I have been asked, more than once, regarding our own Sewing Retreat if people “could just come along for the sewing bit without the accommodation or meals?”.
Maybe they live too close to Stratford to warrant staying somewhere else, or would prefer to not to stay overnight, whatever the reason it’s a perfectly valid question. And I could say ‘yes come and join us”.
But that would be missing the point. This weekend is a retreat, albeit a sewing retreat, but a retreat nonetheless.
Retreats, regardless of whether it happens to be a sewing retreat, a yoga retreat or even a religious retreat, are different from a normal workshop environment. Everyone is together for the duration of the retreat and separate from their normal lives.
The word retreat is derived from the Latin verb retractus which means – “to pull back”.
So a retreat is a place where you pull back from the world.
This is perhaps the main reason for going on a retreat.
But here are 10 reason why I think retreats are important and different to normal workshops.
They help you to:
- Pull Back
This is a strategic retreat. Almost in a military sense, and sometimes, as with all military campaigns a strategic withdrawal gives us time to reassess.
Pulling back from life allows us the time and space to gain a new perspective, you can re-group, and re-energise.
Gather your forces and refocus your energy onto something you love. You can find new inspiration and then put that into action.
Just getting away from it all; life, work, families, gives you the time you need to focus on what inspires you.
- Find Space
Space can mean time. Time away from all the constraints and interruptions we face on a daily basis.
A whole block of time, not just dipping your toe into a bit of ‘me time’, but a whole chunk of free time to yourself.
More time than you would spend in a normal workshop.
Time to fully immerse yourself in what you are doing.
You might find that you need a bit of clear head space to work out why things aren’t working a well as you’d hoped. What alterations you need to do to a specific pattern for example.
Or you may literally need space to cut out fabric for certain projects.
- Be Inspired
Having that head space allows you the freedom to focus on what excites and inspires you.
We are all creative in our own ways and finding the time and space away from everything else allows you to alter your thinking and find new ways to reignite those sparks of creativity.
Spending time with other people who love doing what you do and seeing what they make can install a renewed vigour into your own sewing too.
What do you hear? Hopefully you can hear yourself at last above the hubbub of daily life.
What do you enjoy doing, making, reading? On a retreat there will be others willing to listen to you too.
You may even find others worth listening to. And their stories may enlighten and inspire you in your own sewing practice.
Everyone needs to unload, clean out and empty their mental desktop.
You will leave a retreat lightened, clearer, recharged, refreshed, and better equipped to deal with any sewing or fitting issues that crops up.
Because you will have a new perspective on how to deal with the problems you arrived with.
- Lose The Fear
So many times I have heard people say “Oh I don’t make anything with zips in” or “I avoid buttonholes”.
Being fearful of trying something outside your comfort zone is perfectly normal.
But being in the safe and supportive environment of a retreat with expert tuition will allow you to learn to overcome those fears through practicing and making mistakes.
It’s only sewing! Make friends with your unpicker.
- Remember Who You Are
In our daily life we are so many things to so many people, wife, husband, parent, child, friend, lover.
We need to be reminded that we are also individuals.
You can ditch all the other roles you have and just focus on being a better dressmaker, sewist or sewer. What ever you prefer to describe yourself as.
- Find your Tribe
We are all the same yet all different too.
On a retreat you will meet people who, like you, find joy in creating sewn projects.
You don’t have to justify your stash of fabric or vintage patterns. The seriousness of which is taken as a given.
- Help others
When you take time away from your life, those in your life get time away from you too.
This brings appreciation. They realize what it’s like when you’re not around, to work, cook, clean, love them.
Without you taking up your usual place, people will shift their roles to fill that space and life takes on a new shape. Life is actually different when you return and you are free to take up a new space within it.
This is growth.
- Establish a Routine
Trying to find time to sew in an already busy daily schedule can be very hard. If you have a space at home to leave everything out and setup it’s much easier, but if you don’t making time and space can be nigh on impossible.
Listening and learning from others will help you understand how you can fit time into your own life back at home.
Establishing ways of working on a retreat is much easier as you are encouraged by the example of others.
You go back home and re-establish your life in a new way to accommodate your sewing.
Retreats are important because people have time to spend on themselves and leave rested, happier, clearer and having learnt new skills and techniques.
Who doesn’t want some of that?