See below for information on our annual retreat at Beer.

SWQ Ashbury Sewing Bee 2020

Members and friends are invited to join this Retreat from January 9th to 13th 2020, at The Ashbury Sport and Craft Hotel in Okehampton, Devon. 4 nights available in single, twin or triple rooms.

Your own sewing station, 10 minute workshops twice daily, show and tell and group photo on last evening.

Full use of all hotel facilities, spa, crafts and therapies.

Prices on application. Apply for last 12 places by sending SAE to
Mrs D A Perry. 17 Brocks Mount, Stoke-sub-hamdon, Somerset TA14 6PJ. Enquiries 01935 822703.

SWQ Beer Reatreat 2020

We are delighted Brenda Thomas has agreed to be our tutor for our retreat in Beer next year. The dates Sunday 26th January until Friday 31st January 2020.

Brenda began making textile pictures after she retired in 2010, and in less than 10 years has won numerous competitions. Her first venture into quilting competitions was in 2015 entering the National Quilt Championships, and her quilt won three prizes. More successes followed including her piece “Early Flight” winning Visitor’s Choice at Westpoint in the Spring of 2017, (a photograph appeared on the cover of our Summer 2017 magazine), after which she agreed to talk to us at our Christmas meeting at Exeter Racecourse in November 2017. Our next step – ask her to be a tutor at our retreat.

Brenda says people think of her quilts as ‘happy quilts’, while she describes them as pictorial wall hangings in the naïve style. Brenda lives in the West Country and our coastal path has inspired many of her pieces. They often feature brightly coloured seaside scenes with houses, boats, balloons and lots of extra little details many including her dog Murphy. A gallery of 20 of her quilts toured the country with Grosvenor Shows in 2018 entitled “Mostly by the Sea”.

At our next retreat Brenda will help us create our own ‘happy’ wall hanging using her technique, maybe adapting one of our own photographs provided it has a simple image – or we might copy one of her patterns – an example is shown on the inside back page of this magazine, or browse the web, her work appears on several websites.

Click here for the 2020 Beer retreat booking form.

Beer Retreats Venue

Telephone: 01297 20068

South West Quilters hold their Retreat during the last week in January each year at the Dolphin Hotel in Beer in South Devon. It is a Grade II listed building and is a family run Hotel. The Workshop is held in the Function Room, which we hire for our use alone for the five days. The Retreat runs from Sunday afternoon through till the following Friday afternoon, and the cost includes Bed & Breakfast at the Hotel and the tuition during the five days.

For the evenings we also have use of a very pretty cottage situated opposite the hotel carpark where we gather after the workshop has finished for the day, around an open fire, and indulge in afternoon tea and homemade cake, and discuss where we will eat for that evening – sometimes a pub, sometimes a takeaway, sometimes a bistro. We then return to the cottage for a glass of wine and natter etc. before retiring.

Beer is a very pretty fishing village, and as part of the Jurassic coast, there are many walks along the cliffs in both directions, and deep sea fishing provides fresh fish regularly available for purchase (for when you leave) from the beach shop.

For more information go to

Beer Retreat 2019 with Abbie Anne Searle

It was brilliant to be in Beer again this year to take part in the retreat with Abbie Anne Searle as the tutor. A brilliant and never tiring tutor who was in the workroom straight after breakfast and didn’t leave until just before dinner. Thank you Abbie for being such a fun and generous tutor.

I, along with many others, were a little hesitant about the first day which was to be our painting day, although I had met Abbie at Malvern who assured me none of us were to be worried or concerned about our artistic ability to paint. Abbie was of course correct, we all managed to create some kind of landscape on Monday, but more of that when you read the in-depth diary in the next issue. Abbie was also confident that we were going to be able to achieve more than a painted landscape in the week – and of course she was correct, she was a tutor and experienced at coping with various levels of competency in colour selection as well as machining. We were taught her method of reverse applique and were spoilt with the choice of designs that she brought with her that we were to try and reproduce. More details in the diary next issue.

