The hobby vacation

When Lisa Edwards, 58, of Toronto started quilting, she expected that she would enjoy the creative and tactile aspects of crafting. What she didn’t expect was to find herself loading up the car two years ago for a 12 hour drive south to stay at a B&B and quilt intensively for 5 days.

Or that her husband John would choose to join her – spending his days in the luxurious contemplation of his “endless stack of magazines I haven’t read” and walking their 4 year old Golden Retriever through the streets of a sleepy Pennsylvania town. Although the couple originally thought they would have the evenings to explore together, Lisa remembers that she spent her time working ahead for the next class. “Once I got into my project I was determined to finish. John said one night that he felt he was getting a huge break but that I was working harder than he’d seen me work in years.”

Welcome to the hobby vacation! It’s a chance to indulge in a passion for a particular handicraft, meet others with the same obsession, take master-level classes or complete an entire project during that time, and get away from it all… well, almost all. Boomers and recent retirees are finding that they enjoy the sense of productivity that comes from a vacation spent learning a new skill or producing a handcrafted work.

It’s the act of creation
“It may be because I’ve spent most of my professional career doing “head stuff,” and working at a desk, but I find it hard to relax on a traditional vacation,” says Lisa. Her husband nods in agreement and adds, “Travelling with Lisa is like boot camp – full itineraries and trying to see everything. I prefer to find a nice spot and just sit…. This was a great combination for us. Lisa got to get things done, and I got to sit.”

But it’s not just about the final product – it’s also about sharing the experience with other enthusiasts. When I ask Lisa what she remembers the most about her trip south she answers instantly, “Laughing so much. Karen Carter, our instructor, was so patient that she made it a great atmosphere, and then the ladies took it from there.” Karen no longer offers the courses but Lisa says she would try another quilting camp “in a heartbeat… once my grandkids are a bit older and I don’t mind being away from them.”

Sam Mack, 61, of Edmonton, Alberta, who has participated in several intensive woodworking vacations, agrees that creating something physical and solid is part of what makes a hobby vacation appealing. “I always want to make the most of working with the kinds of experts who teach these things… but it really is the actual woodworking that gives me the biggest boost. Being able to really stretch myself and create something high quality gives me a high that sitting around on a beach just doesn’t do.” Sam is looking forward to having even more time to travel after he retires.

And it seems that Lisa and Sam will have their pick of camps in the future. Many smaller-town guilds, studios, and craftspeople are finding that by bringing people into their communities to share instruction they can develop new business, and keep their arts alive. The laid-back feel can be a part of the experience.

Local talents
The Rosewood Studio, in Almonte, Ontario, keeps the art of hand-crafted, hand-tooled working alive and well. The one-week classes are particularly suited to those who are moving into a more serious approach, as Peter Myers says on the Rosewood Studio website: “As with many people who come to woodworking in retirement, I began with the machine tools, then progressed to hand ones. After a few years of working on my own, trying to understand both what the wood was demanding and what I could do by myself, I was ready for some instruction…. The whole week was a source of heightened pleasure to me.”

“Quilting Buddies,” Jan and Carla, see their mission as social as well, as they state: “to spread the love of quilting, camaraderie and new friendships that are all born from sharing the art of quilting. Due to the geographical distances in Northern Ontario, we feel that new and exciting workshops should be offered closer to home.” To judge from their weekend retreats – already full for this fall – offering the experience closer to home is definitely a winning approach.

But if spending a vacation learning new techniques and creating handcrafted items isn’t enough for you, check out the Cruise for a Cure, sponsored by The Quilter Magazine. Not only a quilting retreat to spectacular Alaska, this cruise will also raise money for breast cancer research.

Now that’s multitasking.

For more information:
The Rosewood Studio –
Quilting Buddies –
Quilt Cruises –

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