Tuesday, May 19, 2020

Prepping for a quilt retreat

I'm optimistic. I have no reason to be optimistic, but that's better than being pessimistic! Oh - I have a good reason to be optimistic. The stores are opening up today and that means that things are starting to get back to normal.

My quilting retreat that was to take place next week got canceled. While our economy is slowly starting to reopen, short term stays are still not allowed. So, like I did the last time the retreat got canceled, I'm going to have a virtual retreat. Last time, that meant, I prepped and packed as if I were going to the real retreat. Studio U got tidied up and the only things in that room were what I brought in my laundry basket!

The eight of us who were supposed to go on the retreat did connect a couple of times during the virtual retreat. I got an enormous amount of projects completed. It was glorious.

So how does this differ from a regular day of sewing? I focused ONLY on what was in that laundry basket, I had prepped everything and I had all the tools and supplies preselected and in the laundry basket. Then I stayed focused and sewed all day long!! I took a break if I wanted - just like at the real retreat.

That's what I'm planning to do next week. The virtual retreat is May 27-31. If you can participate for only one day and be dedicated to sewing, you'll be amazed at how much you can get done.

If you've never been to a quilt retreat, here are some pointers to help you get yourself organized.

  • It pays to have EVERYTHING prepped before you go. So if you need to cut your project, get it cut. Most retreat facilities do not have the best access to cutting tables (not big enough, not the right height, etc.) so I try to have everything cut before I go. I may need to trim at the retreat and that's OK. 
  • There are no tools at most retreat houses, so make sure you have the right rulers and other tools in your laundry basket. You do NOT want to waste time finding what you need. 
  • Gather your threads, stabilizers, or other supplies. 
  • If you're making a bag and need to fuse a product to the bag, then do that before you go. Those retreat irons may not be the same as yours at home. And it takes a long time to do this step properly, so do it at home where no one will be waiting in line for the iron. 
  • Pack everything into ONE laundry basket. I'm a convert now. I used to take many baskets, bags, and boxes of projects. I would never prep most of what was in them - just wing it in the car. More than half of it came back not touched. The last virtual retreat cured me of that! I have TWO extra laundry baskets if anyone needs one!

OK -- so I'm trying to write and the robins in that tree outside are busy as little beavers. I'm not sure if the Mom and the Dad are bringing food to the babies. But it's like Grand Central station in that tree. I'll see if I can get a picture at some point. Thye are fast! Nope - they are still building the nest. Just missed a great shot of the robin with a mouth full of straw.

To make a point about prepping, here's the story of what happened yesterday. Remember this laundry basket from yesterday?

A laundry basket with a project

Well as busy as I am right now, I wanted to go through the basket and prep whatever was in there for the virtual retreat. This laundry basket was tucked into one of the storage rooms in the basement and had been there for YEARS.

The old me would have winged that entire basket into the car for the retreat. The new me said, "NO, you must go through and prep the stuff properly". So here's what happened.

I have to tell you the story of the fabric first. This was a fabric that my friend Carol found in the US on one of her business trips. I think we ended up buying the store out of the fabric. We planned a sewing challenge with the fabric - I don't remember the details, but Carol made me a sewing machine skirt using this fabric. Mary made a couple of zippered pouches with it. I decided to make tote bags.

So in the laundry basket, this is what I found.

ONE completely finished tote bag.

One finished tote bag

I found the pattern - the Miranda Day Bag by Lazy Girl. I also found the pattern for the Mini Miranda Day Bag. It's a very nice bag and the perfect size for toting stuff around.

Two patterns for the Miranda Day Bag in two different sizes

It does drive me crazy when a designer makes two different patterns for the same bag in two different sizes. It could have been combined into one, but then people like me bought two patterns, not one so more profit for the designer. I know - I didn't have to buy the second one - I could have resized it myself.

I also found a Bag-E-Bottoms for the large bag. These were made in sizes that fit various patterns from Lazy Girl. Size D was for the Miranda Bag. I know that I have some more somewhere in Studio B. I believe I have a small one. I did come across it a while back and now I have to remember where it is so I can use it. I found a set of nice handles that had been set aside to finish the bag as well.

Bag-E-Bottoms and a pair of handles

I found yards and yards of Fusible Fleece. Seriously????  I've since bought more fusible fleece because I didn't think I had any. This is why it's important to put things back where they belong. At least, it's a product that I'll use lots of. But still.

Yards and yards of fusible fleece

I found a clothespin (actually there were two) which were being used to hold in the sides of the bag to form a pleat in the side rather than have it gap open. I found two bobbins of green thread. But is there a spool of thread? If there was - it's no longer in the laundry basket.

Bobbins and clothespin

Then I tackled the fabric. It was in such disarray that I almost gave up. Imagine if this was someone other than myself who touched that basket. This is why we need to go through our stuff. I found the outer sides for TWO more bags. YES - TWO more bags. All four of the outer sides were totally prepped.

I also found the LINING for those TWO more bags. And yes - all four were totally prepped as well. They were wrinkled like crazy. It was a total mess. They are now all flat as a pancake. 

The lining and outer sides for TWO bags
 But can you tell me why two of the sides were partially sewn to each other and not even in the right spots??  That was totally weird. I must have had a good reason to do that, but why? No clue. I haven't ripped that out yet, but that's an easy task to do at the virtual retreat.

Two outer sections partially are sewn together at odd spots

OH - look what else I found. An entire bag already made minus the handles, the flap, and the bottom sleeve to hold the Bag-E-Bottoms. Seriously???  But here's the thing - you see that the bag has a piece of Velcro on it so the flap can flip down and be attached. Where is the other half of the Velcro? Probably the same place that the thread is. No worries - I have lots more of this color Velcro - I'll just get more out and move on.

