Connect with quilting friends both near and far from the comfort (and safety) of your home by hosting a virtual quilt retreat.

February 02, 2021
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Virtual Quilt Retreat

Originally featured in American Patchwork & Quilting April 2021

Illustrations by Shannon Wright.

Invite Quilting Friends

Five to 10 people is a good number for a virtual retreat. Because of the limitations of technology, more than 10 people can make it hard for participants to see and interact with one another.

Send an Invite: To get started, download our free virtual quilt retreat invitation. The invitation fits a standard 4x6" paper size if you'd like to print the invitation to send in the mail. Or you can edit the PDF to fill in the details and send it in an email.

Virtual Quilt Retreat

Choose a Video Service

Zoom is a popular option. With the free version, you can host video conferences for up to 40 minutes at a time. For $20, you can upgrade your plan to host longer meetings. Additional possibilities are Microsoft Teams or Cisco Webex, both of which have free and paid versions to meet your needs.

Extend the Connection: Set up a private Facebook group for the attendees. While the fun is happening in the scheduled video calls, you can use the Facebook group throughout the day to ask questions, post pictures, and connect with one another. As a bonus, when the retreat is over you will have a designated place to chat with group members.

Divide Up the Event

Don't pack the day with activities requiring a computer screen. That is a long time to sit in one place and doesn't allow for conflicts that may arise. Instead, have some video check-ins throughout the day. Construct a schedule so the attendees know when to set aside blocks of time and when they have flexibility. See an example schedule, below.

Sample Schedule:

9–10 a.m.

Coffee Hour

Catch up with each other and plan for the day.

10–12 p.m.

Sewing Break

Leave your computers to work on your chosen projects.

12–1 p.m.

Lunch Hour

Share progress and ask for opinions and help.

1–4 p.m.

Sewing Break

Leave your computers to work on your chosen projects.

4–5 p.m.

Happy Hour

Relax with a favorite beverage and recap the day.

Q&A

Get to know other retreaters better by asking insightful questions, some which give attendees a reason to show off their creations. Keep the conversation flowing with these questions:

• Who taught you to quilt and at what age?

• What was the first quilt you made and do you still own it?

• Share a cherished quilt and the story behind it.

• Give a quick tour of your sewing space. What do you love about it, and what would you change?

• Share your favorite notion.

• What is a skill you would like to learn/improve?

• What is the most challenging pattern you've ever made?

• What quilt pattern have you made more than once?

• Do you have a favorite movie, music playlist, or podcast you like to listen to when you sew?

What Should You Work On?

While it is easiest to plan a retreat where attendees sew whatever they'd like, there are other ways to structure it. For example, you could have everyone work on the same pattern or charity project. Make sure participants get plenty of notice so they can gather the fabrics and supplies they'll need. If you're making a specific pattern, email attendees the pattern or the link to purchase it.

Plan Activities

To help attendees feel connected, sprinkle an organized game or two throughout the day. These can happen during a scheduled video call or on an attendee's own time, such as during a sewing break. See a list of ideas, below.

Activity Ideas:

• Create a group Spotify playlist, asking all participants to add favorite songs. Each attendee would be able to listen to the playlist as they sew.

• Play Quilt Retreat Bingo. (For a free printable Bingo card, click here.)

• Set up themed challenges—pajama hour or dress in your favorite color, for example. Participants can share pictures of themselves or show up to a video call dressed a certain way.

• Plan a themed show-and-tell, such as antique or Star block quilts, for one of the video gatherings.

• Choose to learn a new skill or technique. During a video call, let attendees share their screens and demonstrate or play how-to videos. Both AllPeopleQuilt.com and YouTube have free how-to tutorials that can be shared with others.

Make It Special

If all your attendees are local, consider delivering a goody bag to each participant's doorstep before the retreat begins. The little gifts could be a fat quarter, a handmade pincushion, cozy socks, a packet of instant coffee or tea, or even a gift card to a local quilt store. If your attendees aren't local, think about sending printed invitations or arranging a block swap to capture everyone's attention.