30 August 2012

List, Prepping for a Quilt Retreat

How to prepare for a quilt retreat weekend -

I love going to quilt retreats, but I had to be convinced to attend my first.  I kept thinking to myself, why waste the time and money when I can sew at home?  And then I visited a retreat ... someone else cooking (can be good or bad), no interruptions, and amazing camaraderie!  What else could anyone ask for?

Having now been to retreats at least half a dozen times, I've started this little list.  It is both reminder for myself, as well as an intro for anyone wishing to know more about retreats.

No retreat center is like another, so you need to be prepared for a lot of possibilities.  Here are my thoughts, and my list (with some additions and subtractions, this list could also work for embroidery machine retreats as well as scrapbooking retreats): 

Sleep - Can be hard to come by.  For me, the centers are usually too cold.  But the last center I stayed at had winter weight quilts on the beds and sheets.  The sheets were too chilly, the quilt was too hot.  I was quite uncomfortable.  I'm making several lightweight quilts to bring with me to retreats for my next experience.  Whew.

Snoring/Lights/Squeaky beds -
You will usually be in a room with one to several other women.  Someone is going to snore.  If it is a problem, try to bunk with someone who does not snore.  Otherwise, bring earplugs ... honestly.  These are the only things that have allowed me to drop off some nights.

There are nightlights in every center I've stayed at, but if you wake up confused, please do not automatically turn on a bright light.  This is where a discrete little flashlight is an awesome tool to carry with you.

Squeaky beds are the bane of some retreaters existence, especially if they or someone else is not sleeping comfortably/easily.  Sleep machine or white noise apps are an excellent option for these occasions.  Make sure the sound level with not bother the other occupants.

Food -
This is a biggie for me, because I cannot eat dairy (allergy) and I do not eat meat.  Which basically restricts a lot of food for me, some retreats are great about this, while others are crappy.  If you have a food issue, it is better to call ahead (or email) and find out the owner's policy.

One of the retreats I used to attend refuses to cater to my dairy allergy, and also refuses to reduce the cost of my weekend.  Needless to say, I no longer attend this retreat.  However, the times I did attend, I was prepared with my own food.  I never went hungry.

On the other hand, I did hear from other attendees that they were having digestive issues with the high amounts of salt and extremely high amounts of carbohydrates and fats in each meal.  Yikes, my stomach just moaned in sympathy.  I did not have these issues, but being prepared for the possibility is very important.

Additionally, bring along healthy, good snacks for yourself, even if the retreat provides food and snacks.  What the retreat owner/manager considers snack product may differ greatly from yours.  I pack hummus and carrots, fruit (apples, nectarines, plums, melon, grapes), tortilla chips and salsa, etc.

Along with this, if you are carefully watching your food intake: i.e. measuring (bring your scale) or cooking, be aware that the "kitchens" are no better set up than many hotel/traveling kitchens.  Plates, forks, spoons, and butter knives, yes.  Sharp kitchen knives, measuring spoons and cups, and preparation cookware ... not so much.  So make sure you are prepared for any kitchen eventuality.  I would encourage you to bring items already cut up and ready to use.

Drink is similar.  I drink a lot of water, so I've never had an issue with what flows from the tap.  But, if you have a favorite drink you want, bring it along with you.

FYI - You do a lot more sitting at a retreat than you expect.  You do not need and really will not like what high fat snacks will do to your system.  Keep it cleaner than you would like, and you will exit your retreat healthy and happy.  Much better than sick and nauseous, in my opinion.

Clothing - comfy and flexible.  Elastic waists are your friend, so too are loose fitting tops.  Also, be prepared for conditions where you are either too cool or too warm.  If you have the items with you, you can bundle up or strip down as conditions require.

Nobody cares what you wear on retreat.  Heck, half of us are in jammies until noon (or later).

If you want to exercise - take a walk or run while on retreat, make sure you bring all the items you need to be comfortable: shorts or pants or running skirt, top with appropriate bra, socks, and shoes.  

Shoes - Slippers or socks are the common foot coverings I see at retreats.  You want to be careful about barefooting in this environment because there are pins everywhere!  My mother stepped on a pin when I was a kid.  The exploratory surgery she went through to find the piece that broke off will stay with me until the day I lose my mind.  Ouch.

Having said that, I did go barefoot on my last retreat, and did not have pin issues.  But it is a possibility of which to be aware.

Irons - Most retreats have irons, but bringing your own saves you an oops experience in the event that the last iron the retreat has just died and it is midnight and this is the last seam to press and and and. 

However, having an ironing station set up at your table encourages you to sit longer, and longer, and longer without moving.  I discourage this, as your body is not built to sit in a chair for hours without a break

Rulers - This seems to be one of the things I always forget.  Learn from my mistake and bring your own, it keeps you from having to beg an unfamiliar tool from someone else.

Having said that, the most kindhearted gals retreat, and a call to borrow a item you left behind quickly produces a generous wealth of options at your fingertips.

Rotary Cutter - Same as above.  With all the different handles, I know a bunch of people who say, I can not use that "fill in the blank" style.  If you bring your own, this is not something that will concern you.

Projects - Make sure to bring several more projects than you think you will need.  You will get tired of a project and need something new OR you will work through them much faster than you believe.  I took 5 projects to my first retreat, and worked on all of them.  I was shocked, I expected to finish one, and I finished three.  Better to over, rather than under, prepare.

Thread - Bring more than you need and enough spools to match every project you have brought.  It is a guarantee that you will not be able to find your needed color or brand when you shop at the local shops around your retreat center.

Brainstorming - I have never been able to successfully brainstorm at a retreat.  It is noisy, nothing is in the place that I need it, and I cannot settle enough to be creative.  Mostly it is a place to work uninterrupted by spouses, kids, and pets.  Which means that you push yourself much further than you expect.

So I recommend you have your projects planned out in advance, rather than bringing graph paper and yards of fabric that you will draw into being at the retreat.  Probably not going to happen!

And Finally, music.  Probably one of my biggest pet peeves (right up there with someone dumping salt all over the chip bowl, ugh) is those people who insist on playing their music for me.  If I wanted to listen to music, I'd bring my own playing device AND earphones.  You probably don't want me playing Nine Inch Nails or Pink, so why do I have to listen to your oldies or country or whatever else you decide to share?!?

Be thoughtful of others, and hopefully, they will return the favor.

List -
Directions to Center, and access codes if needed

clips for chip bags, etc.
Cooler and Ice if needed (many centers offer refrigerators)

Extra Blanket

Projects - more than you think you will need
Needles (both hand sewing and machine sewing)
Cutting Board
Rotary Cutter
Sewing Machine
Sewing Machine Cleaning kit

Ironing mat
Extra light for sewing machine (I have a fold up Ottlite)

Two pair shoes: sandals, tennis shoes, all comfy
Clothing - lightweight layers to put and take off easily

Personal care items
Hairbrush, Comb, or not (I just use my fingers now)
Hair ties or clips

What else do you make sure to bring?


Kathleen said...

Thanks for the list! I went on my first retreat last year and afterward made a note on my phone to bring an extension cord, parchment paper, and that grippy shelf liner to go under my pedal. I can not even remember why I need parchment paper but I threw it in my bag!

Michelle Smith said...

Never have been. Nervous? Idk why. Thanx for the list! Most helpful!