeks is even better!) so you aren't stressed at the last minute trying to get everything done. Remember that one of the best parts of retreat is visiting with your friends, and the better prepared you are and the fewer decisions you have to make when you get to retreat will leave you more time for chatting and visiting.
·         Take your favorite sewing machine that you know how to use well. You don't want to have to spend time reading the owner's manual. Clean and oil your machine, if needed, and make sure it is working properly. Change the needle and make sure you have extras. If it's been a while since your machine has been professionally serviced, several weeks before retreat is the perfect time to make an appointment with your technician for service. Also make sure you pack the power cord, foot pedal, and any special feet you may need. Nothing can ruin a retreat faster than discovering you didn't bring the power cord or foot pedal!
·         Bring a realistic selection of projects...simple is usually better. This is not the best time to start a project with thousands of pieces that require a difficult layout. Choose projects that you can start and stop easily. You don't need to bring all of your WIPs and UFOs, but I always bring one more project than I think I can finish just in case I get bored with what I'm working on and need a change of pace, or wonder of wonders, I actually finish the projects I've brought and need something else to work on!
·         Cut out as many of your projects as possible so you can get right to sewing. Who wants to spend precious retreat time cutting? In my case, I have to cut while it's quiet or I always make mistakes. Speaking of mistakes, be sure to bring extras of the fabrics in your projects just in case you discover you're missing a piece or that you've mis-cut something. I always separate each project into project bags or boxes, which are easy to pack and keep all the pieces together.
·         Comfy attire is a must, and layers are always recommended. Remember, there will only be one thermostat and lots of friends so you want to be able to add or remove layers to stay comfy. And don't forget comfy can't sew if your feet hurt!
·         If you have back problems, like me, and you arrive ready for hours of sewing only to find that the chairs are the metal folding type, you might be tempted to cry. Most retreat venues encourage you to bring your own chair for comfort, but I find that to be more trouble than I'm willing to take. Instead, I sit on an inflatable disc that gives some cushioning, but also shifts my weight around often so I don't get stiff and sore after a day of sewing in exactly the same position. I have a Dyna Disc, which has a nubby side underneath so it doesn't slide around on the chair, and I often use it behind my back for extra support, too. At the very least, a simple cushion or pillow to sit on will help a lot.


·         Seldom do you find a room where the lighting is perfect for everyone, and the older I get the more essential good lighting is for me to be able to sew. A small battery-operated lamp is the ideal solution because you won't have to worry about how close you are to an outlet or whether you will trip a breaker by plugging in too many items. This LED Super Bright Touch Lamp available in our Sewing Center is perfect for even features three levels of brightness!
·         Most retreat venues provide cutting and ironing stations...check before you go if you're unsure. I limit myself to a small rotary cutting mat that I put beside my machine so I don't have to get up to trim things. I prefer a rotating mat like the Olfa Spinning Rotary Mat pictured here, but a small 12" x 18" mat works just as well. It is best to leave your professional high-temperature iron at home because they are often the culprit when fuses are blown or the circuit breakers trip. A small travel iron such as the Steamfast Travel Steam Iron that we sell at AST won't use as much power and can still get the job done. Don't forget a portable pressing pad! (Always check with the retreat organizer to determine if personal irons are allowed.)
·         While you may enjoy listening to music in your sewing space, not everyone does. If you must have music while you sew, be considerate and bring along ear buds so others don't have to listen to your tunes. Better yet, turn off the music and spend the time talking and visiting and making new quilting friends!
·         Many people are highly allergic to scents and perfumes, and a mix of different scents in an enclosed space can be a real problem. It's best not to wear strongly scented perfumes, and if you use a product like Best Press make sure it, too, is unscented.
·         Open drinks can spell disaster at a retreat. While you may be aware of your open drink and not have an issue, when you are in close proximity to others it is safest to use only covered drink cups to help protect machines and projects.
·         Most importantly, arrive with your best attitude and be ready to have a blast. You'll meet the most amazing people at quilt retreats from all walks of life, and there is nothing like quilting to create a bond of friendship as you work on projects, learn new techniques and share your quilting knowledge. You'll go home refreshed, inspired and already planning your next retreat!
Just two more sleeps until we kick off Spring Quilt Retreat at AST and we still have room for you to join us! You'll miss three days of more fun than you can imagine if you're not coming, but we'll do it again in October so start making your plans now to join us!
Until next time...Life is short. Buy the Fabric!