So I’ve been thinking recently, after chatting with a friend, and seeing the spring crop of retreats pop up around IG and blog land, what is it that would attract you to a sewing retreat? I’ve been lucky enough to attend a number of retreats both in Europe and the US, with a variety of sizes, timeframes and formats, and whilst I enjoyed them all, some would attract me back again more than others.
I’m being totally nosy here, so I’ll offer up some options for discussion, then there’s a wee survey at the end. Obviously all the FAL Q1 stats have got me addicted to number crunching ;o)
Let’s Talk Size
Sometimes you want to meet a ton of new people, to absorb as many new things as you can, and sometimes it’s nice to just meet up with a few people, old friends, or soon to be old friends, where you can get to know people much better.
Do you want a mass gathering like at Fat Quarterly Retreat, or Sewing Summit (now ended) with say 200 odd attendees?
|Photo borrowed from Kerry on the FQR Flickr Group|
Or do you want something smaller and more intimate, such as Patchwork In The Peaks with under 15 attendees?
Or maybe even something in the middle, like the Stitch Gathering, which had 60 attendees last year?
|Borrowed from Jo on the SG Flickr Group|
How Long Do You Want To Escape For?
Time matters, whether you have a full time job or a full time family, and your ability to escape can have many dependencies on it, from available holiday days at work, to child care cover. If it’s a once a year treat though, are you willing to work round these things, or is it frankly impossible to bend from the norm? (no judgements here BTW!)
Do you want to escape for a day, like the Stitch Gathering? It ran from 9-5-ish
Or maybe a weekend, like the first FQR was? That ran Friday night to Sunday afternoon
Perhaps you want to push the boat out for a long weekend, like Peaks, which ran from Thursday afternoon to Sunday lunchtime?
Does Location Matter?
I’ve drooled a bit over some of the locations that our North American cousins have been enjoying recently – islands, cabins in the mountains and more, but how remote would you like to be?
FQR, Sewing Summit, the Stitch Gathering, and the big MQG events take place in big cities, within hotels or conference facilities, so do you want to head off to the big smoke?
Or would you like the peace and tranquility of somewhere like Peaks, in a beautiful location? (bear optional)
Do You Want To Learn Things?
All the retreats I’ve attended have had a certain element of teaching, some formal, some not, but I know that there are retreats where people go to just sew whatever they like, uninterrupted, for a few days.
Would you like structured classes where you split up into groups and have to book into a timetable, like at FQR or Sewing Summit?
Or maybe you’d like to learn something all together, like at Peaks?
Perhaps you’d like a mixture of class time and ‘own sew’ time?
Maybe you’d like it to be entirely your own time?
What Kind Of Learning Would You Like?
I’ve attended retreats where there have been hands on classes only, and ones which were a mixture of hands on and lectures on things such as improving your blog, or how to choose colours which go together. Some classes have been all about sewing, while others have covered working with fabrics in other ways, or even crochet and knitting.
Would you prefer hands on classes only?
A mixture of hands on and lectures?
Just a little quick learning thing dotted about during your own making?
The subject of classes has proved somewhat controversial at some events, where some have wanted sewing only, and others were happy to sit through colour theory and photography, so what would you prefer?
Would you want sewing only?
Possibly a mixture of techniques?
Maybe some theory would be okay?
This is another of the potentially thorny subjects, and of course in a way is dependent on the location of the retreat, but if the retreat lasts for longer than a day, you are going to have to stay somewhere.
Would you like to stay in the same building as your work area/classrooms?
Are you happy to find something for yourself, potentially cheaper and further away?
Food, Glorious Food
We all need to eat, but in days where dietary restrictions are growing, and the cost of food is growing too, how would you prefer to be fed while you’re away?
Fully catered, breakfast, lunch and dinner?
Partial catering – say lunch and maybe an optional dinner?
Exclusively eating out?
Taking it in turns to cook?
And Finally, The Extras
Some of the best things about retreats are the goodie bags that are often supplied, but I’ve also seen retreats where massages, manicures, jacuzzis and more are offered as optional extras. Do you consider a retreat to be a place to spoil yourself completely and indulge in the extras, or is the simple act of sewing reward enough for you?
