Amazing embroidered notebook cover by my secret sister, Xandi.
Three Reasons Why I’ll Be First in Line to Go Back to Sew South
1. The Best Format
Jennifer from Ellison Lane Quilts did an absolutely amazing job organizing the first ever Sew South Retreat. Jennifer designed a true retreat. It’s wasn’t a weekend of lectures. It wasn’t a stiff conference. It wasn’t competitive. It was a sew-all-weekend–in-your-yoga-pants-and-slippers event. We had classes and we had free sewing time. We made a mess (which I think our hotel rep was a little stressed about) and it didn’t matter that we were all covered in thread and bits of fabric. In our real lives, it can be hard to carve out that time to just sit and sew and it was nice to not worry about much except trying not to break a needle while installing a zipper.
2. It was a Skill Builder Event
I love that this retreat wasn’t just about quilting or one “type” of sewing. We learned paper piecing. We had total newbies to paper piecing who felt accomplished after the project and we had old hats at paper piecing who learned a few tricks. We had a pajama pants class – many of us had never sewn clothes or used that weird foot for our machine to roll the seams. We made an amazing assortment of clutches. And while they look complicated, it was pretty easy and not as intimidating as I expected.
Diane who taught our clutch class with all of our clutches
My clutch - made with a FQ I got in the FQ swap while at Sew South.
We also made a quilted duffle bag. In fact, it might be better to say we survived making a quilted duffle bag. It’s huge. It was a beast to wrangle under our machines. It had zippers (new to many folks) and pockets and pleats. And we did it. (Personally, I would’ve quit this project if it had not been for the positive peer pressure from my neighbors … “She can do it, so can I!”) Thank goodness we had a great teacher in Lindsay. We survived it together and cheered each time another woman finished her bag.
damn bag duffle bag. :-) I used some long hoarded Paula Prass for this one.
See more of what I made on my Instagram here.
3. Sew South was a Community, not a Conference
I am not sure that I can really put into words what I experienced at this retreat. I will do my best, though, to share how it played out for me ...
I signed up for Sew South because it was in my home state and admittedly, I wanted to meet some of those “big bloggers” that I heard were going. I really can’t get to the west coast very easily (or at a reasonable cost) and for a 2.5 hour drive there was really no excuse. Initially, I didn’t get a roommate because I didn’t want it to be awkward. But as the event got closer, I went out on a limb and reached out to someone who got a ticket late and agreed to room with another girl three days before the conference. (Yes, I “researched” her blog before sending that email! LOL)
As a self-proclaimed introvert, I drove to Charlotte nervous about the conference. Was I cool enough to stitch with the cool kids? Would these women like me? Would I find someone to eat dinner with? Would I be the only one who came without all my prep work done? Would I be the only one without a QAYG Weekender bag?
Once I got to the hotel (which was beautiful and had great staff), I met Amy and we took a quick trip to the local Joanns on the hunt for some pre-quilted fabric. (No dice.) We got back in time for cocktail reception and I found that everyone was friendly. I met a few familiar online faces and that settled my nerves. My roommate checked in and we joked about checking each other’s blogs out before agreeing to room. We both have family in NJ and our moms sew too. I calmed down a little. And from there … it was easy.
Dinner with new friends. Setting up our machines. Getting started on finishing up my prep work (along with lots of other people)! I checked in with my husband about 10:30 PM and he asked what I was doing, I said “We’re all in here sewing.” He replied, “Oh my gosh, you found your people. You’re probably in heaven.” How very true!
There was a lot of sewing between that Thursday evening and Sunday morning. Lots of laughter and easy friendships, too. My roommate, Christen, and I were like BFF and the two girls behind us Robyn & Sarah were fast friends too. Probably no one would have guessed that we had just met our roommates (now more like close friends) upon our arrival in Charlotte.
By the end of the weekend, that was the feeling I think so many of us had. “We found our people.” It didn’t matter that some of us were grandmas and others of us not yet married. That some of us had kids and others of us didn’t. It didn’t matter whether we were archaeologists, soap makers, home makers, nurses, bankers, and teachers in regular life. As Ginny said, we all spoke the common language of fabric and thread.
I believe as women we are created to thrive off of community and a sense of belonging. We crave that connection with others. We want to use our gifts and talents, be appreciated for them, and be cheered on. We want to feel like others “get us.” We need that. We’ve all connected online – through blogging, Flickr, swaps, etc. But there’s nothing like sewing in the same room with your sisters-in-stitches. And Sew South was all of that.
I left Charlotte feeling inspired, renewed, and connected. And I can't wait to go back.
Great Sponsors! Jennifer secured quite a few sponsors for this retreat and it really helped to make it amazing. Pellon provided a lot of materials for our bags and clutches.
They even sent these cute little product samplers that I heard were hand assembled by one of their employees.
Dritz gave us super cute Omnigrid mini cutting mats and a cool new rotary cutter. It works a little differently than I was used to, but now its my new favorite.
And then ... there was Jennifer's Favorite Things Swag Bag. Oh. my. goodness!!! Good thing we made that huge bag!
The sponsors really outdid themselves in helping Jennifer make this event a success! I even got a copy of the Stitch magazine that my roommate Christen had a project in!
In case you couldn't tell... Sew South was amazing! If you get the chance to go, Do it! I can't wait to meet you there!
I will share more soon about the swaps and such that I participated in. :-)
Happy Sewing, y'all! :-)