Update: Be sure to see other pictures from Sew Down by searching #sewdown and #sewdownnashville on Instagram!
I returned from Nashville late Sunday night, and I’ve had a few days to let the experience “rest” in my mind. A lot of people at the event talked about scrolling through Instagram to get an impression of the other Sew Downs and give them an idea of what to expect at this one. I’m hoping this post helps someone make a decision about attending a future Sew Down.
I pulled the photos from my Instagram feed (antstosugar). I’m sure there are much better event photos out there, but these are what I captured with my phone.
If you’d like to skip the read to get to the punchline, I’ll deliver it now: go to a Sew Down.
I’ve only been to one other weekend-long quilting workshop, one other quilt retreat hosted by my guild, and to QuiltCon 2013. I mention this so you’ll know where some of my thoughts come from.
1. Meeting Organization: Exceptional
The event materials were detailed, clear, and distributed in a timely manner before the event. I had a question about getting my dad a meal voucher, and Elizabeth responded almost as soon as I emailed – and, of course, had helpful options for all the ways that we could get him into meals with my mom and me. When entering the hotel, I knew just where to go and what to do. I think a sign of a well-run event is that people don’t feel “lost” or confused as to what to do next.
There was a good mix of activities: seeing Anna Maria Horner’s studio, visiting a fabric shop, classes, lectures, open sew – the event really spanned a wide range of activities in a short period of time.
2. Facilities: Needs Work
The quality of the facilities was fine – it was definitely a luxury hotel. Check in wasn’t until 4pm which unfortunately coincided to the exact moment the buses pulled away for Anna Maria Horner’s Studio tour. I called about an early check-in, and was told it’d probably be granted if the hotel wasn’t busy. I was to try to check in at arrival. I waited 3 hours, and my parents waited 6 hours for their room (we arrived at noon).
More importantly though, there weren’t irons in all the classrooms. It certainly doesn’t kill my endorsement of the event, but it’s an inconvenience that could be improved. I heard that all the other Sew Downs had similar electrical capacity issues and needed to have irons separate from the classrooms.
I did like the layout and relationship between all the classes and the meal locations. Everything was located close together.
Wow. I must say, all of the speakers were great. There were definitely speakers that had content that resonated more with who I am and where I am as a quilter (I have a huge quilt-crush on Alexia Abegg now, and I’d certainly recognized her name before – I just didn’t know anything about her). Regardless of the subject matter, all the speakers were good at being in front of a crowd, and I appreciated that.
I also appreciated the diversity of classes – free-motion quilting, techniques for combining improv with templates, paper-piecing, and design planning with piecing and appliqué. Each teacher had a very different approach to delivering information, and I was surprised to find out that some of the most memorable moments for me came from teachers who chose not to deliver lectures but move around the class having quiet conversations with all the participants. I usually love a good, dense lecture (I adore Angela Walters’ teaching style!!!), but I found wonderful take-away moments from the other classes, too.
5. Comparison to QuiltCon
It’s difficult for me to consider Sew Down outside the context of QuiltCon since they’re both hosted by the MQG. I liked Sew Dow a lot better for a number of reasons. I liked the Open Sew opportunities each night that ran from after dinner till midnight. I liked moving through the classes with the same group – it facilitated getting to know people which was a goal of mine. I like the length of Quilt Con – a longer Sew Down would have been fun, but I know that I’m probably one of only a few who think this. Logistically, that wouldn’t work for many.
I think QuiltCon and Sew Down, rightly, try to accomplish different things, but I feel like the best mix of both worlds would be a pre-set QuiltCon package where you could travel through a few classes with a group and have open sewing time to work on your own projects or practice what you’ve learned during the day’s classes.
The food was a little weird, but good. Lunches were very much Bento-Box-meets-Lunchable with oddly matched food – I wish I could recall some of the things we ate, but all I can picture is my amused reaction to seeing what was in those boxes. I hate to sound un-classy, but stick me in a Holiday Inn and toss me a Subway sandwich – just let me sew all day, and I’m happy!
I don’t have any dietary restrictions, but it looked like they tried very hard to accommodate vegetarian, dairy-free and gluten-free needs. You’d have to ask those folks if the organizers succeeded, but like I said, it looked like a lot of effort went into making sure those folks were taken care of.
Out of everything I’ve written, I feel like the most important point to make is that Elizabeth Dackson and Jen Carlton Bailly did an exceptional job of setting a tone for the event that was fun, inclusive, and productive. I think I come across a little more social and outgoing than I really feel on the inside, but I know that’s only possible when I’m comfortable enough to come out of my shell – Elizabeth and Jen really facilitated that environment for me. These guys run a fantastic event, and I’m so grateful that I got to attend!