Go on a stitching retreat!

By AlisonManey, Mon, 2018-06-11 18:58

This feature originally appeared in Crazy issue 230, the July 2017 issue. 

Picture yourself on holiday, meeting new people, relaxing and – best of all – spending your days stitching with your friends! If this sounds like the ideal getaway, you’re not alone. Cross stitchers from all over the world are gathering at luxe hotels for fun-filled weekends of chatting and stitching. Crazy spoke to the organisers behind two of these retreats in the UK to find out a bit more about these stitchy get-togethers…


Meet the Mad Stitchers

After finding out her cross stitch friends in Canada organised regular weekend getaways together, MJ Dion, a devoted stitcher for the past twenty years, decided she had to make the same thing happen in the UK. To do this, she founded a Facebook group called Mad Stitchers UK Retreats and Supply (originally called Mad HAEDers due to its early focus on Heaven and Earth Designs). 

The concept is simple – members of the group find hotels to host weekend get-togethers and set up various retreats themselves, purely for the love of stitching. Interested members sign up, pay a fee and spend a whole weekend hanging out at a hotel just stitching and talking.

“There are some breaks to allow for fuel to enter our body, but we then go straight back to stitching and gabbing,” explains MJ. “Having a regimented agenda wouldn’t work for us – we want it to be flexible and for people to be able to relax.” 

The retreats also include the chance to top up stash via raffles and ‘secret stitcher’ – like secret Santa, but for stitchers.



Rise of the retreat

The popularity of the Mad Stitchers’ retreats has exploded since its first event in February 2016. The group now has 400 members on Facebook from around the world and of all abilities and ages. “It’s fun to see cross stitch as a bridge through the generational gap,” says MJ. “You’ll see two people of very different ages talk to each other as if they’ve known each other all their lives because they have cross stitch in common.” 

The group has now held four retreats with 20-60 people attending each one, all at De Vere Group hotels. More retreats, in locations such as Glasgow and Nottingham, are also in the works. The group’s main annual retreat occurs in February, in Crewe.

The group can host as many retreats as its members desire, says MJ. “The premise of the group is for people to step up and organise their own retreats locally – the group is right there with a pool of potential attendees. Ideally, we would have retreats popping up all over the UK.” 

The group also allows small businesses to advertise on the Facebook group, attend the retreats and donate raffle prizes.

For all the work that goes into these retreats, Mad Stitchers is still purely a passion project. When asked if she makes any profit from the venture, MJ says, “Not a penny! We’re not a business or organisation of any sort – just like-minded people who want to meet up once in a while.

“I’m really pleased to see the community thrive,” she concludes with enthusiasm. “We have found our tribe!”



Take it up a notch

Not all cross stitch retreats are set up by stitchers themselves – crafty businesses are getting in on the act as well, such as F&W Media, the company behind cross stitch mega-retailer Sew and So. The company has hosted four Craft Sanctuary events, with more planned. These getaways involve fun stitching get-togethers, plus a variety of workshops and tutors to help stitchers learn new techniques. 

“All [Craft Sanctuary events] feature cross stitch and embroidery,” explains Jade Baker-Edwards, Sales and Events Administrator at F&W Media, “but have a different mix of themes, subjects and tutors.”

For instance, a forthcoming event taking place from 25th-27th August is called Stitch Tropicana. Workshops include one hosted by Floss & Mischief’s Genevieve Brading on blending colours on a needle to make a cross stitch parakeet. There’s also a session on how to create a stumpwork tropical fish with Sophie Long, one of the team that worked on Kate Middleton’s wedding dress. 

Other themes have included Stitch Into Spring, Add a Little Sparkle, Cross Stitch and Embroidery and Cross Stitch and Beaded Embroidery, featuring workshops taught by experts such as Crazy designers Maria Diaz and Lucie Heaton, Hannah Sturrock of Bobo Stitch, tutors from the Royal School of Needlework and more.

“Stitchers get to escape to a beautiful hotel, gain new or develop skills taught by expert tutors, receive lots of free goodies and make new like-minded friends,” says Jade. “All workshop kits, tuition, food and accommodation are included so it really is a hassle-free break!”



Friends first

As with the Mad Stitchers retreats, the organisers are especially enthusiastic about the community that forms at these retreats. “Cross stitch and embroidery tend to be solitary hobbies,” says Jade, “and I’m sure many of us can relate to having friends and family whose eyes glaze over at the mere mention of thread count! What’s really special about these retreats is that guests can completely immerse themselves in crafting and are surrounded by people who are just as passionate.” 

She reports that a group of regular attendees now keep in contact outside of the events, too. “It’s lovely to witness friendships blossom – we’re so happy to have started a Craft Sanctuary family.”

Find out more about Mad Stitchers by joining the group on Facebook, and learn more about Craft Sanctuary at www.sewandso.co.uk l






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