The Creative Retreat :: A Wrap Up

I’ve sat down more than ten times now to draft a post about The Creative Retreats – the very first ones held this past couple of weeks and I’ve been so overcome with the responses and the experiences that I’ve not had the words, they just won’t come. So I asked an attendee,the gorgeous and uber talented Jessica Wheelahan, to help me out. Here, she describes the Retreat as she experienced it:

The Creative Retreat promised a three day getaway where our time would be devoted to our own creative pursuits, we’d have nothing to do but relax and explore and build on our creativity.

What was delivered went far and away above and beyond. I wanted for nothing. I literally felt buoyed up, cushioned and supported by a marshmallow cloud of care.  My three days away were nothing short of bliss.

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Arriving, I found an idyllic country setting.  It was chilly but the sky was high and blue and the sun beamed down.  The beautiful Southern Highlands – Rolling hills, picture perfect cows and horses, bird calls and a flash of a darting parrot here and there.

On entering the retreat guesthouse I found a buzzing hive of activity, everyone hushed and concentrating.  I was late and an activity had been set.  The central room was warmed by a roaring fire, fellow retreat goers had machines set up and stashes were spilling out of cases in a spacious layout of tables in the centre of the bright room.  Around the perimeter of the hall were the bedrooms, design walls already set up like blank canvases begging for that first mark to be made… this was going to be perfect.  DSC_0191

We’d arrived with supplies and the beginning of an idea.  These were discussed as a group and we were helped with deciding on a project.  Individual ideas ranged from experiences of travel to something skill based, an inspiring photo, or artist to the deeply emotional and visceral.

Mine was an idea which had been percolating for a while.  One which had already been a ‘false start’ so I knew that I would need a long stretch of uninterrupted sewing time to develop my idea.  I tend to ‘snatch’ sewing time at home – 10 mins here and there as a low order priority around the other tasks that a busy working mother must see to.  That’s why The Creative Retreat and its promise of three days of stitching appealed to me.

A found vintage block had inspired a vision.  A bright quilt in solids alone with improv crosses and arrows following my style – a ‘Go your own way’ quilt (Fleetwood mac were playing!) I had also packed my stash of vintage fabrics, a riot of colour and pattern.  I thought if my primary idea didn’t work out I might find some encouragement to cut where I previously had not been able to!

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It didn’t matter what our individual goals were, Cheryl was skilled enough to guide us on the path.  She was gentle, she listened and allowed us the space to develop our own ideas into something special.  These were our quilts and regardless of skill or experience Cheryl supported us and we were encouraged to achieve.

It is at this point that I need to describe the way that The Creative Retreat in Jules and her team ‘had our backs’.  Ample provisions of the very best from T2 tea and fresh roasted coffee with homemade treats ranging from Afghan biscuits to syrupy gluten free cakes and fruit always on offer, perfection right down to the final detail.  Meals were generous and designed to suit every taste.  Each meticulously planned and prepared by Jules, they were nourishing and flavoursome.

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Nothing was too much trouble.  At one point in my design process I was creating blocks to flow on from the ones I already had on my design wall… behind me… I pondered out loud that it would be much better if I was looking straight ahead at my blocks and as though I had waved a magic wand with the instruction ‘make it so’ a new design wall materialised in front of my eyes!  -Thankyou Cheryl!

As the time wore on and we became comfortable in our little community the sew–along turned into a sing–along and contentedly we stitched the days away, sharing, laughing, bonding.

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Each morning I woke at around 9am having sat up late sewing,chatting and laughing.  What a guilty pleasure – not setting an alarm.  I found my ‘Batteries’ were recharging and my mind was relaxing as my creative spark was coming to fruition and that sense of frustration with not having enough hours in the day to achieve all my creative goals was replaced with a deep sense of satisfaction of having achieved what I had set out to do.  For a creative person held back by the pressures of life this feeling is like nothing else in the world!

