How to Have Fun at a Mystery Quilt Retreat

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What’s a mystery quilt retreat? Have you ever been to one? I stumbled into one last weekend and had a ball. Here are all the ins and outs, what you should bring, what you should ask, and what you should NOT ask!

Last week I needed to get away and do something for myself, and quick. I googled sewing retreats in my state and came upon the upcoming ‘Mysterious Quilting Society Retreat’ that was organized by Jerry Stube. It was advertised on her website Quilters Quarters. This one-day ‘Mystery Quilt Retreat’ was within driving distance for me and sparked my interest.

But this image was about all the information that was shared on the Quilters Quarters’ website, besides the date, time, and promise that I would have my own table. I don’t know why the lady doesn’t like HSTs. I love half square triangle quilts!

What NOT to ask about a Mystery Quilt Retreat

So I did what any person who didn’t know what a mystery quilt retreat was would do… I emailed Jerry and asked her to show me a picture of the quilt. That’s what you should NOT do, because no matter how nicely I asked (and I asked more than once), she wouldn’t tell me.

Apparently, when you go to a mystery quilt retreat you will not find out what the quilt looks like until the retreat is almost over! It turns out that the mystery continues until well into the retreat and that is part of the fun.

The only thing that Jerry would share with me is the cutting instructions so I could have my fabrics all cut, organized, and ready when I arrived. looked at some of Jerry’s quilt patterns on her website. They were all lovely, so I decided whatever the mystery quilt was, if she designed it it could only be good – I needed to go.

What to Know Before You Go to a Mystery Quilting Retreat

  1. Before signing up for a retreat like this, make sure you have lodging arrangements or a friend to stay with if you’ll have to travel. Lucky for us, this particular retreat was held in a beautiful hotel that is Amish quilt themed! I was inspired by a different quilt every time I turned a corner.

    Since I had 3 hours to drive each way, I decided to stay 2 nights in the hotel so I could show up on time and also not rush out and have a long drive afterwards. My room had a refrigerator and the hotel also provided breakfast.
  1. If meals or snacks are not included in the event description, find out what your available options will be. We were able to walk to a homestyle restaurant for lunch, which was fun! If you want to be able to bring snacks and drinks, find out the rules on outside food before you go.
  2. Read the instructions carefully to know if you need to cut your quilt fabrics beforehand. You won’t want to show up with yardage when everyone else is already sewing. There may be a kit you can buy beforehand too.
  3. If the retreat information doesn’t include a list of things to bring, make sure to inquire. I’ll share with you my list of things to bring below, but there may also be special tools needed that the teacher should tell you about.

What to Bring to a Mystery Quilt Retreat

  1. Bring your own sewing machine, if you can. At this retreat, a sewing machine retailer was providing machines for attendees who wanted to leave theirs at home or just try out a new machine. I watched some of those people get frustrated because the pedal was missing, or there wasn’t a 1/4” foot, or they simply didn’t like it. I was very glad that I packed up my trusty Juki and had a sewing machine that I loved.

    When you do bring your own machine, be sure that you have all the parts to it like the foot pedal, knee lift (if you have one), your favorite presser feet, and the power cord.
  1. Have your own small cutting and ironing tools. Almost everyone had scissors, a small cutting mat, ruler, and rotary cutter, as well as an ironing mat and small iron. While there was a large cutting mat to share and two big irons and ironing boards in the corner of the room, it took a lot of time to walk over there and use the communal items. Everyone was super impressed by the pressing power and steam of my mini OVO Travel Iron.
  1. The instructions will probably specify that you cut your fabrics ahead of time, and make sure you follow these instructions so you have more time to sew. You may also want to bring some extra fabric in case you make a sewing or cutting error and need to re-sew a piece.
  1. Don’t forget the thread and bobbins you want to use.
  2. Pack extra sewing machine needles because you never know when one will break.
  3. Also bring your favorite sewing notions such as your seam ripper, thread snips, tape measure, squaring-up ruler, and thread catcher. I forgot my thread catcher and had to use a paper bag.

All the Fun

This particular Mystery Quilting Retreat had only about 30 ladies in a spacious sewing room with a dedicated sewing space for each quilt maker. There were 2 pop-up shops that were well stocked with fabric to distract us from the quilting projects we were working on! A larger quilt shop was within walking distance too in case anyone wanted to go.

Jerry and her assistant shared tips and demos that made the time fly. Plus there were door prizes and games with even more prizes so just about everyone went home with a prize. I won a beautiful bundle of 20 Fat Quarters. Two ladies went home from this mini retreat with new sewing machines.

The Big Reveal

Finally, after 4 o’clock in the afternoon, we got to see what our finished quilts would look like! I learned that this is normal for a Mystery Quilt Class. I was the only one who asked to see what it would look like before arriving.

There was so much chatting, shopping, and playing games that no one finished their quilt. Are you surprised? I wasn’t.

This is how far I got. I sewed to my heart’s content all afternoon and got my quilt blocks finished and sewn together, but I still needed to add the borders. I’m sure you can tell that I wasn’t upset about that. I knew I would have fun at home finishing up.

Even though I showed up all by myself, I went home with lots of new friends and a bag full of goodies. It was just the weekend sewing that I needed. My mystery quilt is now on my longarm frame waiting for me to finish quilting it, and I’ll be watching the Quilter’s Quarters website for news of another fun retreat.

Have you ever been to a mystery quilt retreat? Did you have as much fun as I did? Tell us in the comments.


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