An almost finished bag
I found three pockets cut out and prepped. I found the Decor Bond interfacing for the fourth pocket, but the fabric wasn't cut. Why? So I cut the fourth pocket and it's now ready to be processed.

The pockets
So this small stack is what needs to be worked on. That's a HUGE difference from that giant laundry basket. My stack of empty containers is getting to be a mountain!

Three bags that need to be finished

The flaps need to cut and made, and I need to decide about the handles. I may have more of those purchased handles in my bag making box so I'll have to check that out later. And I need to cut and make the sleeve to hide the bottom insert. I didn't prep those pieces yet and I won't do that until after the virtual retreat. I'm good if I "came home" with three bags ready for the final three pieces. I sorted through and pressed all the fabric. It then got put into a plastic bag and labeled as to what still needed to be cut.

And now those bags fit nicely into my virtual retreat laundry basket. There are five bags to work on in that laundry basket. There's also a string quilt. I'm pretty sure there's another project in there, but it escapes at the moment. I think that'll very nicely fill five days of sewing. Who am I kidding? That's way more than five days of sewing! But with all those bags to make, I'll be "bringing" my Husqvarna Viking Designer EPIC 2 with me as it has more power to go through all those layers.

The retreat laundry basket

I could even shove more stuff in there if I wanted! BUT in case of an emergency, like I finish all that stuff, I have my weekly laundry basket which I might bring with me - just in case. I haven't decided yet.

We had a meetup with our Monday sewing group. So nice to stay in touch with everyone via Zoom. I'm definitely getting my money's worth from that subscription! I've got three more Zoom meetings to book for this weekend and one during the week.

I'm madly taking pictures, editing them, writing text, and trying to get a bit of sewing in. I even fired up the embroidery machine and embroidered something. Can't share yet so you have to wait. But you got to love that little song the Designer EPIC 2 plays when it's done.

Pop up message that embroidery id DONE
 I also finished the book I was reading. The Hillbilly Elegy by JD Vance. Hmm - I'll be reviewing it on Goodreads later today. It won't be a favorable review. I just do NOT get the point of this book. It's a memoir and he had a terrible childhood and he came out OK despite that. It's just some of the stuff he talks about - well - I'm going to save it for the review. I DO NOT recommend this book.

I see I've got two more audiobooks waiting to be read. They are both novels - one by an author I like and the other is a book chosen for an author reading later this year - if we can get to having groups of any size.

But I got asked the question - what headphones do I use. I have a nice set of wired earbuds. They have a built-in microphone and they are comfortable. When I'm talking on my cell phone, this is what I use. I don't like them when I'm running the long arm or sewing as they don't fit tightly into the ear and I'd have to turn up the volume a whole lot to hear. So talking on the phone - these are perfect. I can also hear myself talk with these earbuds. I do NOT like the wire, but they work.

Earbuds for my cell phone

To listen to my audiobooks without blasting my ears, I wanted a pair of over the ear headphones. I would have been happy with any brand, but DH insisted I buy good quality. So I did. They were not cheap but I did buy them online (not at the A store either) and got a good deal on them.

Over the ear headphones
They are made by Sennheiser and the model is PXC 550

Model of headphones
 So why do I like them? They are WIRELESS and work well for great distances. However, if I leave my phone in Studio U, which is upstairs at the front of the house, and I go to the kitchen, I'm out of range. But that's OK. Normally I'm on the same floor as my cell phone and that works just fine. So if I were long arming and working in Studio B, there's no issue with the range.

The battery lasts for 30 hours. I haven't timed that exactly, but depending on the audiobook, I can get one or almost two books out of a single charge. They do take a couple of hours to recharge, but if you time it right and do it overnight that's OK. It'll scare the crap out of you when the headphones say "low battery!" and it'll keep saying that every few minutes until they just shut off.

To turn them on and off, you rotate the earpieces flat - like in the photo above. There is NO on/off switch to remember to turn on or off. I LOVE that as I tried an older pair we had in the house and I was always forgetting to turn them off. These are super easy.

There's a volume control on the side of the right earpiece. I can never remember to use that so I use the volume on the cell phone. I think there are other controls on the earpieces (like pause) and I must figure out how to use that because sometimes I have to pause and then I need to find my phone.

They also have a built-in microphone. There are just two slight negatives and well - because of the nature of the product, they can't really be considered a negative. Keep in mind, these over the ear headphones are designed to keep the outside noise OUT. The headphones can make you feel claustrophobic. I believe there are different levels of noise canceling on these headphones - I really should read the instructions that came with them. So I can still hear things going around me, but not much. But enough so that I still feel connected to the world.

I don't like talking on the phone using them as I can't "hear" my voice. I can hear it, but it's muffled. Isn't that weird?

Anyway - that's my headphone story.

So don't forget the virtual retreat and if you can only sew for a day, then you sew for a day. If you can sew for five days - sew for five days. And did I mention that sewing on a virtual retreat means you can have naughty snacks? Not a lot, but one a day!!

I'll be running a Zoom meeting from 9 AM EST to 9 PM EST on May 27 - 31 so if you want to drop in to chat or just to show and tell or even ask a question - I'll be there!  For those of you who get the blog one day later than everyone else, I'll try to post the links in advance so then you won't have trouble finding the links.

On that note, I'm out of here to take more pictures, write, and sew.

Have a super day!!!!



  1. YEA!!!! for going through the basket and organizing your retreat! Yet another pile concurred! :-)

    Wishing you a fabulous Tuesday! Mine is supposed to be filled with rain. Sewing it is ;-)

  2. Wow 5 bags! What are you going to do with them all? Everyone's getting one for Christmas? :) BTW I think you've got a spam comment.