Do you want goodie bags all the way?
Or maybe class supplies provided in favour of a slightly smaller goody bag?
Perhaps all of the above along with all the spa therapies that can be thrown in?
On To The Poll
Create your free online surveys with SurveyMonkey , the world’s leading questionnaire tool.
Now I will set some expectations here, I’m afraid I’m not about to announce next week that I’m running a retreat anywhere, and nor is my friend. I’d love to be able to one day, but in the meantime I will just have to satisfy myself with visiting those run by others! Thanks for playing along :o)
Great idea to take a survey!!
Just one other thing, if it were a city venue, I'd prefer to find my own evening meals, but if it were away in the country then of course I would hope for all meals to be included – not really wanting to put the wellies on and go scavenging in the hedgerows!
I'm much happier in small groups, and for me a trip away overnight and on my own is a very rare event. Once every few years probably. I love the idea of a proper retreat feel where there's smaller numbers in a really special place – countryside, food provided, a wee bit of time for walking and relaxing. Some classes and some free time to sew and chill. I'm getting excited just thinking about it! Juliex
I did the survey! I'm a bit wishy washy in my tastes because all the options sound great.Hmm I must need a holiday. I haven't experienced a big 200+ retreat but from all reports it sounds really fun, but then on the other hand a small group would be nice and easy going. I like learning in classes but then sometimes it's just great to sit and sew. I wouldn't mind if the venue is in the city or country, it's more about being easy to access, because even when I take my bare neccesaties I end up with bags of stuff to take.
I think Sew South has sounded like my most perfect Retreat. I have loved the buzz of FQR, and like to flit from group to group, but I think tiny <20 Retreats would scare me if there were strangers!
Everyone doing the same class together and coming away with lots of makes would be perfect; staying on-site, big hotel venue somewhere, town or country would be brilliant. Thank you for asking x
The closest I've come to a retreat was a two-day fabric dying workshop with eight participants in a former farmhouse last summer. Everyone stayed over. We worked hard during the day, walked in the evening exploring the neighbourhood, and got to know a whole new group of people. I learnt a lot, and it was both challenging and relaxing. Perfect.
Tricky. Answers depend a lot on size and location. I lived my mini retreat with Susy Emily & Mary in march. But also loved the buzz of fqr. Not tried anything between
Not sure the survey worked on the iPad. We had a retreat to a cottage in deepest Suffolk, just 5 of us, cottage had one massive open plan space which was perfect for all sewing together, and we worked on our own projects but had each other to ask for advice. We each cooked one meal, either lunch or dinner and shared provision of breakfast and went Friday afternoon till Monday morning. Absolutely fantastic, and we had such a good time, we plan to do another one in the autumn, and twice a year from here on.
I've been to 4 different retreats and have gone back to all of them. They've varied from a group of 6 or 8 up to 30. Food has been catered, we've traded off meals, we've gone out of meals — depending on the retreat. We've slept in bunk houses, our own beds and where ever we could find space for a sleeping pallet. Above all though, it's the great group of friends that I retreat with. That's not to say I wouldn't retreat without them it the right situation came up.
Are you changing you job. May be a full time conference retreat manager? It is a great way to see what people want. I hope it worksout for you.
Basically the possibilities are endless and sometimes I'm happy for a one day thing like Stitch Gathering was perfect cause we were visiting the UK and FQR was great for my first one ever but I only went for a day….because we were visiting and I needed to get my butt up to Scotland!;)
I did so love Sew South…..50 ladies in a big room all doing the same thing at the same time BUT…some people weren't interested in certain classes so they would hand stitch quietly while the teacher was talking but once everyone started on their project they would sew on whatever they wanted to do….perfect!:)
It was great to be able to walk around and see what everyone was doing. Breakfast and lunch were catered but you were on your own for dinner and you could either stay in that hotel or find your own accommodations. Some class supplies were included and the goodie bag was fantastic. Yes, a great retreat.
