Sewing & Quilting Retreats, Part 3

#3: Official Retreat Centers

Missouri Star Quilt Retreat Rita Farro (R) and her sister, Ronda, with Jenny Doan.

Missouri Star Quilt Retreat
Rita Farro (R) and her sister, Ronda, with Jenny Doan.

Retreat centers are professionally managed, and often provide the sewing machines, cutting tables, ironing stations, etc. Their retreats are sometimes themed and may hire popular teachers to plan the projects and fabric kits. The sewing area is usually open to attendees 24 hours a day. The retreat center sets a “per person” price and markets their events to a wide customer base. Anybody can sign up, which is why these retreats are a great place to make new friends and they can be surprisingly affordable.

Missouri Star Quilt Co. in Hamilton, Missouri runs one of the busiest retreat centers in the country. Their retreats range in prices from $175 to $500. A typical MSQC retreat starts Tuesday morning and ends Friday morning. Food is included. Many of their retreats are themed, and they often include a Jenny Doan trunk show. (

Sew-clusion Retreats

Sew-clusion Retreats, LLC, Sebago, Maine is located less than an hour west of Portland, Maine. The stunning retreat center is a dream come true for owner Patty Sawyer. She supplies most everything so her guests don’t have to “schlepp lots of stuff.” The workshop includes cutting mats, rotary cutters, irons and boards, etc. Everyone gets a work table, a rolling adjustable desk chair, a personal side table, and an Ottlite. There are design walls and a small on-site “Forget-Me-Knot” shop for forgotten items (i.e., SCHMETZ Microtex 60 Needles).

An avid quilter herself, Sawyer attended many retreats (and still does!). Eventually, she started a longarm quilting business and began teaching. Patty started her quilt retreat business with a small house, then two houses . . . but she was spending all her time running between the two properties, cooking and cleaning. Two years ago, she and her husband bought THE BIG HOUSE on the lake. It was already 5000+ s.f., and after a recent expansion, it’s now over 6500 s.f.

Patty’s longarm Gammill (with a Statler) is an optional participant in Sew-clusion Retreats. Patty is happy to teach an introductory class so her guests can rent the longarm to quilt their own projects. Sew-clusion Retreats are limited to 12 attendees. Patty considers that amount suitable for an intimate retreat. She says, “every retreat is different, so each one is customized. I start off with a base price ($65 per person includes the lodging and sewing studio). They can add services or meals . . . like an a la cart menu. Many of my guests have specific dietary needs, so they often prefer to bring their own food. There are many local food options available. I wanted to keep the price affordable, and make SEWING be the main focus.” (

The dress is very casual (sometimes Pj’s all day) and Patty jokes “bras are optional! This is my home. Retreat attendees are my guests and they are encouraged to use it as a place to relax and feel comfortable. They can sit out on the deck, on the beach or in the den, recline in the chairs and watch movies, sit by the fire (either inside or outside), take the kayaks out on the lake or go for a hike.”

Even though this is only her second full year in the new property, Sew-clusion is almost completely booked through this upcoming season. “So far, everybody who has booked a retreat has put down a deposit for the same time next year — and most groups are adding an extra day.” Sew-clusion is open year-round.

Celebrate finished projects at Needle In A Haystack.

Celebrate finished projects at Needle In A Haystack.

Needle In A Haystack Sewing Retreats in Sherman New York (

Thirty years ago, Judy and Jeff Fenton purchased a giant early 1900’s abandoned dairy barn. They built their home into one cozy area of the lower level. For many years, the rest of the barn was used as storage space for lots of wayward “stuff” from family and friends.

During those years, with their daughter Megan, they lived in their “house within a barn.” Judy was busy building her business, Millcreek Sewing and Fabric in nearby Erie, Pennsylvania. An avid quilter, Judy had a gift for creating special events and classes for quilting enthusiasts. The small weekend quilting event she started over a decade ago — Quilting On The Bayfront — has grown into a giant, annual regional quilt show that attracts the biggest speakers in the quilting industry. (

Five years ago, Judy convinced Jeff to take a giant leap of faith and turn their beloved barn/home into a retreat center — another major renovation in their continuing story of “This Old Barn!” After the dust settled, they opened Needle In A Haystack — a spacious, beautiful, workshop-retreat gathering place. There are nine bedrooms, seven bathrooms, and a fabric store-within-the-barn (it’s fun to shop in your pajamas). The huge open main level is dedicated to the classroom/sewing area, with individual tables, ironing stations and 4’x8’ cutting tables. Most of the time, attendees bring their own projects and machine (but as a sewing machine dealer, Judy is happy to provide machines if needed). Each station has a sturdy 3’x5’ sewing table equipped with a Daylight lamp and a posture perfect, sew comfort chair. (

Daughter Megan manages the retreat website, registrations and retail store (Fabric Outlet Barn), and can accommodate 22 attendees. They offer “Open Sew” Retreats, (three nights/four days Thursday-Sunday) for $279 per person. The retreats include six meals. (There are several nearby restaurants for dinner Friday and Saturday or delivery is available.)

Often there are special guest designers and national teachers who offer a structured workshop weekend or a machine specific workshop clinic for learning techniques. You can come alone or plan to attend with a group of sewing sisters. Judy says, “it warms my heart when a guest comes alone, and makes a new friend. They keep in touch and often return to Needle In A Haystack for their annual retreat get-together.”

Needle In A Haystack has become so successful, Judy and Jeff purchased a property across the road so they could move out of their comfy barn/home to make room for MORE QUILTERS! (


Sewing & Quilting Retreats, Part 1 – Private & Small
Sewing & Quilting Retreats, Part 2 – Group Retreats
Sewing & Quilting Retreats, Part 3 – Official Retreat Centers
Sewing & Quilting Retreats, Part 4 – All-Inclusive
Sewing & Quilting Retreats, Part 5 – Interview with an Attendee
Sewing & Quilting Retreats, Part 6 – Testimonials

SCHMETZ Microtex Needle

SCHMETZ MIcrotex Needle

The SCHMETZ Microtex Needle is generically known as a Sharp. This needle has a very slim acute point. In other words, a very fine point. Because the point is so fine, it also needs to be replaced more often. That’s right! Needles don’t last forever. Replace the needle when you hear a little click at stitch formation or your stitches become uneven.

Use SCHMETZ Microtex with Micro fibers, polyester, silk, foils, fake leather, batiks, quilting cotton. The very thin acute point creates beautiful topstitching and perfectly straight stitches for piecing quilts. Use when precision is paramount.

Sizes:  60/8, 90/10, 80/12, 90/14, 100/16, 110/18