How to Organize a Quilt Retreat in 6 Steps (Plus a Free Download!)

How To Organize a Quilt Retreat in Six Steps. #quilting

If you’ve ever gone on a retreat, you know how wonderful they can be: Time with friends, projects finished, hilarious stories, relaxation. But I bet you also know how quilting retreats can go badly: Forgetting important tools, sleeping in an uncomfortable bed, coming home worn out. 

I’ve experienced both, so today I’m sharing an approach for how to organize a quilt retreat so you feel fulfilled! From what to bring, to what to do… and who to do it with… I’ve got you covered. And as a wellness coach for makers, you know I’m going to make sure you feel really good the whole time, too.

You Might Also Like...

Plan a Quilt Retreat: A room full of tables with quilting supplies including sewing machines on top. #quilting

Chicago Modern Quilt Guild retreat

What Is a Quilt Retreat? 

A quilt retreat can take many forms, but in general, it is an extended period of time where you are focused entirely on quilting — no chores, no work, no obligations. Just you, your sewing machine, and some gorgeous fabric! It’s a retreat away from the hustle and bustle of daily life and a time to refocus on your craft.

While most quilt retreats are group events hosted by quilt guilds, shops, or even quilt designers, you can also organize your own retreat. That’s right — you don’t need to be a professional quilter or even a member of a quilt guild to set up a retreat. All you need is the desire to spend some dedicated time quilting, whether it’s a weekend or a full week, and the drive to organize a retreat for yourself or a group of quilty friends.

Step 1: Set An Intention for Your Experience

Before you do anything else, sit with these two questions:

  • What do you want to get out of a retreat?
  • How do you want to feel on your retreat?

The first question is about what you want to do. What results do you crave? Would you like to finish a big WIP? To spend quality time with friends? When the retreat is over, what tangible outcomes do you want to have experienced?

The second question is about how you want to be. As makers and doers, we sometimes forget to be intentional with how we feel. But how we feel creatively, physically, and emotionally has a huge impact on our work. Think about what your heart, mind, and body want, and plan your own quilting retreat to feel it.

Step 2: Decide Who (If Anyone) Will Join You On Retreat

If the answer isn’t obvious, try asking yourself these questions:

  • Do I crave alone time?
  • Do I miss seeing a family member who lives far away?
  • Do I want to collaborate with friends? 

If you crave alone time, a solo retreat might be ideal for you. If you don’t want to spend the entire retreat alone, you can plan for a day or two solo and invite someone to join you for a couple more days. Or consider a retreat where you’re crafting together during the day, but staying alone at night, to get the best of both worlds. 

If you want to retreat with others, think carefully about who will be the most fun, supportive, relaxed, or hilarious on retreat. What kind of people do you want to be around? Who makes you feel creatively free? Which friends can roll with the punches if something goes wrong? Choose wisely to have a wonderful time.

Step 3: Choose Your Ideal Location

Do you want to get away somewhere unusual? (You’ll need to plan transport for all of your supplies.) Do you prefer to stay close to home? (You might need to set boundaries with family members.) There are many kinds of places to plan your own quilting retreat:

  • Hotels
  • Vacation rentals
  • Retreat centers
  • Bed & breakfasts
  • Campgrounds
  • Meeting rooms or conference centers

There are a few important questions you should ask any venue before booking a retreat. First, be sure they have enough electricity to support the number of sewing machines and irons you plan to have. Be sure to let the venue know how many people are coming and the total number of electrical items you expect will be used. Ask if they will provide extension cords to their outlets (many venues that host weddings, like the ballrooms of hotels, are capable of doing this for you).

Check that the venue has tables you and any fellow quilters can use, and be sure the tables are large enough for a sewing machine and quilting project. Ideally, each quilter should have one table that is 72″ x 30″ so there is space to spread out. Some venues like hotels call these banquet tables. 

A great first step is to find a venue you like and call! You can tell them you’re organizing a quilt retreat and want to set up a tour of the space plus a meeting to go over costs and contracts.

Be sure to let anyone coming on your retreat know how they’ll eat. Will the venue be providing meals? If so, does anyone in your group have any allergies or dietary restrictions the venue should be aware of? Or will you be eating out or ordering in from local restaurants? If there is access to a full-sized refrigerator, attendees can even bring their own meals.

If you’re trying to save money, retreating at home is an option. But set some boundaries, including:

  • Making a “to don’t” list that includes things like chores
  • Designating an area of the house that’s for retreat only 
  • Crafting a schedule that helps you feel like you’re truly retreating from daily life 
  • Setting aside technology (like your phone or TV) so you can focus
Plan a Quilt Retreat: A green vintage sewing machine at a quilt retreat. #quiting

Step 4: Choose Your Projects Wisely When You Organize A Quilt Retreat

As the owner of a small car, I have to pack relatively small. Consequently, I bring only a handful of projects with me, including a mix of machine and hand work. I organize each project in a plastic bin or tote, including the fabric, thread, patterns, notions, and other supplies I need. I pack a separate bag full of tools and self-care items. 

I try to bring at least one project I can finish because it’s fun to share that special moment with friends. I also include a long-term project (like the queen-size quilt I’m currently hand-quilting) because it’s great while talking with folks. I don’t bring ultra-complicated projects because I like to socialize and my brain can’t do both at once. But if yours can, go for it!

Step 5: Create a Packing List

One way I streamline my retreat planning process is to use a packing list. My retreat packing list includes every item I might need for myself (clothes, medication, and toiletries) and for my craft (fabric, thread, and notions).

