What to Pack for a Quilt Retreat

If you’re a quilter, you know the joy of attending a quilting retreat. The chance to spend a few days completely immersed in fabric, patterns, and friends without interruptions doesn’t happen too often. But picking up and moving everything you need to make your retreat perfect requires some planning. So before you hit the road, here is our list of must-haves to make sure your next retreat is a breeze. Here at the Coop, we always say buy double so one can stay packed in your bag and one in your sewing desk at home. 


As your first step, we suggest deciding on what projects you plan on working on.  Gather up all your fabric and patterns- take a thorough look at the patterns to check if you need any special tools or notions and pack them with their corresponding project.  Missing any part of your project can leave you stuck with nothing to work on and we certainly don’t want that!  Bring plenty to choose from-  we like to keep our options open in case we don’t feel like working on the same project the whole time. We like using plastic storage containers to keep them organized.

Sewing Machine

Make sure the machine you plan on bringing has been serviced recently and works as it should. (Do a quick stitch out and cleaning before you pack it up- you don’t want to get to the retreat with a non-working sewing machine!) When packing your machine, do a quick check-off to make sure you have the power cord, the different presser feet you will need for the projects you will be working on, and the foot pedal. It is always a great idea to bring extra needles, some already-wound bobbins, a lint brush, machine oil, and the machine screwdriver if one is needed. 

Thread Snips or Scissors

Small scissors and snips are an essential part of our quilt retreat tool kit. You may be working on a wide variety of projects on retreat and it is handy to have the right pair of scissors at the right time. We like to keep our Karen Kay Buckley’s medium size scissors close by to cut through bigger things such as fabric and our smaller snippets for our thread cutting. Don’t forget your different types of embroidery scissors if you plan to be doing machine embroidery. 

Seam Ripper

AKA- the tool we never think we’ll need. But let’s face it, no matter how experienced you are, mistakes happen. And when they do, a good seam ripper is your best friend. You can check out some of our favorites here.

Rotary Cutter

We keep a spare rotary cutter just in our quilt retreat kit. That way you won’t worry about leaving it behind and have to borrow someone else’s. We also like labeling our rotary cutters so they don’t get confused at retreat. Bring a spare blade or two, as well.  Our all-time favorite (for good reason) is the Martelli Rotary cutter.

Cutting Mat

Of course, you can’t use a rotary cutter without a cutting mat. Check the amount of space you’ll have at the retreat; a large mat is nice if you’re doing lots of cutting, but you can save space while packing if you only take a small mat with you. Whatever you do, transport it flat and never leave it in a hot car! One cutting mat that I like to have on hand and close by is the Martelli Roundabout or a turntable cutting mat. This only takes up a small place and allows you to make those smaller cuts without having to leave your sewing seat. Some retreat centers provide large cutting mats to be shared but we like to have our projects pre-cut as much as possible before going to retreat.


If you’re planning on using a rotary cutter and mat at retreat, then you need a ruler. We like to put a 6 ½” x 12” ruler in our quilt retreat kit, but choose whatever ruler you use the most. Keep in mind if you are taking a smaller cutting mat or the Roundabout, take a smaller ruler to be able to maneuver easier. Also, check out the pattern you will be working with incase there is a special ruler or tool it calls for such as the Clearly Perfect Slotted Trimmer– a must if you’re making half-square triangles.


After picking out what projects you are working on, choose what thread colors you want to bring to go with those projects. The Chicks suggest always piecing with a color that matches the fabric best. If you want to save some time at retreat, go ahead and wind some extra bobbins in those colors to have ready to go. There are different storage boxes for threads to help keep  you organized, and they make travel easier. We like to use Hugo’s Amazing Tape to keep our thread from unwinding. 



To pin or not to pin, if you bring them with you it won’t be a question. Some projects, like applique or paper piecing, make use of specific types of pins. Whether you have them in your project bag or your quilt retreat kit, make sure they get in the car with you.  We also make sure we take some Klip-Its Clips with us as well, those come in handy for tons of things on retreat…from clipping your quilt to clipping your bag of chips closed!

Iron & Accessories

Depending on how much sharing you want to do at a retreat, packing a travel iron or a regular sized iron ensures that you won’t have to wait around to press a seam.  Pack your wool mat as well. We like the size 17” x 17” wool mat for travel.  It is also handy to take a small foldable table for a little ironing station next to your machine.  Some retreat centers have some tables you can use but there usually isn’t enough for everyone. If you retreat a lot, a little table (like a TV tray) is a good investment.

Pressing Spray

Using products to pretreat your fabric before cutting, such as Magic Premium Quilting & Crafting Spray, Acorn Easy Press Fabric Treatment, or Best Press, is the key to making our projects crisp and easy to cut and stitch. We keep either our Chicks Spritz refillable fine misting spray bottle or one of the above products in our quilt retreat kit.


Checklist & Labeling

Lastly, we suggest making a checklist while you pack and bring with you to the retreat.  That way, when you’re packing up to go home, use that list as reference to ensure you get home with everything you brought!  Also, it’s always a good idea to label all your items- just to avoid any mix-ups with anyone else’s things.


Okay, this one isn’t exactly a quilting notion, but it’s still important. Quilting can be hungry work, so make sure you have plenty of snacks on hand to keep you stitching all day long.

If you’re at retreat and forget something, come by Two Chicks Quilting and we can help fill your kit with anything you might have forgotten. What do you pack to go to your quilt retreats?

You’re welcome to share your tips in our Friends of Two Chicks Quilting Facebook group