I just experienced my first sewing retreat with the ladies of the American Sewing Guild Chapter in Alaska, and after a few hours of “sew-coma,” I have recovered enough to post some photos and reminisce.

When I first arrived at the Pioneer Inn in Wasilla, I wondered if I was in the right place. After one look into the main room, I thought that either I had stumbled upon a sweat shop or I must have found it. Wall to wall machines of every make and model filled the sunny south side of the inn, and I found the crew finishing a delectable dinner in the living room. Introductions all around were a bit overwhelming, between three Karens and ten other strangers, but after settling in to some sewing, the heckling began, and I started to learn each person’s latest project, sense of humor, sewing passion, preference in adult beverages, and bedtime. At 11 PM I called it a night, though I wish I had stayed, having finished a pair of pajama bottoms (my first garment ever!) and feeling sleepier by the minute.

I arrived just after breakfast was served by the innkeeper on Saturday morning, and production was soon underway. Consultations with the sage sewing masters in the group, a lunch presentation by Linda on couture sewing, and breakneck production speed made the time fly. With extensive help from everyone, including my mom, I completed a matching pajama top, a sports bra, and at the wee hour of 1:30 AM, a fair-isle wool hat. Learning experiences were had by all: I picked up how to use a serger, how to put in elastic and work with knits, the ins and outs of the Master Knitter program, and more. Other ladies took on projects that challenged their skills, patience, and equipment, and most of us took a trip to the Wasilla Jo-Ann fabrics for a break, the $3 pattern sale, and inspiration. No one escaped a runway-style walk, complete with photo shoot, for all finished projects, except for the quilters, whose progress was noted and appreciated.

Most folks headed out with their boxes and bags before 3 PM Sunday. Mom and Etta were the last to leave, reluctantly packing up trusty sewing machines with presser feet down and fabric in the needle. The work of packing up all the equipment needed for proper sewing and dining (they’re inseperable, those two) at the end of the weekend was made harder due to exhaustion and reluctance to leave. As snow covered the icy roads, we fishtailed out the driveway, sadly leaving behind the space where pajamas are appropriate at any hour of the day or night; where any frustration can be eased by a friend with the right tool or tip; and where (most) children, significant others, and animals can’t interrupt all-important and often-ignored sewing.