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How to plan an Quilt Retreat

You all know that I love to sew with friends, right?  In fact, I like to fill my schedule with these types of events!  Having the right space, mix of friends and even some sponsored goodies can really make it a great time for everyone!  I wanted to share a really fun event that we had.  I hope you can glean some tips from my event planning and make a fun event for you and your own Quilty friends!  Let’s take a peek into my process of how to plan a quilt retreat!

Who to invite

We all have a variety of sewing and quilting friends. When you think about who you want to attend your Quilty Retreat, try to think about which of your friends are best suited to spend time together. As you know, not all personalities will mesh well together. With that in mind, see if you can’t pair your friends nicely. This doesn’t mean that you have to have assigned seating but it’s always nice to sew with your favorite Quilty people.

Overnight Accommodations

Sometimes, you’ll get an opportunity to either attend or plan an overnight retreat. This is usually done in a facility that can accommodate overnight guests. Sometimes, you’re lucky enough to have a friend who can host something like this, but that is few and far between. Many of the overnight retreats that I have attended are either in a facility that was built specifically for this purpose or in a hotel type setting. Which ever you planner attend, it’s important to pick your roommates wisely. Many times, we won’t get our own bedroom. Sometimes, we even have to share a bed! It’s always a good idea to bring earplugs and anything that helps you feel comfortable sharing a sleeping space.

Location, Location, Location

I’m always on the hunt for a new retreat location. In fact, I just learned of a new place that’s only a couple hours away. I’ll be able to share more about that after our planned retreat this fall. One of my favorite things to look for in a location is whether or not it’s relatively easy to drive to. I’ve only attended retreats that have been less than three hours away and that seems to be a manageable amount of distance to drive for a retreat. I know there are several of my friends that have flown to destination retreats and even attended retreat cruises!

The Sewing Lounge (owned and operated by The Fabric Chic in Parkville, MO)

Workstation Setup

Another important thing to consider is each attendees workstation set up. Will each quilter have enough room to work on a project? Are there enough ironing boards and irons? Sometimes, a location can’t even accommodate the amount of wattage that’s required in order to run multiple irons at once. I like to ensure that there are ergonomic cutting stations available. There’s nothing worse than leaving a quilt retreat with a desperate need for a massage. Working in an awkward position all weekend to cut out your different projects can be hard on your back! Another nice thing to have at our “retreat is a design wall. Obviously, you can bring those portable design walls. But it’s really nice if you have a location that already has this affixed to the wall.

Inside the Sewing Lounge – Adjustable height tables, comfortable swivel chairs, design walls and plenty of outlets for all your tools and devices

Food and Snacks

Most quilt retreat centers will have a fully functional kitchen. If you are retreating overnight, you are looking for a full-size refrigerator, an oven, microwave, and all the dishes and pots and pans and utensils that you and your group will need. If you are just planning a retreat (without the overnight), then you can settle for a place that perhaps has a smaller kitchen/dining setup. You can increase your daily cost by catering in your meals, or or you can get organized and assign meals to the attendees. Programs like sign-up genius or even a simple spreadsheet can help you stay organized when you want to make sure that everyone understands how the meals will be handled. Never fear, there’s always gonna be way too many snacks to go around!

This was our SBG and Sew Hot Mamas Quilt Retreat in the Spring of 2022

Planned Group Projects

When you plan a retreat, you can also plan a group project. This could simply mean that you have everyone make a specific quilt block for a specific project like Project Linus or Quilts of Valor. You could also organize an instructor to teach a technique or offer a little project as a learning experience through the course of the retreat. I’ve also attended retreats where the theme is UFOs. Everybody brings something they haven’t started and the goal is to finish an unfinished object. You certainly don’t have to plan a project or even a theme for your retreat. It’s always nice to have options though.

