Tag Archives: maine quilting retreats

Slow Fashion on my Mind & 2017 Slow Stitching Retreat Reflections

I’ve replaced my old laptop and I’m excited to have an opportunity to share once again in this space. With so many post ideas and projects underway, I’ll do my best to share my highlights from the past few weeks! Thank you for your patience as I find my blogging stride once again. xoxo

slow fashion on my mind garment sewing
Fabrics shown are a selection by Sharon Holland for Art Gallery Fabrics, and a print by Carolyn Friedlander paired with a Kona solid, all by Robert Kaufman Fabrics.

Slow Fashion has been on my mind for the past few months, or more accurately, at least the past year. I even bought a simple tank top pattern that was suggested for first time garment sewists, and have the fabric I need to make at least three. But the apprehension that stands in my way is still strong. While making 20 minutes of quilting or embroidery progress seems reasonable, 20 minutes doesn’t feel like sufficient time to let my brain wrap around the concept of garment sewing enough to dive in.

alabama chanin stitch bookMy dear dear friend Stephanie from Late Night Quilter even surprised me with an Alabama Chanin stitching book about a month ago! It’s meant to be, truly.

When I heard that Sam from A Gathering of Stitches was organizing a Slow Fashion Retreat as well as a Slow Stitching Retreat this year, I knew this was my chance. I arranged childcare thanks to the team efforts of my parents and in-laws, registered, happily agreed to teach yoga during the retreat once again, and here we are only a couple short weeks away from retreat time! I’m hoping to have a wonderfully blissfully relaxing week, knock my fear of garment sewing out of the park, mend some of my holey jeans, and play with natural dyeing! All this on the coast of Maine amidst some of the best company there is. Yes, can you tell I’m excited? If you’re feeling spontaneous, a little bird tells me there are still a few spaces available for the retreat–join me if you so desire!

In reflecting on my experience at last year’s Slow Stitching retreat and getting excited about this year’s retreat, I realized that I never did post my reflection on last year. I wrote nearly all of it, but was waiting to get it *just perfect* before posting, as well as possibly waiting to finish a couple of the projects I began on the retreat, and well… neither of those things happened. In the spirit of retreat reflections, I thought I’d share my reactions now, nearly a year later. Stitching retreats are an experience unlike any other, and rereading my reflections transports me back to the blissfully sun-filled porch, rocking and stitching and enjoying the company of like-minded makers.

*Note: the following was written a year ago, shortly upon returning from the Slow Stitching Retreat at Medomak in August of 2016*

slow stitching retreat a gathering of stitches medomak maineThere’s something amazing about the retreat format, where a group of likeminded strangers gathers in a quiet and often intimate setting, spending hours upon hours together in the spirit of learning, relaxing, and reconnecting with self and spirit. The people and the deep and kindred bond I feel with them at the end of such a relatively short time is always what strikes me most upon returning home from a retreat. Here was this group of nearly complete strangers four short days prior, yet tears flow and hugs abound when it’s time to part ways again and head back into our own individual corners of the game called life. It’s a tiny peek at the innate goodness, compassion, and human connection we all share, yet that is often hidden by the bustle and drama of life during our normal day to day existence. That fiber of human connection is truly beautiful, and I’m grateful to have been a part of it.

slow stitching retreat a gathering of stitches maineSo many things stand out to me about the Slow Stitching Retreat that quietly happened at Medomak Retreat Center in the woods of Washington, Maine, a couple weeks ago. Yes, the people. The new friends, the realization that even the most talented, well-known and revered makers are real people, just like you and me. And that they can be wicked silly and fun to hang out with! The surprising connections and moments of clear understanding that happen in spontaneous conversations over stitching or wine. We came from all over the country, and reflected all sorts of characters. Some quiet, some not so quiet. Some names widely known, some not. All creative. All open. All building and creating and supporting each other. All of us, human. I’m so grateful to Sam for bringing us all together.

The learning and stitching was also really fabulous, so before I get too deep into a philosophical reflection on the human condition and how hand stitching and quilting helps build positive connections, I’ll jump into the more physical aspects of the retreat–slow stitching!

alison glass slow stitching retreat a gathering of stitchesOn the first day, I immersed myself in the reverse applique techniques taught by Alison Glass. It was my first time working with knits, my first reverse applique, and my first time transferring a pattern to fabric by *gasp* writing on the fabric! I used a micron pen, since it was a cut line and would not be visible anyway, and amazingly, not only did it transfer the pattern beautifully, no fabric died in the process!

alison glass slow stitching retreat a gathering of stitches reverse appliqueI decided to create a design based upon the geometry of a chapel ceiling captured by my brother-in-law in Oakland, California, so in light of the whole discussion around “derivatives” in quilting that sparked a heated discussion days before I embarked on the retreat, I spent the week being 100% derivative. And liking it.

alison glass slow stitching retreat a gathering of stitchesThe process of sketching out the design, transferring it to the fabric using the tips shared by Alison on how to create a repeated design, finagling the knit fabrics to do what I wanted (sort of) and finally, slowly stitching and cutting, watching the design come to life before my eyes, was extremely enjoyable.

slow stitching lake side reverse appliqueNot to mention making slow stitching progress lakeside after a refreshing swim!

