Sunday, October 18, 2015

NNC Craft Retreat 2015 – the preparations (Part 1 of 4)

The much awaited event finally arrived!

After months of preparation, many sleepless night and countless anxieties attacks, the NNC Craft Retreat planned since July 2015 finally arrived!

I have wanted to do a Craft Retreat for the last 3 years. I have been talking about it, dreaming about it, had many discussions with the NNC group members, had a few disappointments and frustrations along the way when initially the response wasn’t good, but, finally, it became a reality, and I can safely say, it was a success!

First I must thank Diane, who, even though she is halfway around the world, was the person who guided me and gave me strength to go ahead with it, despite many disappointments and frustrations as I tried to organise for the very first time, an event I had been dreaming of to do for the longest time.

I must also thank my hubby, who has been very patient with me, for putting up with me turning the house upside down with all the things needed for the Retreat, as the event drew closer and closer. LOL!

Of course, I must also thank my Co-Moderators, Paul and Margaret, for helping me with some decision-making with regards to organising the Retreat, and for their support.

I knew at the start of my planning, that I wanted to do a Retreat where the projects we were going to be doing would appeal to a variety of craft interest and all levels of sewing skills, from beginners with at least some basic sewing skill to advance.

I chose the Etui Sewing Box as a first project, because I think everyone who is into sewing would appreciate having a sewing box with all its accessories.

So, with the Etui Sewing box kit, I threw in a bonus pack of accessories to go with it. That way, every participant can go home and start using their Etui Sewing Box right away!

The second project I chose was a Lotus bag, which I think would be an easy project to do for any beginner as it involves only straight sewing. It was like an origami bag as you fold it and it opens out into a cute little bag that any little girl, or even adults, would love to have!

As for the 3rd project, I gave two options to choose from – a Reversible Bag or the Dresden Plate Quilt Block.

I thought the Reversible Bag would appeal to those wanting to learn how to make a simple bag, while the Dresden Plate Block would appeal to those who wanted to learn to make a new block they have yet to give a try.

photo courtesy of Zarina Shamsudin

Once the projects were decided upon, I had to start planning and buying all the materials needed to make up the kits.

I travel a lot for work. Even though I started planning the Retreat in July, under normal circumstances, I would have 3 months to get everything organised. But with my constant travel, I was afraid that I might end up with very little time to get things ready.

I was right! The last month prior to the Retreat, I was outstation for work almost every other day, going from Penang to Terengganu to Melaka and the last week before the Retreat, I made a trip to Langkawi to visit my son who was sitting for his PT3 exams.

I almost had to travel outstation again just a day before the Retreat!

Luckily I had a dependable assistant who could take over from me so that I can take leave for the Retreat! LOL! Phew!    

So as soon as I confirmed the venue for the Retreat and the minimum number of participants needed to make it worthwhile to go ahead with the Retreat, I started planning on the things I needed to buy to make up the kits. I also had to think about the tools and other materials that the participants new to the crafts would need to have but would not know where to get them from.

I sourced my materials from Kevin from Quilt Friends and Corine from Penang, besides diving into my large collection of stash to make up the kits. 

I had to buy some from Spotlight IPC too to make up the balance of materials needed for the projects.

I wanted the participants to be happy with the projects that they were doing. I didn’t want to make up a kit that might end up being thrown away because the participants didn’t like the colour of their projects.

I remembered an NNC member telling me that she once hated a kit she got from a class she attended because the colour she got was not her choice of colour. She ended up dumping the kit away.

I didn’t want that. I wanted, as much as possible, for all the participants to go home happy and proud of their work and to treasure it as a piece of work that they had learned at the first ever NNC Retreat in 2015.

So I set about making a Registration Form that included preference for colours. I had some requests for preference of motifs, but it was something I could not fulfill because I would end up buying too much fabric, and that was not economically feasible.

I had so much fun going through my stash and buying more (Yup! BUYING MORE! LOL!) stash to fulfil each colour preference, but I had a lot of headaches too, *LOL!* trying to match and coordinate the fabrics for each person’s kit. But when each kit was completed and seeing how almost everyone was satisfied when they received their kits on the first day of the Retreat, made every headache and time spent matching and coordinating each and every kit to match each and every participant was very well worth it!

I felt a sense of satisfaction that at least I had achieved one of the targets set for the Retreat – for the participants to be happy with their kits.