Click here to download our free quilt retreat packing list!


Our packing list has a list for personal items and sewing items, along with plenty of space to add your own notes for those special things you don’t want to forget at home.

You can also make your own packing list! The best time to start creating a packing list is NOW. As you work on projects, think about what you need while on retreat. Include things like:

  • Extra copies of foundation paper piece patterns in case you make a mistake

  • Additional bobbins, pins, scissors, and other tools you could run out of or break

  • Your machine’s foot pedal, power cord, and an extension cord (seems obvious but… forgetting them could ruin your retreat!)

My favorite list-making tool is AnyList, which syncs across all of your devices. I have a list I update frequently so when it’s time to pack for a retreat, I’m ready. 

Step 6: Craft a Self-Care Plan

Because I’m your friendly neighborhood wellness coach for quilters, you know I have to ask: How will you take good care of yourself while on retreat? If you’re going to plan your own quilting retreat, you must include self-care. 

It’s easy to get caught up in the creative flow and forget to take breaks, so consider scheduling some downtime each day. Pack a heating pad, reusable ice pack, water bottle, yoga mat, healthy snacks, Epsom salts for baths, or anything that will help soothe your body. 

If you’re retreating with others, communicate with them about your self-care needs, too. Make sure someone brings a fruit salad in addition to baked goods. Consider doing a group meditation or hiring a local masseuse for hand massages. Your mind and body are your most important tools — take extra good care of them and they’ll support you on retreat.

What Will YOUR Retreat Look Like?

Now that you’ve explored my six essential steps to plan your own quilting retreat, what’s YOUR next step? I would love to know. Share those plans and your favorite quilt retreat tips below for all of our Suzy Quilts community to enjoy.

And if you've ever planned a quilt retreat, leave your best tips in the comments to keep the conversation going!

16 thoughts on “How to Organize a Quilt Retreat in 6 Steps (Plus a Free Download!)

  1. Susan Abraham says:

    I have been organizing quilt retreats for over 20 years. I host two each year, on in the fall and the other in the winter. I have two tips. First, know your people, what their preferences are. Mine like a hotel where their bed is made for them, etc. They do not like scheduled meals, everyone is on their own for meals. I have assigned seating so everyone can sit with their friends. And I know their groups! Second tip, I bring in a local quilt shop owner as a vendor who brings an assortment of fabrics, current patterns/kits and notions. This is win/win for the vendor and the attendees. If they need something it is right there for them to purchase, they can just continue with their project!

    • Jenni Grover says:

      hi susan, thanks for your expertise! so interesting how different everyone’s retreats can be 💖 i love the idea of a quilt shop partner! such a great idea. thanks for sharing!

  2. Jennifer says:

    We have a great retreat! A huge help is that most retreat participants signup for smaller jobs, such as games, scheduled stretching and yoga breaks, name tags, cocktail hours… this enables the retreat coordinator(s) to get their projects done too!

    • Jenni Grover says:

      i love this tip, jennifer, thank you! i often teach meditation and/or yoga at my guild’s retreats 💖 i’m going to suggest to our retreats manager that we ask for more volunteers!

  3. Terry Craviotto says:

    This is very helpful! On a past small-group-of-friends retreat I attended, we all used the same quilt pattern. I felt a bit crabby, because it really wasn’t a pattern I would have normally picked. Yes, I should have spoken up. No one would have kicked me out because I didn’t want to sew it; we’re friends!
    My advice, however, is to let each quilter choose her own projects, or make sure each is on board with a common project.
    Quilting retreats are wonderful, no matter how big or small!

  4. kim payne says:

    I have done 2 retreats a year for past 8 years that ran from Thur until Sunday. Most of my quilting friends still work like me, and so taking 2 vacation days was the most any of us would do. We went to James River State Park and used the LODGE which sleeps 16, but we only had 10 that came due to some wanting their own bedroom. I provided ALL the food and did all the meals. Including the cost of the lodge it was $200 for everything. I am not doing overnight retreats any more unless I am a participant and not the organizer .. My question is this- what are the prices for most retreats- a price range- and what is the average length? I am trying to find a fun retreat that’s won’t require me to drive for more than 3 hours. Thank you.

    • Yvonne says:

      Sewtopia charges around $500.00. That does NOT include lodging, but does include breakfast and lunch.
      Teachers conduct classes.

    • Jenny says:

      My quilt guild goes to Creative Passions in Chesaning, Michigan. It’s $165 for Friday thru Sunday and you can pay another $30 if you want to arrive on Thursday instead. There are 4-6 people per room/bathroom (those who want their own room have to pay extra) and breakfast is included. There is a full kitchen there for anyone who wants to bring their food as well as a bunch of restaurants nearby.

      • Jenni Grover says:

        hi jenni! thanks for sharing that – that sounds like a great retreat! i always love having kitchen access because i eat pretty healthy, so i prefer to cook my own food a lot. we also have an attendee who heats up frozen pizzas at midnight saturday night every time so we ALL love having that kitchen 😉

        • Claudia says:

          Thanks so much for this information Jenni.

          I’m currently planning a solo quilting retreat for my birthday. I’ve read several online posts and yours is by far the best!

          I love that you started with intention. I want solitude, no distractions and a completed project at the end.

          The hotel I selected is close to a 24-hour spa, so I’m planning on going there at some point.

          Thanks again!

          • Jenni Grover says:

            that sounds like a great place to have a retreat! i wouldn’t get any sewing done though lol. have lots of fun!!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *