Quilt Retreats

January, 2016 Quilt Retreat

Do you like to quilt? Or do you sew but have not tried quilting? Or do you need some dedicated sewing/quilting time? Or maybe you want to learn a new technique or get some instruction on a quilt pattern you really want to make. Attending a quilt retreat can be a great way to learn or advance quilting skills. It doesn’t matter if you are a seasoned quilter or have never done it before, there are many offerings and a great variety of quilt retreats.

There are the nationally known quilt retreats. Many of these retreats are sponsored by nationally known quilt instructors. Some of them are geared toward novice quilters where the instructor will guide you through a technique or project. And then some are geared for seasoned quilters. Most of them offer instruction on a particular pattern or project or technique. Some will focus on a very specific piecing method. Some will teach you how to use a specific ruler or quilting tool. Some will be a quilt retreat on a cruise ship. These nationally known retreats tend to last from 4 days to a week. And you can expect to pay a premium price to attend these retreats.

Ricky Tims Classes

Connie Steven’s quilt she made at her Ricky Tims Retreat
Connie Steven’s quilt she made at her Ricky Tims Retreat

A nationally known instructor who encourages novice quilters is Ricky Tims. He sponsors a scholarship in memory of Ponnie Brinkman which is awarded to a novice quilter for one of his retreats. This novice quilter needs to be nominated by a quilt guild and must demonstrate confidence, enthusiasm, originality, and productivity. Why is Ponnie Brinkman important to Ricky Tims? Ricky had a casual conversation with Ponnie just as he was getting into quilting and before he knew anything about quilt shops, quilt guilds, or quilt shows. Ponnie had a great influence on Ricky. A good friend of mine, Connie Stevens, received this scholarship a few years ago and attending one of Ricky’s retreats had a great influence on her. Ricky’s retreats focus on individual designing and creative quilts.

Judy Niemeyer Classes

One of My Judy Niemeyer Project
One of My Judy Niemeyer Project

Seasoned quilters may be interested in a retreat hosted by Judy Niemeyer Quilting. Judy Niemeyer has a family owned and run business and specializes in quilt patterns using the foundation paper piecing method. She saw using this method was a way for all quilters to create an heirloom quilt. She hosts retreats where she, or one of her certified instructors, teach each attendee her foundation paper piecing method and puts them on track to create a stunning, intricate quilt.

In your local area, you may be able to find quilt retreats sponsored by local quilt shops, the local quilt guilds, or even a local church. These retreats usually take place in a local hotel or sometimes at church camps and last 3 days. There is usually no instruction at these retreats – its a time for quilters to have dedicated sewing time and a social time with other quilters. These retreats will usually have anywhere from 20 to 40 attendees.

After attending a few quilt retreats sponsored by local quilt shops, I decided to explore the possibility of using our Grizzly Cabin as a retreat center during the off season. The retreats I had attended had anywhere from 24-32 attendees. I found in retreats of this size there ended up being groups of 4-8 quilters and there usually ended up being one or two gals that got left out.

Of course, initially, the size of my retreat was limited by the available room in the Grizzly Cabin. Using my drafting skills, I determined the maximum number of quilters I could accommodate comfortably was 8. I decided a minimum of 4 quilters was still feasible so I set up my retreats to accommodate from 4-8 quilters. Scott and I discussed the possibility of building a retreat center to accommodate up to 20 quilters but after experiencing the groups at the larger retreats, I decided I wanted to keep my retreats a different kind of retreat – small and intimate.

Smoky Bear Creek Retreats

Smoky Bear Creek Retreat Setup
Smoky Bear Creek Retreat Setup

The Grizzly Cabin makes a great retreat center. It has 2 bedrooms and a bathroom in the upstairs half loft and another 2 bedrooms and a bathroom on the main level. Each bedroom upstairs has a queen bed and a twin bed. Each bedroom downstairs have 2 twins. Even though one of the downstairs bedrooms has 2 sets of bunk beds, I don’t use the upper bunk beds for my retreat ladies.

The west side of the great room is set up with sewing tables. A 19” x 30” adjustable height table is set up for each quilter and then 2 quilters will share a 30” x 48” table. With the adjustable height tables, you can adjust it to a height that works best for you – some ladies like their sewing table higher and if you’re like me, you like it a bit shorter. You can store extra supplies and/or projects under the larger table. Or if you bring several projects so you won’t run out of things to do or need a change of pace from time to time, it’s easy to keep extra projects in your bedroom as they are just a few steps away from your sewing space.


There are also a couple of ironing boards with steam irons set up available for our quilters to use. I’m one of those quilters that is addicted to light so I provide a lamp with a daylight light bulb for each quilter. A wooden kitchen chair is provided for each quilter but many ladies like to bring their own, more comfortable, adjustable height chair. And lastly, there is a design wall hung up for you to lay out your quilt blocks before sewing them together.

On the east side of the great room is a full kitchen with a large 4′ x 8′ table. This large table has 5 cutting mats to be used by all the ladies. There are risers for this table to make it a more comfortable height for cutting. I know transporting those larger rulers can be a hassle so I make available several larger squares and longer rulers for everyone to use.

We also use this table for our meals – yes we all sit around one table, family style. I simply remove the risers so the table becomes the normal height for meals. My retreats are full service retreats so all your meals are provided. I use this kitchen to prepare home-cooked meals – the aroma of the meals cooking is great for creating a good appetite.

I’m an avid quilter, I’ve been deeply involved in the quilting world for many years. Of all the things I do, hosting quilt retreats is what I enjoy the most. These are full service, fully hosted retreats so I sew with every retreat group. Hanging around a quilt shop plus interacting with quilters at my retreats for the last several years has provided me with a vast knowledge on different piecing techniques and different quilting tools. This quilting experience makes it possible for me to provide assistance to someone struggling with one of their projects.

A quilt retreat doesn’t have to be just about sewing. If complete dedicated sewing time is what you’re looking for, then our retreats are a great place to do that. But I enjoy taking breaks from my sewing periodically and our facility is in the perfect location to enjoy a walk through the woods and along the North Fork of the Flathead River.

So if you’re looking for a relaxing place to dedicate lots of time to sewing, or need to get away from the rat race of life, or if you love to quilt and love to socialize with other quilters come join us for a weekend. You can register by yourself or with a friend or two and join one of our scheduled retreats. Or if you have a group of 4-8 friends that want to get away for a weekend, register for a private retreat. Check out our quilt retreats and discover what a retreat is really meant to be.

Some kind words from previous retreat attendees!

Wow! What a great quilt retreat, Nancy. The walk with Smoky, yummy food, and lots of time for sewing.
-Laurie, Polson, MT

Thank you so much for a wonderful weekend. I will certainly recommend Smoky Bear Ranch to my friends.
-Jane, Kalispell, MT

I enjoyed my stay at your wonderful cabin for our quilting retreat. Beautiful surroundings and a great dog. I enjoyed my walk with you. The food was good. I look forward to next year.
-Judy M., Bigfork, MT

We enjoyed the retreat sooo much. You did a great job on food, fire, and fun. We will all return sometime. Thanks so much for all your hard work. Enjoyed you helping me too!
-Judy R., Polson, MT