I think there is room for loads of different types of get togethers and I would love to one day come back over there and just spend a weekend with you Scot ladies…and you know who you are….and stitch and bitch!:)xoxoxo
It is hard to choose just one answer, but I am going to be honest and say that cost influences a lot of my responses. Some of these retreats which are across the country, have hefty registration costs, plus expensive accommodations, meals, class fees, etc… I just can't justify. No matter how cool or popular they are. Retreats which are close enough to drive, reasonably priced, and all inclusive are much more likely to hit my radar. Beyond that, It doesn't really matter to me country or city, I can enjoy either.
Good thoughts, thank you. It was hard to work out how to insert cost into there, because, of course, cost of transport will vary depending on location, as well as what type of premises you host it in o.O
I would quite like a mini retreat- perhaps a weekend with a few like minded souls, turning up at a house and dossing down in the same, and the catering a mix of home cooking, an odd takeaway, and a good old gab going on all through!
At the moment I have a house large enough to do something like this, perhaps, but when we ( inevitably) down size… any takers??
What Hadley said!
This survey is a great idea! Hope you get lots of response
(Yes, I ticked some boxes)
Great discussion, so many options. One of my students recently highly recommended a place on the Moray Firth for small groups to do their own thing, fully catered so all your time free to do whatever you fancy. Can't recall its name at moment but if you are interested email me.
I've locked lots of boxes! I've never been to a retreat, but I once did a weekend course about an hours drive away which was a pain doing all that driving! I think cost has to be a consideration, and timing, the FQR is at a really hectic time at school so I know I'd fail on the goodies and name badge swaps. Hope you get some useful info x
I once taught/assisted at a small (about 16 people) three day retreat – there were two projects on offer but people made one or the other (one was patchwork, the other was embroidery-based). Most people stayed in the hotel where we were based but it was very close to home so others went home each night. At the moment there's no way I could go to a retreat, no matter the size or location (unless it was in my front room!) but it's nice to dream!
It was hard not to contradict myself giving answer because if say a reatreat was somewhere rural it might be easier to have it fully catered than say in a big city where it would be nice to have some catering but also go out to eat. I've only been to one retreat – you were with me! I learnt a lot about what I thought was good and what I thought was bad. 🙂 Of all the UK type retreats I've heard of I'd be most keen to do Stitch Gathering than anything else.
That was fun 🙂
I'm not sure my answers are that helpful, I am sort of an all of the above person.
I just came back from the Mid-Atlantic Modern Quilt Retreat in Lancaster, PA in the US. I was under the weather so did not do the range of things going on…but at 65 people, it seemed a good sized with lots of choices of what to do….swaps, short classes, progressive quilts, fabric shopping, charity project, and then of course unstructured sewing time. I liked staying in the same building as the retreat, as otherwise it meant getting into a car each time that you wanted to go somewhere.
I never been on retreat. We only have like few hours meetings to chat but one day I hope I'll go 🙂
I've filled it in, I said smaller groups as I find it easier to make friends when the amount of people isn't so overwhelming and people already seem like they know everyone else!
I haven't filled this in Katy, as I feel like I am too biased! But would be very interested in the results. Great idea!
Very interesting. I was very tempted by FQR this year and very nearly bought a ticket. In the end the car needed new tyres and the cost of accommodation in London was the nail in the coffin. From the feedback I've read on the FQR Flickr page people's main complaints was the lack of 'mingling' opportunities. I really think that sleeping at the retreat venue and having an area for free sewing time would combat that, but I've never been to a retreat so what do I know!
I've also been tempted by the stitch gathering but a 740mile round trip for a one day retreat is a bit much – maybe for a long weekend, but not for a single day 🙁
Interesting post and timing. Especially as I've recently started looking into the possibility of running a studio/shop/retreat location in NZ after my time is up in my current job. I like the idea of living in the country away from the pressures of normal office life and sharing my little corner of paradise with fellow craftaholics
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Oooooh, interesting topic! I completed the survey but as the organiser of Patchwork in the Peaks, I'm more than a little bit biased. 🙂 Thanks for throwing Peaks in the mix! Would be very interested to see a later post on the results.
My group is 20 women and we love the mountains. We have a secret where we go there are hot pots to soak in when your tired and need some heat on those backs. We all bring treats and each of us are in-charge of a meal. This way we only have to do one meal and sew the rest of the time. We also enjoy a walk and a few games. http://www.karieonkreations.blogspot.com http://www.karieonkreations.com