Quilt Retreat Series Part 2.1: What to pack for a retreat - Sewing Gear

Packing for a quilt retreat is serious business, folks.  So many things to consider.  How much room in my car/luggage?  Will I be sharing a room/bathroom?  Will there be food?  How long will I stay? Can we drink wine? And perhaps the most important question of all:  Are there fabric stores nearby?

You can find my thoughts on different kinds of retreats in Part 1 of the Quilt Retreat Series.

I would not call myself a seasoned retreater, but I have been to a couple and as I prepare to head off to a new venue in July I find myself revisiting all the packing questions.

This overview, by all means, does not cover everything.  And each person will have different priorities.  These views are my own, and are the thoughts that go through my head as I prepare.

First off, it is the end of May and I have known about my mid-July retreat for a couple of weeks now and have already started a list so I don't forget anything.  I am a planner, what can I say.

I separate my list into a few categories:

  • Sewing gear
  • Personal items (clothing, toiletries, etc)
  • Food/Snacks/Drinks
  • Other
Before we start adding things to the list though, we have a couple of questions to answer.
  • What is my method of transportation?  Flying, driving?  Sharing a vehicle?
  • What is available at the retreat?  Linens? Meals? 
Once you have your answers and your retreat is booked, you can start packing. Because I have always had to drive to retreats, I have never been TOO restricted on what I can bring.  As long as it fits in the back of the car, I am good to go.  

Sewing Gear
(no affiliation or compensation for products mentioned and linked)
Packing your gear and projects can be a bit difficult, especially when you are used to having everything in its own place in your sewing room.  Start with the essentials and cut things where you can.  If you are going with friends, maybe you can split the load.  One can bring rulers and another can bring cutting supplies or however you want to divvy it up.  No need to bring multiples of things you will only use once or twice.  

I like to pack my gear & projects in a large plastic tote.  Something similar to this one I found at Walmart:

It can get very heavy, so I suggest getting one with wheels if that is possible.
Another option is the always useful IKEA bags:
Start by keeping a tally in your head of your Need, Might Need, and Optional items.  This list doesn't include the basics of travel like having decent pajamas, a supply of your medications, etc.

Need (most likely):
  • Sewing Machine - some places have rentals, but this varies.
  • Thread - might vary depending on your projects, but always bring an extra full spool of neutral. 
  • Extra - Bobbins, machine needles, rotary blades
  • Seam ripper, clippers, and scissors - I promise, if you don't think you will need it, you certainly will.
  • Machine Kit with cleaning tools and different feet
  • A project to work on (or a few) - you might have plans to buy something at a shop when you get there, but backup is always a good idea
  • Name badge - Especially if you are going to a retreat where there will be new people. Customize it and make your name memorable (oooo, that's a good idea for a tutorial). 
Might Need (highly recommended if space is not an issue):
  • Surge protector/extension cord - these are sometimes provided
  • Light/lamp - some venues have great lighting, some don't.
  • Rulers & rotary cutter/mat - these are on the might need list (as opposed to the need list) because some people prefer to have all their cutting done ahead of time and some retreats have community ones to share.  If you have any HST trimming or something similar I recommend a small mat for your own table so you don't have to hog the shared cutting table.
  • Cushion/chair - Many venues only supply folding chairs or hard conference style chairs, not the type you want to be sitting in for 8+ hours for 3 days.
  • Water bottle - Stay hydrated and keep the lid on your drink! 
  • Snacks - There is often a community snack table for the group.  Contribute your favorite.
  • Extra finished quilt/small fan - The temperature of the room may not be to your liking.
  • Sweatshirt/slippers - I don't think I am the only one that hates sewing in my shoes.  
  • Thread catcher/basket/lint roller - Remember, you are sharing a space and it is really impolite to just throw your threads on the floor like you do at home.  :)  (maybe this is just me)
  • Earplugs or CPAP machine - a good night's sleep is important to everyone
  • Mini iron & matt - Pressing stations are often supplied by the venue, but having to wait for one can be a pain
  • An extra FQ or a new little sewing trinket.  Many retreats have exchanges or games to participate in.  
  • Cards - If you have a blog, a shop, or just want to keep in touch with new friends it is handy to have a simple way to exchange information
  • Some hand sewing - You might want to sit and visit in a more relaxed space or sit in solitude outside for a bit.
  • Heat pad/Icepack/Ibuprofen - if you have aches and pains like I do, make sure you prepare.
  • Night light - to put in the bathroom of a shared room so a nighttime visit doesn't wake everyone
  • Cash - if your retreat is run by a shop, they may have some basic supplies on hand for  you to purchase in case you forget something

Goodness, that is a long list and I just know I forgot to add some things.  Let me know what you think needs to be added to the list.  


  1. You have covered it all, but when we had a B&B here, and had a power failure one stormy night, a torch would be very handy. After that. I made sure every bedroom had one torch.A tote on wheels, that is one of the best helpful things to take along, specially if you do not know how far you might have from car/motel/ bedroom if on site. to the retreat sewing room. July will be here so soon.


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