Monday, October 10, 2016

Hosting QBIR: A Quilter Bloggers' Retreat

Quilter Bloggers' International Retreat

This past weekend I was honored to host the first QBIR in my studio. We all snickered to say it was international, but we had indeed included Canada. From my perspective, it was a smooth, successful weekend. Visit the blogs of the attendees (links at the end) to get their own take, but I thought I would give you my insight as to what it took to orchestrate the event. My hope is by sharing this that more people will consider it an option for themselves.


Why host a small event when there are so many large quilting events and retreats already? 

  • Cost: Small events are more cost effective overall. Working with your geographical area means less money (and time) spent on travel. 
  • We are bloggers in addition to being quilters: Bloggers want to talk about blogging with each other. That was evident! Quilt events draw quilters, but not necessarily quilter bloggers.
  • Building community locally: Locally here meant the Midwest US, and southern tip of Canada. Issues that we face individually often impact others in our area. Sourcing of materials, shipping, advertising, markets, etc.
  • Scale: A smaller group spends less time organizing and moving from place to place. We split into 2 cars, and found parking when it would have been difficult with more. Getting or changing a meal reservation for 10-15 is easy compared to a larger number. Fewer people mean even an introvert feels less burnout. I think the number of introverts involved in quilting is far higher than what you expect to find in the average population.
  • Bonding: I would have laughed if someone had said this past weekend was going to be about bonding. Looking back, I get a little choked up thinking how much I felt we did. 

Sign Me Up

Never having done this before, I invited several close quilting blogger friends, and a handful of other bloggers living in nearby states. I also solicited ideas from those people. This was not a firm idea until 5 weeks ago, so the lead time was too short for many. Others dropped out for emergency situations, and both sides were disappointed about it. They were missed.

Glamorous Venue: A Garage

On the cheap, we cleaned up the large garage I use as my studio. This is shared space with my husband, and not what you might imagine from "Where Women Create", but I feel so lucky to have it after my dark basement sewing space. We used the lower level for conversation, food, and swag bags that each of us contributed to.

Early in the a.m., I gave one last check upstairs where I sew. Later, the space held 8 of us to sew. 

Left to right: Terry, Rebecca, and Dave

We had planned to do some fabric dyeing, but monoprinting won over. This was time to just play and experiment.

We met at a family owned Mexican restaurant for dinner, then everyone went back to the hotel to turn in. 

Friday Bright and Early:
We Had a Schedule

Left to right: Tish and Beth

Left to right: Me, Julie, and Sandra
  • 1:30 at Miller's Dry Goods in Charm. Charm Days event was in full swing, and it was busy with 20% off the whole store. Woohoo!

Left to right: Dave, Tish, Sandra, Jennifer at Fence Row Antiques

Beth waiting on us

The loveliest quilt barn I have ever seen!

Saturday to Rest and Sew

Personal and Group Sewing Projects

At least one project made it off the design wall!

Saturday morning was a slower start with people coming in as they had packed up from their hotel rooms. Our time was limited, and the sewing furious. In between spurts of sewing, a question would come up about blogging, and we'd all stop to chime in. Then back to sewing. 

Beth created the most wonderful bags for us!

We did our beautiful swag bag swap with each of us adding something we thought the others would enjoy. I added my felted pincushions above with a spool of Perle Cotton and pack of needles. (And, yes, I was still sewing them on Saturday morning!)

Lunch was my treat with homemade chili and bread fresh from the oven. There was so much food that everyone had brought to share, and we ate well. By that time we were ready to sit down for a rest, and the discussion we were all looking forward to finally happened. It encompassed so many issues we all were facing, and was one of the high points for me. Unless you have another good friend who blogs, it can be very difficult to figure some things out. This time there was a whole group of experts, and we made good use of everyone's experience.

Friends, left to right:
Dave the Quilt Engineer
Terry Ann Hartzell-Insights
Jennifer at The Inquiring Quilter
Tish at Tish N Wonderland
Sandra at mmm! quilts
Beth at Cooking Up Quilts

The group began to break up just after lunch with the anticipation of long drives back home. Let me paint a picture of lots and lots of hugging. I was tired by the end like everyone else, but still sad to see it end.

