Packing Tips for a Sewing Retreat or Workshop

Wednesday, September 7, 2022

This time of year always has me thinking about sewing retreats! Before the pandemic, every August I'd go away on a retreat with friends to sew, laugh and dye fabrics for four days. It was such fun, and I really miss it. Over the years, I figured out exactly how and what I liked to pack for these trips, so I thought I'd share those with you all today! Hopefully this makes it easier for you, next time you're headed to a friend's house to sew, a guild retreat or even to a big event like Quilt Con.

Label Your Tools

I would highly recommend labeling your sewing tools, especially if you're headed somewhere where there will be a good amount of people. It can be so easy for tools to get picked up by accident or for half a dozen people to have the exact same rotary cutter! If you've got a label maker*, that works great but no need to run out for one if you don't. A sharpie marker or even just some cute stickers work just as well.

Leave Your Favorite Tools at Home if Possible

On a similar note, I try to leave my very favorite tools at home. If you happen to have duplicates of some of your tools this might be a good opportunity to break them out. I keep a backup rotary cutter and pair of scissors around for this reason. Be sure to put in a fresh rotary blade and get your scissors sharpened regularly. Dull tools can be just as dangerous as sharp ones.

Have a Variety of Projects to Work On

For retreats, I try to always bring of variety of projects. I never know what I'll really feel like working on until I get there. I typically bring a quilt (or two) in progress, supplies for some drawstring bags or tote bags, and some type of handwork project. This gives me plenty of different things to do, depending on my mood and how late at night it is!

Bring an Easy Win
I love to bring a quilt that's pretty far along or supplies that I can easily turn into a finished quilt top by the time the weekend is over. This always makes me feel good and often keeps me motivated to keep sewing! I often get distracted and just end up talking (nothing wrong with that), so this little trick helps me a lot! I also find I am not able to concentrate on something tricky or new when I'm on a retreat, so I keep the projects themselves pretty simple and straightforward.

My friend Brianne and I holding my Double Gauze Plus Quilt Top.

Use a Tool Organizer

I don't use these in my everyday workflow, but I love having a tool organizer when I travel! I have a few different organizers I choose between (sometimes I use two). The first is actually a bag from Target (5+ years old) that is sold as a toiletry bag. I find it perfect for sewing supplies though! It folds open and lays flat. If you'd like to DIY something similar check out my friend Anna's Road Trip Case Pattern.

I love to have something that sits on my table too. My favorite is the #10 Caddy Pattern* by Sew Can She. The pattern comes with two different sizes, and I like both! I tend to use my small one more though (shown above).

Bring Supplies to Share

At our annual retreat we always had a share table, which was so fun. Everyone would bring fabric, scraps or other crafty supplies that they wanted to share or get rid of, and anyone could take them! It was a great way to swap supplies and get them used. We often would make things over the weekend from the share table. It became a fun little souvenir in the project, knowing this print or that came from the retreat. I would spend time the week before a retreat going through my stash and pulling fabrics to bring with me!

Travel Handmade

Going to a sewing day or workshop is a great excuse to travel with a handmade bag! I am a big fan of using totebags for carrying around my supplies and projects. You'll usually find me with bags made from two of my patterns: a Sew Portable Travel Tote and a couple Workshop Tote Bags.

Smart Snacking

I am a big snacker, so I have a snack with me pretty much all the time! I always pack my own snacks when I travel. For sewing retreats in particular I try to minimize messy snacks as much as possible to avoid getting stains on my projects. My personal sewing snack go-to's: pretzels, goldfish crackers, wheat-thins, wrapped mini chocolates, chocolate chip or trail mix cookies, smarties.

Don't Forget the Personal Essentials

I stick a few personal care items I don't like to be without in my sewing bag when I travel: lip balm, hair ties, and a nail file. It would be a bummer for something as simple as chapped lips or a hang nail to ruin your sew day!

I hope these tips come in handy next time you're going to be sewing on the go! I have lots of other tutorials for everything from quilts, pillows, bags, and holiday items to informational series and techniques. Find all my tutorials here: Tutorials. My online shop is filled with patterns for quilts and bags. Find my patterns here: Jeni Baker Patterns

Happy Sewing!

*Any links marked with an asterisk in this post are affiliate links. This means if you click through and buy something, I make a small commission, at no extra cost to you.


  1. What a great post! I think your suggestions and writing style are great! Hope you are able to attend a retreat soon!

  2. Thanks for this! I’m going to my first ever retreat at the end of the month. I wish I had time to make myself a bunch of cute travel bags and caddies!! Yours are adorable.

  3. Very good tips! At one point, I made and then packed a duplicate 'studio' bag, so I don't have to disassemble my work station at home whenever I sewed away. All I need to add are my current projects and I'm ready to go. It helped a lot when we had more frequent sew-ins and retreats.

  4. Good ideas! My first quilting retreat was in 1992. I thought I'd died and gone to heaven. Now, with at least 50 retreats under my belt, I've got a good methodology too. Without a doubt, taking a variety of projects is important. And snacks to share with everyone. Retreaters I've been with haven't gotten into sharing scraps or stashed fabrics, but that would be a nice thing to start. On Friday I'm leaving for four days, and I'm as excited now as I was 30 years ago!

  5. I use address labels to identify my "stuff." I seem to have way more of those than I will ever need!


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