We made our own Quilt Retreat T-shirts, with the help of the Ricoh Ri100 DTG Printer

Games and Giveaways

Everyone loves to win prizes! You can either arrange to have prizes donated by a sewing or quilting related company or you can ask each retreaters to donate a giveaway. I like to keep it fun and exciting and draw names from a hat during the retreat. Playing games is also a good time at a quilt retreat. I like to let folks know, in advance, that we will be playing my favorite game when I schedule a retreat.

I love the dice game of left right center. Tell all interested attendees to bring three fat quarters with them in order to play. Most recently, we started theming our fat quarters so that the one winner will have enough fabric to make an entire quilt instead of them winning a random variety of fabric. Having door prizes and a fun game keeps things interesting and lively the entire length of the retreat. We had some very generous sponsors for this retreat!

The Grace Company, Magic Quilting Spray, Aurifil, Oliso, Birdie Batting, and The Fabric Chic were very generous with the door prizes and random drawings throughout the retreat weekend. We are so grateful!

I want to know!

I would love to hear from you (in the comments below) of your favorite retreat location! Maybe you have a favorite retreat tradition to share.

I’m looking forward to learning more about new places to quilt together!


  1. Darla Allen says:

    We do a Raffle Quilt. Someone makes the first one. You sell chances to win the finished quilt. The money goes to the person who made it. The winner makes the Quilt for next year and so on. Hostess should always be prepared to have a quilt on hand on case something goes astray.

    We also to a lottery block with specifications set by hostess ahead of time. Every block made you get your name in the hat. Winner gets all the blocks.

    A new dice game like LRC is Trader’s Dice. Everyone leaves with something.

  2. Karen Campbell says:

    Just a tip to share that I’ve found that works for myself is I have everything cut and ready to sew when I get to the retreat. No wasted time cutting and more time to sew and fellowship!

  3. I liked your idea for the game. We will have to try that at our next retreat!
    At our retreats, we like to choose a pattern and we all work on that together. Each person makes the same project. We choose something that we all like. It’s always fun to see how different everyone’s turns out because of the fabric choices!

  4. Kim Morgan says:

    I was able to attend this retreat with Nicole. She outdid herself planning to make this a great weekend. Everyone won a door prize, we made new friends, and shared our creative ideas. Thanks, looking forward to the next one.

  5. Donna Royson says:

    We play LRC but split into groups of 6 (or whatever works) and we each bring 20 charm squares to play with. I live in SC and there are several houses on our Coast that are setup for quilt retreats. Our favorite location was White Oak Conference center where we could quilt, sleep, and eat at the same facility. Unfortunately, they have closed and are trying to sell the facility. We do have several other church camps in the area where retreats are held. Check in your area for similar venues. Some have hotel type rooms while others have bunk beds, but, its nice to be able to stay, dine and socialize at the same location and sew til midnight!

  6. Simone T. says:

    My 3 sisters and our Mom are about to have our tenth family sewing retreat in a few months. Each of us host the retreat at our home on a rotating schedule. Since there are 5 of us, we fill up most every space in our home with sleeping accommodations, 5 sewing stations, two ironing stations, two cutting stations, and an area where we can view videos of sewing and quilting techniques and ideas during meal times.
    Did I mention the retreat last for one full week? The sisters that are still working use vacation days to take that week off from work! We live in four different States of the USA. So, we kick it off on a Saturday evening after everyone arrives. At the kick-off, we open our goodie bags (which contain surprise contributions from each of us). During the week of the retreat, we play a few games and do demos for each other of something new we learned. We each cook one lunch and one dinner – the hostess provides dinner the first Saturday when everyone else is traveling to her location. The ingredients for our meals are sent to the hostess who will shop for the groceries before the retreat starts. We share the cost of groceries evenly. We end up with enough food to have leftovers by the end of the week. We have one shop-hop day, normally on Tuesday, in order to see the local quilt shops and gives us the opportunity to buy any missing sewing supplies we may need for the week. We do a pretty good job of supporting the local economy (we can’t resist all the eye candy). We also go out to eat on our shop hop day (to taste the local flavors). We each bring our preferred projects to work on for the week. But on the last full day, Friday, we all work on a sew-to-serve project. For the last several years our sew-to-serve project has been to make as many prayer-quilt tops as we can in one day. This is a ministry of one of our sisters. Sometimes we form an assembly line of work – a couple of us cut, a couple of us sew, and one of us will man the iron. Sometimes our sister brings scraps of strips and a foundation already cut-to-size for us so we can quickly make several dozen string blocks. She turns the tops into finished quilts after she returns home where the quilts get added to her inventory to have ready for her church to pray for and present to the next needy recipient. We end the retreat on Friday evening. After we pack up, sweep up, and load up our vehicles we sometimes choose to eat out one last time. Then early the next morning, we each set out on our journeys back home.
    It is a bit of a sacrifice on the part of our husbands and children but they have become accustomed to it. Even the husband of the hostess has enjoyed participating by helping set up tables and extension cords and by cooking the first dinner on the grill. My husband likes to think up a surprise theme with a theme song each year that I/we play hostess. Although it is a lot of work for the hostess, and time and money for everyone else to travel, we have made a lot of lasting memories with each other and with our Mom while she can still participate. Although we prefer to keep our sewing retreat strictly in the family, we would recommend the adventure to anyone (maybe a craft retreat or sport retreat or whatever your family members or friends have in common).