But as always the retreat is not only a week full of sewing, sometimes with frowns on our faces, it includes the social times too, getting to know each other better. Going for walks along the cliff path to Seaton or just along the beachfront in Beer to stretch legs and relax shoulders which have become a little rounded! Plus of course exchanging stories, experiences and tips and very important much laughter while dining as a group in different locations or playing games or trying a small craft project in the cottage each evening.

Overall, Beer provides the perfect location and combined with a fantastic tutor and students that all are determined to have an enjoyable week, we do have a great time. Some (not all!!!) of the fun and success we all have will be detailed in the diary in the next issue, so watch this space.
Joan Collings

So what can I say as a visiting tutor….. fabulous fun….. jolly!!

A wonderful group of ladies, up for a challenge and a bit of creative fun is always a pleasure to tutor. You all went that little bit further for me even if your natural preferences were stretched rather and for that I thank you all. As a tutor, if everybody has been smiling, learning and producing I feel I have succeeded. I’m fully aware there may be a few UFO’s from such a large group, but how nicely you all played together for me! I’m looking forward to seeing some spectacular finishes……..

Thank you to the organisers who went that bit further than necessary, lovely extra catering and fun evening entertainment….. I’m never going to be any good at quizzes, as my team mate pointed out, we didn’t even manage to win a wooden spoon!!

Hugs and happy creating to All!!
Abbie Anne Searle

2018 Retreat at Beer

Sunday 21st January to Friday 26th January 2018

Tutor: Anne Hellyer

We arrived at The Dolphin Hotel in the afternoon and after filling the function room with masses of equipment and checking in we made our way to Lavender Cottage for cream tea!
It was great to meet old friends and some new faces and our tutor Anne Hellyer and her husband.
We then settled in to our hotel rooms before going back to the cottage for pre-dinner refreshments and then back to the hotel for a delicious meal.
On returning to the cottage Anne had arranged her creations all around the room. Her houses are amazing and she had created a new design of Beer. We had plenty of food for thought overnight……..which one would we choose!
Went to bed full of food and mind buzzing!
Flis Nye

After Anne’s talk on Saturday at Bovey Tracey, I couldn’t make up my mind on which design to choose, – they were all so lovely, but on arriving in the sewing room, I found out that I wasn’t alone!
The Beer scene was beautiful, but I decided to make a row of houses to hang in my bathroom, so I decided on a wall hanging without any cut out windows. Next to decide on the number and colour of the houses, a winter or summer scene and did I want boats and sea or beach huts and sand?
Anne was an excellent tutor and got us all sorted and by lunch time we were all busy sewing. Time went so quickly and soon it was too dark to sew.
We went to the Anchor for our dinner, I had a lovely meal, and back to the cottage for a few quizzes. A very enjoyable evening. I must say that as a “first time retreater”, I was made very welcome and soon felt part of the group. I had a really lovely time. Thank you all.
Loraine Folland

My first time at a SWQ retreat. What a wonderful few days spent in lovely Beer with strangers becoming friends on the first day. Ann Hellyer took us stage by stage throughout, some did scenes of fishermens’ cottages, others rows of houses for all seasons, using the free motion sewing. Roll on the next session, next year.

Wet Wednesday
So the last day with our tutor Anne dawned, another wet day, but who could feel miserable with all the lovely coloured fabrics we were working with. Beer Cottages were being constructed, houses were having embellishments added – glitter abounded, no need for extra snow for the houses.
Anne was incredibly generous with her time and materials, and those who wanted to make more houses were able to get more fabrics for those.
Anne spent time explaining the finishing instructions for both designs before leaving at lunchtime.
Afternoon off after looking for directions four of us ventured to Sidmouth to check out the patchwork shop, there were varies directions obtained, one of which involved a ford, yes we took that route fortunately it didn’t turn into a boating trip due to the excellent East Devon signage! Some purchases were made and a branch work to the sea front, there were even surfers out that afternoon.
Dinner was at the Anchor and then back to the Cottage for another evening of fun.
Teresa Summerfield

