My guild, Sarasota Modern Quilt Guild, just held its first very successful modern quilt retreat. I worked with several wonderfully talented members of the guild to plan and run the retreat and I thought I’d share some of our major lessons learned, along with lessons I learned running my own retreats.
Keep it Small? or Large?
We had 42 attendees–so our retreat was ‘medium’ sized. Because of the room arrangement and the icebreakers, we had a very friendly atmosphere. There was a lot of visiting and chatting, and people mingled a lot at lunch and dinner as well. When you get 50 or more people, it can get a bit impersonal. We tend to stick with the people we know. And, if a person attends on their own, they may end up feeling isolated and left out of the social side like lunch and dinner. Make sure you have several activities that help people get to know each other.
Room Requirements–SPACE and Arrangement!!
Some guilds try to maximize the use of the space and require attendees to share a 6 or 8 foot table. That may let you pack more people in, but it definitely has a negative effect on the quilters and their ability to work comfortably. Venues also tend to pack the tables way too close together so the aisles get a bit dangerously cluttered. Quilters bring a lot of bins and rolling bags with all our wonderful Stuff.
Find a venue that has a very large room and meet with the room/maintenance staff so they understand exactly how you want to set it up. They may or may not be used to quilt retreats and assume you want the tables in rows, classroom style. We set our tables up in sets of four.
For our retreat, we made sure everyone had a large 6 foot table all to themselves. We also left PLENTY of walking around space between the tables and large open areas in the middle for cutting tables, ironing stations and big trash cans.
Ice Breakers and Lunch/Dinner Buddies
Even if you think that everyone knows everyone else, I always suggest having an opening ice breaker. This was really important for our retreat because we had about 30% non guild members and some fairly new guild members attending the retreat.
I created a Quilt Signature Bingo game with several prizes. The game required everyone to get up and walk around around the room to meet and get signatures. You had to walk up to an individual, chat for a few seconds and then see what space they could sign on your card. I’ve uploaded a PDF version of our card here– Quilt Signature Bingo 4-9-2016 If you’d like the Word document, contact me directly and I’ll be very happy to email it to you.
Lunch Buddies or Dinner Buddies is an idea I’ve used at other events, especially where most people don’t know each other. Assign people in groups of 3 or 4 to go to lunch on the first or second day (not every day!). This means you have to know the ‘friend’ groups and make sure you form groups that don’t know each other well. I would only do this once during the retreat because we also want to gather with our friends during the retreat.
Quilt Retreat Photo Gallery
And, here’s a few more photos of some of the action! Everyone was helpful and coached each other during the quilt retreat. We all learned a lot through the tutorials by Lou on liberated blocks, Pat on modern wonky birds, my impropmptu tutorials on no-pin curved piecing and Jann’s one day workop on fabric dyeing. What a fabulous quilt retreat–we’re all looking forward to 2017.