This is most certainly not the last reverse applique I’ll do. The one hesitation I have with it is its durability with washing. Having three young kids who love to have pillow fights, make pillow forts, and sneak food into the living room, I would most likely create reverse applique items and then hide them away for now. Either way, LOVE!

chawne kimber slow stitching retreat 2016 a gathering of stitches maineThe second day of the retreat, I spent the day giggling uncontrollably while tiny stitching with Chawne Kimber in the amazing barn. Having witnessed this technique the year prior with Chawne, I had a little preview of the fun. There’s something about the mantra “sew smaller; no, even SMALLER” that takes quilting to a whole new level.

chawne kimber sew smaller hand stitched
Hand pieced! Chawne Kimber is amazing, and seeing these works in person was so inspiring!

chawne kimber sew smallerChawne’s work is epically awesome on many levels, and it was fabulous to get to see many of her creations once again. They never cease to amaze me, and hearing her talk about her process is always inspiring. (Chawne will be returning for this year’s Slow Stitching Retreat, so you have a chance to stitch with her, too, if you want! I highly recommend it!)

I went into the retreat with a vague design idea, though without a full plan of how to execute it, but also the desire to keep an open mind and take advice as it was presented. At the advice of both Chawne and Sam, rather than jump into trying to execute my idea with my desired fabrics, I played around with some scraps to see if it would translate into reality the way I envisioned.

sew smaller with chawne kimberI’m very glad I did, since it did not really translate the way I had wanted, BUT I do love what I created and had a ton of fun just going wild and sewing whatever wherever, as long as it was smallllllll. Tiny stitching plus improv curves equals loads of fun!

Here are some other scenes from the retreat:

Weeks Dye works floss care of Alison Glass

stitching on the porch

katherine doing her garment sewing thing

I’m looking forward to seeing some old friends and creating some more slow stitching retreat memories, this time hopefully with a bonus souvenir of a hand-made garment and the knowledge and confidence to dive more deeply into the world of Slow Fashion. As one who does not like to shop, who feels a strong stewardship toward the earth, and who loves to stitch, I’m excited to embark into this new world!  Now that I have a fully functioning laptop, I will be sure to share my experiences with you. This time, I will try to post my reflections a bit sooner than a year later!


I’m back after a wonderfully relaxing, rejuvenating, and surprisingly silly fun week at the Slow Stitching Retreat in Washington, Maine. My reentry into real life was rather abrupt, since I only had a 15 minute drive upon leaving the blissful retreat until I was resubmerged in the thick of parenting, with my 4 year old sneaking a melty chocolate and dripping it all over the inside of my packed car, one big drip falling a literal inch from my stitching project I had peacefully sewn all week, while my 1 year old simultaneously hightailed it down the hill toward the lake. Ahhh, life! I’m now just starting to feel like I might be getting back into the swing of things, and will share much more of my experience here in the coming weeks.

slow stitching retreat a gathering of stitches maineWhile I had every intention of taking lots of photos, I also made a conscious effort to distance myself from social media and technology as much as I could, so that I could aim to slow down body, mind, and spirit. Lo, I took hardly any photos at all. But I can tell you this: the retreat was everything I imagined and more and I would jump back there in a heartbeat. I’ve already begun saving pennies for next year. There was a whole lot of relaxing, chatting, stitching, laughing, learning, making new friends, swimming, yoga, relaxing some more, stitching some more, eating, drinking, and so much more.

weeks dye works perle cotton alison glass collectionAnd of course color. Lots and lots of color. This is just a tiny peek at the Weeks Dye Works perle cotton collection Alison Glass brought along for all of us to try, and only a tiny sneak peek at all of the gorgeous color that permeated the week.

Once it all has time to permeate, percolate, settle in, process, and all of those other things a rare and beautiful experience must do before becoming coherent, I’ll write a reflection post with a few more peeks and highlights of the week. Until then, you can read my friend Karin’s account of the week, rich with photos galore (at least someone took lots of photos!) on her blog Leigh Laurel Studios, here. In the meantime, while my reflection on the experience has time to process, I’ll jump back into sharing my projects, inspiration, and tips, picking up where I left off two short weeks ago.

