When it became unavoidable that our annual spring sewing retreat in May would have to be canceled, we were sad and disappointed. Many of us look forward to retreat each year as an opportunity to get away from our daily lives and sew in the company of our fellow guild members.
It was amazing, and so much fun. It really felt like a real retreat, which I was not expecting. Loved it ❤️
However, in the same board meeting where we cancelled the retreat, we immediately started planning an online “virtual” retreat for the same dates. We formed a committee and quickly established an overall cadence for sync ups, individual and group activities and, of course, plenty of free sewing time.
We amped up the goody bags so that participants felt special and had something physical to anchor them to the event, and charged a nominal fee for the event to cover our time and expenses. We expected most of the activity to be open sewing, but we organized some group events to ensure that we connected with other members for discussions and sharing. We also included some group sewing projects like charity blocks and shared projects where we all made the same thing using materials provided in the goody bag.
This was a joyous event to remember!
After a kick-off event via Zoom, where we walked through the high-level schedule, introduced group projects, and went over some basic Zoom etiquette, we simply left the Zoom “sewing room” open 24/7 for people to come and go as their individual schedules allowed. The overall schedule was flexible with some group events and a variety of conversation check-ins and show & tell to be sure that people felt connected with each other in this virtual format. Daily emails and Instagram posts kept everyone informed and on track for the days activities.
The entire event was pulled together with our dedicated website which provided all of the details for the Daily Schedule, Group and Individual Activities, and a fun “scavenger hunt” game to motivate members to connect and create.
I loved the sense of community this event brought to the entire guild.
One of the highlights of the weekend was our daily “cocktail hour” led by a guest mixologist/friend-of-the-guild, where we used ingredients prepped ahead of time via a shopping list provided in the Goody bag. These cocktails were a fun and delicious way to take a break from sewing and start our evenings together.
Another fun group event was a spa mask that was provided in the goody bag. We all got to relax and laugh a little as we donned our masks and took a minute to sit back from our machines and relax.
It filled me up in a way that I so needed at this time.
Over half of our membership attended the retreat and some of the events were better attended that our online meetings at that time. The retreat officially ended on Sunday afternoon, but some members stayed in the “sewing room” until after midnight that day! We definitely learned some lessons for next time, everyone provided great feedback on the event and the vast majority of members said they would attend another Virtual Retreat in the future.
Starting with the hand delivery of Goody Bags to each member and ending with a Wrap-Up Celebration drawing prizes and thanking our dedicated volunteers, our Virtual Retreat was an overwhelming success. We felt so strongly about the positive experience that we quickly scheduled a webinar to share our experience with other leaders in the quilting community.
It will be sad when things go quiet again at home. This retreat has been such a treat 🌈😀