    1. Nicole Moore says:

      Wow Simone! I love your story! Thank you so much for sharing!

      1. That sounds wonderful! What a great tradition you have established! You are blessed to have your mom and sisters love quilting! Hope you continue this for many years to come’

  7. I have been on several retreats. Sometimes retreaters will help with block layout if someone is having a problem. There have been door prizes (brought by each of us) and/or provided by hostess.
    Bring items for a swap table. Each person brings a $10 gift to share, on the last day we draw names or numbers to see who goes first to choose their gift. We play LRC with fat quarters, or jelly roll strips, usually 6 or 10, sometimes a specific color or theme.

  8. Our quilt guild has a retreat each spring. One thing we do is have 2 areas, one is free things we want to get rid of and the other is where we sell some of our stash. I have contributed to both and have taken from both. We usually have several prizes, We get a ticket for each bobbin change, unpick a seam, finished a project, etc. We put our tickets in the baskets next to what we’d like to win. Each person brings their own projects to do. Some stay at the hotel and others of us go home at night to sleep. We have snacks available at all times. The ones at the hotel have continetal breakfast. We don’t have any meals planned as there is not that available. It is held in a small town and so we can run out to eat or bring our own. We do plan one evening where we go out to eat together. Most everyone participates in htat. Our retreat is Thurs morning to Sun noon.
    The retreat I go to with my sister is about 4 and 1/2 hours away from me and more like 10 hours for her. Everyone uses the same quilt pattern but everyone uses what ever colors they would like. It has really been interesting to see what all the quilts look like. We use patterns using Deb Tucker rulers. This is held in MI and we have people from IN, OH, KS, IL, MI and I’m not sure where all. It is really neat to meet people from other places. The first year I went my sister had COVID and couldn’t come but I went anyway and met new friends, since I knew no one there.

  9. Karen Gates says:

    I am in charge of quilt retreats for our guild. I plan 4 retreats each year. We have daytime retreats where they set up on day one, leave everything overnight, and pack up on day 3. I break each retreat into two sessions of 3 days for 20 members., so a total of 40 women all together.
    I set it up so everyone has a 6’ table. I set up 3 cutting stations, 3 design walls, and 3 ironing stations. Everyone brings something from their stash for prizes, and we draw names during the retreat for their trip to the prize box. We have played the dice game LRC for 2 1/2” strips, and we had a “Thankful “ gift exchange with our November retreat. I wrote a LEFT/Right story and it was fun seeing them pass the gift around to the left or the right. It is a lot of work, but retreats are the best. We work together to create a quilt to donate to the center where we meet, along with our charity quilts for the hospitals. Retreats are where we learn so much from each other and the sisterhood of quilters are friends forever.

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