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By The last few hours of the retreat on Monday my quilt top was taking shape.  I wasn’t alone, looking around the room there were projects nearing completion on every available design wall.  We were proud of our efforts and so were Cheryl and Jules, sincerely so.

The Creative Retreat is a new venture for Jules McMahon and in my mind it hits the spot, bullseye, bingo, Eureka, Cowabunga!  I can’t recommend it highly enough and hope to be involved next time Jules and her carnival of creative energy and encouragement roll my way.  A big smoochy thankyou to Jules, her team and Cheryl Arkison the superstar.

Mornings, productivity and memories

Ha! I’ve just been looking through the “drafts” folder in the back-end of my blog and I came across a number of posts I’ve never hit the “publish” button on…

This one is rather relevant. Recently I’ve had quite a bit going on. There’s been the launch of The Creative Retreat, a pattern release, a trip to QuiltCon and a family holiday that followed (must post about all the inspiration I found there!), teaching gigs, MQG business, more business business that I’ll get to sharing in the next little while and well, managing daily life with three small people and two (apparent) grown-ups in the house!

Morning Time

To combat the crazy, and to give myself some time to gather my thoughts before the day starts, I’ve been religiously getting out of bed at 5:10 every day. Every. single. day. Not 5am exactly, I just couldn’t set my alarm at 5am. There’s an insight into my brain for you – 5am is waaaaayyyy too early to comprehend, but 5:10, that’s just perfectly fine – it’s ok, I give you permission to roll your eyes at me!

The rules of this early wake up is that no electronics are allowed. No laptop, no phone, no iPad, absolutely naught. It’s been the silence I’ve been so desperately craving and I’ve so much more clarity of thought when the work day begins because I’ve woken up in a calm and quiet manner.

You should know, I’m not a morning person. I’ll happily stay up through the night until the morning hours but getting out of bed where it’s warm and snuggly, that’s never really been my thing. So, it was rather timely I came across the post below – originally written on January 14, 2013 when the smallest was a little over a year old… Seems like forever ago and just yesterday at the same time. She’s still an early riser and I’m really loving the warm, still half-asleep cuddles I get when she comes and finds me with my tea and sketchbook.

I’m curious to know, what are your morning rituals? How you find your still quiet place?

Here’s the old post:


She’s an early riser this smallest girl of mine. Put quite simply, I am not a morning person! However, in the heat of these past few weeks, I am enjoying the cool of the early mornings.

And while she rises early, she sleeps again soon after. The Mr has been taking her for an early walk to let the rest of us sleep but, it seems only fair that I should take my turn at getting up and heading out. I am so very glad I did. We walked for an hour through the suburbs to a local(ish) cafe and thankfully, they were open at 7am. The small was asleep by the time we arrived so there I sat.

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It has been so long since I’ve seen a sunrise, and what a pleasure it has been. And to have walked for almost two hours, had coffee, read the paper and crocheted before 9am, well I could be convinced to get up earlier more often. Maybe…

What about you? Are you an early riser? What do you like about mornings?

Jules xx

New Quilt Pattern Release – after a little kick along!

Kite Tail Tango Full Shot Procrasticraft

Kite Tail Tango

Last week I had an email from Sonja about one of my classes. She wanted to know when I was next teaching improv triangles. With my new venture, The Creative Retreat, coming up so soon and a trip to Salt Lake City for Quilt Market before then, I’ve not scheduled any extra classes on top of my beginners courses at my LQS, Addicted to Fabric.

Sonja wanted to know if she couldn’t do a class, perhaps I had a pattern or technique sheet she could buy… Well, I did. I do! Only, I’ve not sold my patterns as a stand alone before – I use them in the classes I teach but have never really got to listing them for sale – the whole pdf vs paper pattern debate had me stumped. Thanks to a prompt, I’ve just listed two patterns for sale in my online store. Both Kite Tail Tango and Quilt the Universe are available now. Thanks Sonja for prompting me to get going on this!

Procrasticraft Quilt the Universe

Quilt the Universe