What to Pack for a Quilting Retreat

What to Pack for a Quilting Retreat

Printable Packing List for a Quilting Retreat

I’m headed off on the annual retreat with Cambridge Modern Quilt Guild soon and I thought I would show you what I’m bringing along. Download a copy of my printable quilt retreat packing list so you won’t forget any essentials on your next quilt getaway! 

All retreats are different, but our guild retreat is within driving distance, and is primarily an open retreat, meaning no programming planned. Everyone brings whatever they would like to sew for the weekend. All our meals are provided so we only have to worry about sewing, snacks and cocktail hour! 

Traveling with a group, we set up communal spaces for bigger tools like cutting and pressing stations, so keep in mind you may be able to split packing responsibilities with friends! Make sure you label your items with your name so everything comes home with you. The most important thing is to double check you’ve packed your power cord + foot pedal. Almost anything else you’ll be able to borrow from a neighbor but forgetting your power cord or pedal can ruin a retreat!

 label your items for retreat

What to sew at a quilting retreat?

I like to pack projects that are in different stages - so maybe a couple WIPs, a stack of fabric & papers to glue baste for english paper piecing, a quick finish project like a pouch and of course some hand sewing. This way I can work on whatever step seems most appealing at that moment and make some good progress on a variety of projects. I pack each project into a separate bin with the pattern, my fabric, and any specialty tools or notions needed to complete the project. 


Organize for a Sewing Retreat

To get organized before retreat, I break up my packing in five key categories:

  1. Cut
  2. Sew
  3. Press
  4. Handwork
  5. Personal Items
cutting toold



  • Essential cutting supplies include my rotary cutter and some spare blades along with a small personal rotating cutting mat that I keep next to my machine for quick trims. I also pack fabric scissors and paper scissors. 
  • I share a bigger cutting mat with friends so only one of us has to bring it along, and we can cut WOF strips if needed. I try to have any major cutting done before leaving home though, it's just easier to travel with yardage precut. 
  • My go to rulers are from Creative Grids: a 8.5x24 for cutting WOF strips, a 12x12 square for trimming blocks, and 6.5x12.5 for smaller cuts. 
    • If you aren’t traveling somewhere specifically setup for quilters you may also want to bring bed risers to raise up a table for cutting, your back will thank you!


    • Machine & Accessories. The ultimate tool, your sewing machine, foot pedal & power cords. I give my Juki the VIP treatment before retreat and make sure she is cleaned and oiled with a fresh needle. Make sure to pack your machine with the presser foot down. I remove the machine bed for travel but bring it along. I also pack a power strip and extension cord so I’m prepared for any power situation. 
    • I pack a ¼ inch foot, zipper foot and walking foot as well as a screwdriver, oil, machine cleaning brushes and extra needles. 
    • Thread. I mostly piece with 50 wt Aurifil 2600, a neutral grey color cotton thread. I find it blends well with everything. If I’m doing any bags, machine quilting or binding I’ll bring along a coordinating spool for my project and pack it in the project bin. I like to prewind some spare bobbins and keep them handy for quick bobbin changes so I don’t have to stop and wind a bobbin mid project. 
    • I love my Juki but I will admit the lighting is terrible. I bring along supplemental lighting so I can see what I’m doing. 
    • Other sewing station essentials include my stiletto, pins & pincushion, a blade saver to cut apart chain piecing, wonder clips for binding, marking pens (I like an air erasable pen and a sewline pencil) and of course a seam ripper. I keep essential tools within reach next to my machine the same way as I do at home, with a stash n store. 

    stash n store organizer for sewing tools


    • We usually have pressing stations setup at retreat to share irons and boards. Sometimes I will bring along a small iron and wool pressing mat to keep by my machine if I’m planning a project that requires pressing between each seam. Or I’ll bring along my seam roller and make that work until I can get to the shared pressing station.
    • I love working with crispy blocks so I use best press and my tailors clapper to get my seams nice and flat. Check with your facility about irons because they may have a policy in place- irons draw a lot of power. 


    • My always packed English Paper Piecing kit comes along with some other hand sewing supplies so I can EPP or quilt on the go. Hand sewing projects break up the time sitting at the machine and its nice to roam a bit and chat with friends outside your table. One year I hand quilted and barely touched my machine at all! 
    • In my EPP kit I have thread snips, size 11 milliners needles (also known as straw needles) threaded and ready safely stored in a needle dome. I bring along a needle threader to reload as needed, I hate to stop and thread a new needle if I'm on a roll. I’m obsessed with the clover desk needle threader, I have no idea how it works so well with these tiny needles but it threads them like a dream without any squinting. I am a convert to decobob for epp stitching - it's an 80wt cottonized poly that is strong and hides stitches well. I like to use bobbins of thread rather than full spools in my sewing on the go case- easier to travel with multiple colors!
    • I’ll also bring along my sewline glue pen and refills, and any papers I need to baste. I prefer glue basting so I can get to the fun part quicker!
    • I use sewtites to keep my papers together while I’m sewing, I’ve found since using them I’ve cut down on my hand fatigue because I don’t have to grasp the papers as tightly, and they are slimmer than clips so the thread doesn’t get caught on them. It also acts as a needle minder. 
    • If I’m hand quilting, I make sure to baste my quilt top at home. I like to bring along either perle cotton or sashiko thread for quilting. With cotton threads, I use Ponderosa thread gloss to cut down on the sweary sewing and knots. I also pack a thimble and needle puller. 

    Personal Items

    Besides the personal items you need for any trip, there are a few ‘nice to have at retreat’ items I pack to make the sewing space more comfortable. 

    • Chair/back cushion. There is a lot of sitting and I can get higher in the chair with a cushion to better position my body for sewing. 
    • Covered drink container. Sewing spaces are dusty! I bring a straw water bottle and an insulated stemless wine glass. 
    • Headphones, as it can get loud at times and sometimes I just need to chill out to music or an audiobook and get into the zone. 
    • Drink holder & thread catcher. I’m accident prone and I don’t want any coffee on my quilt blocks! Bonus it has a little trash bin to catch all your stray threads and block trimmings. I sewed up a cute strawberry print bag to replace what it came with.
    • Last but not least, snacks! The shared snack table at retreat is epic. I bring along some favorites snacks and drinks to share, we even have cocktail hour. Cheers!

    Preparing for a quilt retreat requires some planning, but a weekend away with friends and unlimited sewing time is worth it, I can’t wait!

    Hopefully a peek into my retreat packing process was helpful, grab my free printable quilting retreat packing checklist so you’ll be ready for your next sewing adventure. 

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