So, you’ve chosen your retreat and now comes the decision of what to take. Of course, there is the term ‘usual sewing kit’ which is often quoted on workshop lists but if you’re a beginner then what does that ‘usual’ entail? As I’m off on a retreat myself soon then I thought I’d share my list of items to take along.

Usual sewing kit:

  Sewing machine, power cable and pedal.

Machine feet, tools (brush, screwdriver, etc.) and your manual, always useful if you have a problem. If you have a tutor they may be very experienced BUT we can’t be familiar with every machine out there. If you haven’t had your machine serviced in a while, think about it. At least give it a good clean prior as you don’t want the frustration of a machine that’s playing up when you should be sewing.

Extension lead in case you are away from a plug.

Machine sewing needles, don’t forget a new needle for every project. I take several packs of different sorts that I might need.

Hand sewing needles, threader if you need one.

Thimbles if you use them.

Seam ripper, just in case.

Cutting mat, rotary cutter (with a new blade?) and rulers. I tend to take a small one and do most of my main cutting before the event.

Scissors, small snips/embroidery and a larger pair.

Tweezers, I keep a small pair handy by my machine at all times. Really useful for grasping threads.

Iron, some retreats may have them to save taking yours but you could take a travel iron or mini iron.

Ironing board or pressing mat. There are many versions out there from a mini-boards to square or rectangle pressing mats or even wool mats.

Spectacles, I’ve only just started to need these for detailed work in low light but I would pinch myself if I needed them and didn’t bring them.

Projects – think about pre-cutting to concentrate on sewing. I usually throw in some fabrics ‘just in case’ I have time for extra ideas.

Threads for sewing machine and any hand sewing such as embroidery.

Wadding should you need it.

I use 505 spray, so I pop a tin in.

Then we come to other things you can think of. What to wear? Most, if not all retreats are casual events. Think comfy for sewing and slippers for sewing in. As I’m married to a Health and Safety manager I have to suggest this as bare feet or socks can be dangerous. A trip to A&E to remove a needle or pin from the sole would not be good! Whilst we’re talking H&S you do not need your machines to be PAT tested. This would only be required by a business that actually provided the machines for use. Personal machines do not legally require this but, as stated earlier, getting them serviced and checked out regularly is a good idea. Recently I held a retreat and one of the ladies machine started to smoke and was ‘permanently retired’. (To be fair, it had not been serviced in many, many years and dated from the 1960s so had a ‘good innings’ as they say!)

Drinks cups or bottles. I take a water bottle and lidded cup for hot drinks that won’t spill if knocked over.

Snacks, a piece of cake is lovely as a mid-afternoon break but some retreats include this.

I could go on and on with what to take, I always end up with too much. To limit myself the next retreat I’m attending I’m treating as a UFO weekend (Un-Finished Objects) to try and get some of those half, or almost, completed projects finally cleared so I can start some new ones!

Finally, I’d just say go and enjoy it. If you do forget something, don’t worry. There will definitely be someone there with a spare or two that you can borrow. That’s what a sewing retreat is all about. Sharing our quilting love.

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