With somewhat reduced numbers, and with our tutor gone, work progressed quietly through the morning. At 11 o’clock we all gathered round Jean who introduced us to the delights of water-soluble machine embroidery to further enhance our work. Hush fell again afterwards; just the hum of our busy machines and gentle chatter in the background.
The evening was a different matter. After our meal in the hotel, we retired to Lavender Cottage for games and hilarity, spiced with a glass of wine or two. We were entertained with jokes and quizzes, pass-the-parcel-to-left-and-right (some of us having forgotten which was which), advice on bladder training and how best to prepare for mammograms. There were prizes for those who won games and prizes for those who didn’t. Everyone enjoyed themselves and returned to the hotel happy and tired.
Jan Purrett

Friday morning saw all the cases packed and out of the rooms. We had breakfast together for the last time. The Dolphin Hotel had looked after us all so well. After a fantastic week in which we learnt so much, laughed a lot and made new friends and met up with old ones, it was sadly time for the last workshop.
Jenny Crossland showed us how to make an open ended zip bag. A rather clever item which is brilliant for any sewing room or to take to workshops. Also it can be used for holidays carrying make up and brushes or anything you choose. We thoroughly enjoyed making such an unusual useful fabric container.
It was all to soon that the morning was over and it was time to pack the machines away and say goodbye to everyone
Claire and Share

2017 Beer Retreat Diary

Retreat members arrived at the Dolphin Hotel from lunchtime on Sunday. It was a beautiful sunny day and everyone seemed excited about what was to come. It was nice to meet old and new friends as we filled the function room with our sewing paraphernalia.
Jan Hassard, our tutor, arrived as well and her husband helped her put her quilts on display and joined us for a cream tea at Lavender Cottage.
After settling into our rooms we had a lovely meal in the hotel.
Then Jan gave us an insight into her work and told us what we would be doing during the retreat. She had brought quite a few of her other quilts to show us, exquisite as usual.
We all went to bed anticipating a creative week.
Felicity Nye


So we know what we are meant to be doing after Jan’s talk of the night before.
Half and quarter square triangles, bias edges, I’ve never been a fan of them, but I had used my Christmas money to buy the fabric, maybe more than was strictly necessary but I was aiming big, single bed size. We had to arrange our colours for spirals into a pleasing combination of 2 lots of 3 colours ranged from light to dark. We then created the dreaded half square triangles of these fabrics. Then came the quarter square triangles and a scant quarter of an inch seam. It was going well so far. I was getting into my stride piecing away happily.
For the other members of the group the colour combinations were more difficult to work out, I had being pushed for time with work had gone to a local shop and brought 6 lots of 6 fabrics chosen from the same range and ranging from light to dark from the shade card. Most people were using batiks for their half square triangles and much time was taken with Jan’s help in coming up with a pleasing arrangement of fabrics to emphasise the spiral design.
Dinner was at the Anchor, bit cold and blowy down by the sea front that night, the food was good and reasonably priced. Back to the cottage for the first quiz of the week, it soon became obvious who indulged in fast food!
Terry Somerfield


Tuesday was another bright and sunny, if rather chilly, day and one or two energetic souls started the day with a pre-breakfast walk.
After a delicious breakfast we met in the Function Room at 9.30 am for our second day with Jan. Happily for many, we had now sorted the room’s temperature control so we could concentrate better on the job in hand. Jan circulated, giving advice, sorting our problems, suggesting better alignments of fabrics, whilst we busily stitched, cut and pressed away.
For lunch, we all met at ‘The Cottage’ where we were generously treated to bread rolls and delicious soup, home-made for us by Jean. Those with room downed more cake, too!
Back in the Function Room, Sandra offered to show us how to make the butterfly brooches some had won the night before. We cut a 3.5” x 4.5” rectangle from two fabrics, sewed around them and turned them through the hole left for the purpose, in preparation for finishing in the evening.
Dinner was at The Anchor, in their ‘Library,’ though closer examination proved the books to be wallpaper! Amongst much alcohol-fuelled hilarity we ate a very good meal before returning to ‘The Cottage’ for our evening entertainment – making clever needle cases prepared and taught to us by Jean. More wine for most plus dim lighting led to great fun and seriously uneven stitching. We were nevertheless very pleased with our efforts but totally incapable by the end of making butterflies, which treat was saved for Wednesday evening.
‘And so to bed,’ grateful for the company and generosity of good friends.
Barbara Foulkes