What I Learned 

KISS: Keep it simple! From food to travel, write it down, and plan it out. I mapped our travel each leg of the retreat to make the most of our time. Even the best laid plans will fall apart, though. I planned well for detours of bridges that are all under construction here at the same time, but had no idea there was yet another! Our wild cross country trip home bothered me far more than everyone else who enjoyed taking the back roads of Ohio. 

Prepare everything possible ahead of time: I made Saturday's lunch on Wednesday afternoon, and put it in Crock Pots early Saturday morning. I had no idea it would take so long to make that much chili.

Plan details, make lists, and have backup plans: I had a lot of prep work ahead of time. Beth from Cooking Up Quilts helped me take a whole day and do our proposed tour together. She gave me ideas on what people from outside the area might want to see and do from a visitor's perspective. We timed our route, and built in rest times. 

Have fun with everyone else: I wasn't nervous as the retreat approached which surprised me. I kept thinking these were just my friends coming to visit. I believe I felt prepared by tackling things weeks ahead of time, and that left me free to have fun right along with the group.

Conclusion: I can see another QBIR in the future with a date planned at least 6 months ahead of time. If it grows, it will need to be held somewhere larger than my studio. There are so many things to do in this part of Ohio we will never run out of new ideas, but I think what everyone wanted most was just another day to sew. I think we need more downtime planned in. 

I hope this helps some of you who have tossed around the idea. Help me out, too. Have you ever hosted a retreat or gathering yourself? Do you have any advice or wisdom to give? I appreciate all your thoughts so let me know.

Now back to normal life here at Pink Doxies.

Come on, Doxie girls.
Let's go sew.


Tish Stemple said...

Julie, I just just teared up reading this and had to excuse myself from my desk (way to show I'm not working at work). We had so much fun this weekend I don't think either of us wanted to leave! You were an AMAZING hostess to take all of us in and share your family and your studio. We both learned so much from everyone (like Tish change your dang sewing machine needles you el cheap-o) It was one of the first trips, David and I have taken were we both had an equal amount of fun and laughs. But the best thing, is I walked away feeling like we were a small family. We could have been painting fences and I would have still had an amazing time, laughing and joking. We can never thank you enough for bringing all of us together.

Anja @ Anja Quilts said...

It sounds like you all had a great time.

Beth @ Cooking Up Quilts said...

It truly was an amazing weekend. I love the way you put so much detail in this post, and seeing these pictures (that I don't even remember you taking!) brought back memories of the fun we had. Can't wait to do it again!! Thank you so much for being a fantastic hostess, and opening your little piece of the world to us. xoxo

KaHolly said...

It was a great idea! I'm looking forward to reading more about it on other blogs. These things grow from year to year! Be prepared!

Julie said...

Tish, I couldn't even respond to this yesterday. It was an equally powerful weekend for me. Putting yourself 'out there', and sharing your world with others has a risk. People warn us about the crazies on the web, but I'm here to say the reward was far greater than the risk. We loved having you both here, and your words are honey to my heart!

Julie said...

Anja, it was just so good to be with people who resonate with your own vibe. If that sounds hokey, I apologize, but like Tish said above, we felt like long lost family by the end. It was sweet.

Julie said...

I wanted people to know it was a very up-close-and-personal experience to be with you all. I admitted to everyone it was my first retreat--going to or hosting, and I learned so much. Thank you so very much for all your insight, Beth.

Julie said...

Not surprisingly, Beth and I have already discussed other venues with open sewing rooms that would accommodate a larger group. It can be tricky booking something as most places book a year or more in advance--some with cash up front. I think that means you grow something slowly, and learn your limits.

Kate said...

Looks like lots of fun. I've seen a couple of the other blogs already and a good time was had by all.

Unknown said...

So happy for all of you in this new venture. A lovely setting and a wonderful hostess, teacher, leader. I am so glad we're friends!! You inspire me always!! Love watching your growth, your art and creativity! Keep goin'

Stitchin At Home said...