I hope you had a week full of little wonders and surprise moments of bliss! I’ve missed you and look forward to getting back into the swing of the online quilting world.

Slow Stitching Retreat: A Day of Bliss

Imagine you’re sitting in a rocking chair on a sunny porch, sunbeams playing at your feet, a cool breeze blowing your hair, fabric in your hands, slowly stitching your way through the day alongside new quilting friends all doing the same, seeing your handwork grow at your fingertips. Bliss, right? Now add amazing quilters Carolyn Friedlander, Chawne Kimber, and Samantha Lindgren as teachers, mentors, and fellow slow stitching friends and there you have the Slow Stitching Retreat at Medomak Retreat Center in Washington, Maine. Last week, I was so blessed to be able to join the retreat for a day, with baby Finn in tow.

medomak retreat center maineThe retreat was the brainchild of Sam from A Gathering of Stitches, and was just as blissfully amazing as the name Slow Stitching Retreat suggests. I attended on Thursday, and joined the group learning the Park needle turn applique quilt block from Carolyn Friedlander. Those of you who know me know that Carolyn is one of my all time favorite fabric and quilt designers. I love her architectural influence, highly textured fabric designs, and simple geometric pattern style. It was all I could do not to jump up and down and squeal like a little fangirl when I first met her at QuiltCon. To spend the day learning from her and relaxing with a room full of equally enthusiastic and experienced sewists was such a rejuvenating and inspiring way to spend a day. It certainly helped that Carolyn is super easy going and we all had a great time chatting and stitching the day away.

Park in progress
Getting started: basting my Park block
carolyn friedlander slow stitching retreat
Carolyn walked around helping and answering questions as we dove into needle-turn applique, some for the first time.

slow stitching on the porchAfter we all had basted our Park patterns, we headed out to the sunny porch to slowly stitch in bliss. It was a truly fabulous experience, and one I think everyone should enjoy!

finn stitching helperFinn was there with me, of course, and he was absolutely perfect. Honestly, he happily rocked and watched all of us sew, joined in on conversations with his smily baby babble, and was happy all day long. I think he will be a slow stitcher when he’s a bit older, too!

sam a gathering of stitches
Sam joined us for some slow stitching on the sunny porch. Such a gorgeous day!
carolyn friedlander slow stitching maine
Carolyn Friedlander doing some slow stitching of her own.

Since I was only able to attend for a day, I wasn’t able to take Chawne Kimber‘s class on tiny stitching. I did sneak over to their workspace to gawk at her amazing creations and talk a bit about her sewing process, though.

barn slow stitching

chawne kimber cauchy complete tiny stitchingtiny stitching chawne kimberchawne kimber cauchy complete tiny stitchingThese teeny, tiny bits stitch together into such gorgeous, substantial quilt blocks, it blew my mind. Chawne had a thick stack of many different quilt block samples, all tinier than the tiniest block I’ve ever sewn and all absolutely stunning. They begged to be touched, and then once I touched them, there was no denying: I had to sew a teeny tiny block, even if it was soooo slow that it took me a year to complete. Chawne was also so easy to talk to, and such an inspiration. I wish I could have stayed all weekend and chatted away for hours.

meeting chawne kimber
A blurry picture, but meeting Chawne is worth documenting even if it’s blurred!

After returning home, I finished stitching the outside edge of my needle-turn appliqued Park block, and I spent two #sewtake20 sewing breaks to get started on a Chawne-inspired tiny quilt block. I’m stretching far out of my comfort zone by going wonky AND tiny!

tiny stitching inspired by chawne kimberHere’s my 40-minute, not quite 4″ square quilt block start. I am loving it, and being able to use the scraps of fabric from my “too small to save” bin feels good.

This day spent slowly stitching flew by, but solidified my feeling that quilting retreats should be a part of every sewist’s life. I am very much looking forward to being able to attend a full retreat in a couple of years when my mama milk bar is not in full use, and I plan to start saving pennies now. I’m so grateful that Sam is bringing quilt retreats to Maine with A Gathering of Stitches, and I look forward to seeing what rejuvenating, peacefully refreshing quilt retreats she organizes in the future. Thank you to Sam, Carolyn, Chawne, and all of the other retreat attendees for the lovely day and burst of inspiration.

I’m linking up my tiny quilt block beginning with Design Wall, since all quilt blocks matter, no matter how small.