A mixed day, a flurry of last minute work on our projects before we said goodbye to our lovely teacher. We have had so much fun as well as head scratching trying to unravel the mysteries of spiral patchwork with Jan’s ever present help, encouragement, and tips and hope we didn’t demand too much as one hour before she left us she was sitting on the floor pointing out a giraffe facing the wrong way – could only happen in patchwork! The afternoon was spent playing catch-up or off for some retail therapy and in the evening Sandra showed us how to make Japanese paper origami butterflies in fabric, very pretty.
Leonora East


Well it’s Thursday, the last day to work on our projects. Everyone is keen to get on and get as much done as possible with advice from fellow quilters when needed. The highlight of the afternoon was Jean’s delicious cake followed by photographing our masterpieces – easier said than done when they are pinned to metre square polystyrene boards which seem to have a life of their own!

The final evening meal at the hotel was up to their usual standard and those who had the huss had to admit defeat and ask for a doggy bag to take home for the cat. It arrived wrapped in foiled formed into the shape of a chicken.

Quizzes and Pass the Parcel at the cottage rounded off the evening and everyone returned to the hotel commenting how quickly the week had gone.
Mary Gillett


Woke up ready for an exciting day; bit sad though, as the Retreat comes to an end around lunchtime. Went to the Dolphin Hotel to finish off our first project, and pack up all that we no longer needed.

At 10.00am Joan Collins uncovered our surprise instructions and samples for Friday’s workshop. This was given to us in memory of Jo Harris, a long standing retreat member, who sadly died last year. We all received a small cutting board, two pieces of hardboard and a piece of grey ironing fabric, given to us by Jo. We were about to make a lovely cutting and ironing board in a folding bag with handles.

We had all been asked to bring a padded oblong of our favourite material, one piece 30″ long by 2″ wide, oblong wadding and A4 stiff card. It was quite a challenge for me! We used lots of glue, and finally sewed our handles on our bag. How amazing. What a great result! I hope you will like them and will be impressed when you see them at the AGM.

I was really amazed how good everyone’s bag turned out. We all finished it and were ready to leave at 12.00. It was such a brilliant week and Friday was the icing on the cake.

Thank you Retreat Team for making the event so enjoyable and well organized. I hope I will get the opportunity to join you all another year.
Christine Badger

2016 Retreat in Beer, South Devon

Date: Sunday 17th January to Friday 22nd January 2016


The day of leaving for the retreat arrives at last, requirements list checked, rechecked and car packed. The journey involved weather of all sorts, typical British day. Arrived safely, unlike some who had an encounter with sheep. Checked into the hotel and unpacked. Set up my workspace, and then time to relax before dinner at the hotel and then an introduction to what we going to achieve this week.

Kathryn showed examples of her work which were inspiring, even Professor Brian Cox and Isaac Newton got a mention! Her work was stunning, but Kathryn made you feel it was achievable. We were all going to attempt a landscape from our chosen picture, thankfully no expectation of an exact copy.


After a lovely breakfast we arrived in the function room from 9.30 am. Some were a little apprehensive about the project as it is a new technique for us.