Sounds like it was a super time well spent by those who attended.

Lena Pugacheva said...

Looks very interesting! I saw some of the participants' blogposts already and I think excitement can be felt in them just as in yours!

maggie fellow said...

what a wonderful event - thanks for sharing

Christine Slaughter said...

What an amazing weekend! I think the smaller retreats are so special in that you have time to really get to know the people you are with. Great work on all the preparation, and on being able to not be nervous leading up to it. I read this and I feel so excited and happy for you all to have had that experience!

Sandra Walker said...

I am so thankful (ha the day after our Canadian Thanksgiving) for so many things in this post: for you, first and foremost, you most Brave and Intrepid quilter BFF of mine, for hosting, that I did not read yours or anyone else's until after I'd posted mine, because I am dissolving into a puddle of tears...and for my MacGyver, who happily (well not at first let's be honest) came along with me (he loves you and your fam y'know that), and for such a wonderful wonderful group who yes!!! bonded. I'm so thankful for the bonding that occurred and I think we have touched upon something really special, something I've felt for sometime over this past year. But it could not have happened without you, your ├╝ber-organization and thinking and planning and keeping everyone happy the entire 3 days...I was and am quite profoundly affected by it all when I step back and reflect upon the wow of it all.

Preeti said...

Bereft :-(
When is the next one, Julie?
How can I miss people I have never even met?

Nancy J said...

Sounds like a dream,,and what a fab time at all the fabric shops!!!

helenjean@midgetgemquilts said...

It sounds as if you all had such a Fantastic time together . As preeti says how can I miss people I have never met ! Far too much to say than would fit in this comment box , but I'm glad you all had such a great time

Angie in SoCal said...

It looks like you had a great time. What a wonderful place you have to create in.

evaj said...

Julie!!thanks for participation at the Show and Tell Monday with inspiration and linking Bambi hug !!

Sarah @ Georgia Girl Quilts said...

Sounds like a great weekend! I am a fan of smaller retreats for many of the reasons you listed. Thank you for sharing your experience!

Sharon - IN said...

What a fun packed weekend. Nice how you pulled this all together to meet with some of your fav bloggers.

Susan said...

What a fun weekend! You'll have to make it a yearly thing. Thanks for sharing on Midweek Makers

TheEclecticAbuela said...

I'm glad it went so well--congratulations on trying something new and succeeding!

Kaja said...

Great idea, Julie, and it definitely sounds like it went well. I hope it's the first of many.

Jen said...

It sure sounds like you all had such a wonderful time! I love the idea of small retreats. Especially combining the quilting and blogging!

Pale Blue Corner said...

You are right, it sounds a great idea to have a smaller retreat. You have a very nice studio as well.

patty a. said...

It sounds like you had a wonderful time! Miller's always has a 20% off in October for Charm Days. I use to work at the shop for the sale in October and May until management of the shop changed last year and they no longer asked me to work. For May the discount is 30%. What hotel did you use? I did have a couple of gatherings at my house - one for dyeing and one for our quilt group meeting. Space I think is the biggest obstacle. It is amazing how much space you really need with 8 people all trying to create!

Nancy said...

What an interesting concept. I am a blogger and don't know any bloggers near me to talk face to face. Typing questions and answers back and forth is not the same. Great that you all got to do such fun, common interest activities together.

Jan @Cocoa Quilts said...

Julie, thanks so much for sharing your weekend. I had fun looking through the other blogs (most of which I already follow). But added those that I didn't. Love to add to my quilt reading each morning. Next time I'm on an Ohio roadtrip, I need to go to Millers. Thanks again for sharing.

Cut&Alter said...

Great to read your post Julie. I have only ever been on one retreat in New Zealand and it was small and amazing. I have been thinking about going on one again and love the sound of yours - maybe I need to find a group of local'ish like minded people and get one organised!

Bonnie said...

What a fun event. Kudos for all your planning. I'm sure everyone had a fabulous time!