I apologize if there are any participants who were not happy with the kits they got. I’ll try to do better next time. Next time??!! LOL! *grin*

Next thing to prepare for were the notes for the Retreat. That was another headache and time consuming as I set about making the notes, writing, and making sure that I did not infringe on any copyright law, and eventually printing out and binding the notes into booklets easy to refer to.

There were tutorials that could be made copies of to be distributed, but mostly, they were for personal use only.

So I had to make my own notes from scratch, or, for some, I could only list down the list of materials and told the participants to take notes as I teach so that they can recall what they had learned and can do the projects again should they want to do another one in the future.

As much as it was time consuming, I actually enjoyed making up the notes, especially when they eventually turned into little Note Booklets which the participants can easily refer to as they were in an easily handled A5 size.

Next came the templates for each project.

The most time consuming was the Etui Sewing Box template.

Cutting cardboard was no easy tasks. I was beginning to have shoulder aches from too much cutting.

An option was to make the participants cut the cardboard templates themselves, but then, it would be too time consuming, and some might even end up with crooked templates that might not square up when completed. Then it would be time down the drain and money wasted.

So I ended up recruiting a friend to help me out to cut the templates.

He was God sent. If it wasn’t for his dedication to cut all the templates, all 20 of them, with each kit having 8 pieces, I don’t think I would have been able to do it on my own.

With the template preparation taken over by a friend, it freed my time to focus on other things, especially to cut up all the blades for the Dresden Plate Quilt Block which requires 20 blades for each kit plus a circle for the center and the piece to lay the Dresden plates on.

It was very time consuming cutting every piece of the blade without a die, but I persevered. *grin* 

It also took a lot of my time to painstakingly trace every Reversible Bag template onto the interfacing, cutting them and ironing them onto the fabric. But I decided to do that so that the participants can get right into starting the project immediately, instead of spending time tracing, cutting, ironing and cutting again.

I wanted the participants to go back with a completed project over the 2 days, or, at least an almost completed project that they can go home and complete all on their own because I had enough time to show them all the steps needed to complete the projects.

If the participants had to spend time tracing, cutting, ironing and cutting again, I think we would end up with completing only 2 projects or less by the end of the 2nd day.

I wanted to make sure that everyone goes home happy and satisfied. That was a target set for the Retreat right from day 1.

I know I cannot please everyone, but at least I want to try to minimize on the complaints as much as I can.

Having  to hear someone said that my choice of projects were boring and uninteresting was hurtful already, but I guess it comes with the job! *grin*

Oh! I also wanted everyone to have a great time, not just learning but making new friends too. I even made a name card for everyone to put on their table! *grin*

Cousin-in-law Zuraidah calls me meticulous! LOL!

I’ll take that as a compliment! Thanks! *wink*

I spent almost every evening after work that I was not outstation and on weekends (minus the weekends that we had weddings to attend or compulsory visits to my in-laws and my mum) preparing all the project kits which included the tracing, cutting, ironing, more cutting, and writing, editing, printing and binding the Note Booklets.

I ended up investing in a binding machine so that I can do the binding myself in the wee hours of the night on some nights as the Retreat date drew closer.

It was an exciting feeling as I packed up each and every kit. Each kit completed put a smile on my face as I imagine the person getting it.

I couldn’t help teasing the participants by posting sneak peeks and teasers, just to get the participants excited too! LOL!

Option 2 - Dresden Plate Quilt Block set plus Lotus Bag and Etui
Option 1 - Reversible Bag set plus Lotus Bag and Etui

With the kits all done up, I focused on getting a kit ready for myself to use as teaching material.

I only managed to do that, thank God for the Awal Muharam public holiday just 2 days before the Retreat.

When everything was all ready and packed up into boxes for ease in carrying, I ended up having 5 boxes containing the project kits and other tools and materials needed but not included in the kits, 2 irons, 2 ironing boards, 2 cutting mats, and my sewing machine. My little red Kembara was packed to the brim with all the things for the Retreat! LOL!

I went to bed late the night before the Retreat, packing up any last minute things needed for the Retreat, but I could hardly sleep as I was feeling anxious and nervous in case things wouldn’t go according to plan.

I was practically tossing and turning all night long! I was getting worried that I would start getting gastritis problems, but luckily, everything went smoothly.

The Day of the Retreat....... look out for next posting!

1 comment:

Diane Merlock said...

Wonderful projects!!! Glad to hear that all that preparation paid off!