Creating a Personal Quilt Retreat

One of the benefits of a quilt retreat is the necessity of focus.  Changing my location means changing my sewing environment,  I have to limit what I bring with me to my quilting retreat.  It is not possible to bring every UFO, every scrap bin, every project in progress.  I have to be selective, taking only the projects I want to complete. The benefit of limiting what I take with me is that I also limit my distractions.  If I only take three projects, then those three are my only options.  I cannot get sidetracked by the projects on my design wall, by the quilt on the long arm, by the pile of scraps waiting to be cut  to size, by the bin of UFOs, but the several designs I have pinned to my bulletin board.  With all of those distractions, it is a wonder I get projects finished.

Sometimes I need a mental break from all of those distractions call to me.  That is when I escape to the solitude of our small lakeside cabin in Northern Ontario where we have no television and no internet.

My 82 year old neighbor took this photo as she came to visit me on the dock where I was stitching the binding on a quilt.

A weekend away typically gives me three days to quilt without the interruptions of daily life.   No phone calls, no drop-in visitors, no electronic entertainment.  A piece of heaven.  This past weekend, I went to the cottage alone and spent my time rotating between piecing quilt tops, raking leaves and cleaning gardens and sitting on the dock to hand stitch the binding on a quilt.

My sewing resources are also limited.  I have an old sewing machine that I leave at the cottage, one cutting mat that I put on the kitchen table, a rotary cutter, ruler, pins, and a few cones of thread.  My sewing area in a corner of the living room holds my machine on a small printer table and has just enough elbow room to set up an ironing board at my right hand.

My cozy sewing space in a corner of the living room where ironically, I assemble more quilt tops than I do at home in my large sewing studio.

Because I have so little room, I have to be economical with my use of space.  With the machine and iron close to each other, it is a great arrangement for piecing.  To make the best of what I can do in the space, I prepare for my retreat by cutting pieces in advance, and then kitting the project so it is ready to take with me for a retreat weekend.   Recently I spent a day cutting the pieces for several prairie braid quilts because they are such great “take and make” projects.

Having my sewing space in this corner adjacent to the kitchen means I can continue sewing as I keep an eye on supper cooking.  I can fit in many small seams in this way.

After years of wasting travel time and impatient swinging on a porch swing, I discovered how much I enjoy hand sewing.  At home, I am far too busy to sit and stitch, but at the lake,  it is a wonderful calm activity.  Now a bag of hand stitching is always ready to go with me on my retreats too.  There are times when I do not want to be inside, so having hand work to take to the dock gives me rest time that is both soothing and productive.   When my neighbors see me sitting on the dock, they will canoe over for a pleasant chat, knowing they will not disturb me.

Creating my own retreats for intensive sewing has helped me get many more quilt tops done.  Limiting my available projects, keeping them simple, using the best of my space and preparing kitted projects ahead of time all influence the amount I accomplish.  I’m sure that having no computer, no internet and no television to suck the time out of my day all influence the amount of quilting time available.  This media-free environment really is a retreat from the distractions of the world.

Give whatever you are doing and whoever you are with the gift of your attention.  Jim Rohn

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