Katherine assessed our pictures individually and then we were away cutting 3/4 inch strips then applying them to our spray glued wadding from sky downwards. Pictures started to appear with varying results. Lunch at the cottage then we started sewing the strips down in the afternoon. Drinks at the cottage before a really good meal at the Anchor Inn then back to the cottage for drinks games and quizzes. Prizes for the winners (no comment!)


After our usual generous breakfast we gathered to continue stitching strips of fabric onto wadding to form the background to our landscapes. People with smaller pictures were ready for the next stage so Kathryn showed us all some of her favourite techniques to embellish our work. Using a rotary cutter we learnt how to make confetti (for flowers, leaves etc.) by slashing scraps of material to varying sizes. This was then scattered onto our backgrounds, overlaid with organza, tulle or bridal veil and stitched into place. Tree trunks, people etc. were made using free form applique. Previously bonded scraps were rotary cut, applied and stitched into place. Fibres were then added and couched to finish off. Our landscapes really did come to life at this stage!

We enjoyed an excellent evening meal at The Seafood Platter followed by a session at the cottage making chickens. We hand stitched, prodded, stuffed and embellished our little brood amid much laughter. Each one was named and exhibited ready for judging.
Rosemary Darby


Kathryn’s last morning with us and we packed lot in. Kathryn gave us some hints and tips on enhancing our work. We pinned them all up to compare and have photographs taken. Then Kathryn showed us how to square up our finished quilt and mount on canvas or add a backing. I think Kathryn was quite sorry to have to leave at lunchtime. During the afternoon some of us drove to Zoe’s shop at Thimblestitch in Honiton to buy more thread, fabric and equipment before carrying on sewing until 6 pm. Our evening was spent completing a flower decoration to enhance Friday’s project.


We struggled on without tuition to try and complete our quilts and were surprise how much we remembered as they all came together. We had a couple of escapees who yomped over the cliffs for exercise and the local shops attracted a couple more but after another delicious meal at the Dolphin an evening of games and fun was enjoyed by all, even if there was some cheating to get a prize.


Friday morning came around far too quickly.

We packed our bags and after our last breakfast together we went into the sewing room for Jean and Jenny to show us all how to make “a tooly”. Some of us had never heard of this and it turned out to be a clever little fold out case, which stores your rulers, rotary cutters pens pencils all together and stands on the table so everything is close at hand. But also closes so you can take it to class. During one of the evenings at the cottage during the retreat, Jean had taught us how to make fabric flowers. These flowers had pride of place on the front of tooly.
At lunchtime, it was time to pack up the machines and say goodbye. We all had a wonderful time with lots of laughter and learnt so much as well.
Claire and Share


2015 Retreat in Beer, South Devon

Date: Sunday 25th January to Friday 31st January 2015


Sunday dawned bright with sun and anticipation. We arrived gradually as the afternoon passed. Greetings with old friends and new faces to make friends with. After a lovely (huge) meal at the hotel, Anja “wowed” us with quilts and designs. Then we had to decide what we were going to do. Some went to bed happy, some scratching their heads!
Sarah R.


After our briefing yesterday we were off. Anja gave us very helpful and instructive demonstrations and we were soon drawing, then cutting and after more instructions piecing together. Comments around the room proved we were either succeeding or we needed help. Anja systematically worked the room and patiently helped those who needed it or praised and encouraged those who were coping. Lunch was spent relaxing in comfortable Lavender Cottage. The afternoon flew by as we built up our designs. Learning by our mistakes, mercifully few, and soon expertly corrected by Anja. 4 o’clock came and went as we were all so engrossed but eventually we all dragged ourselves away to prepare for the evening. We gathered at The Anchor for dinner which was enjoyed by all. The remainder of the evening was filled with quizzes at Lavender Cottage, truly taxing to the brain especially fuelled by wine a very mellow evening before we all left for our beds.
Avril Cook


After breakfast we started our sewing work again continuing from Monday. Anja gave us a talk on adding applique to our foundation piecing, mentioning tracing and lining up our work, her preferred sewing machine needle and thread and demonstrated the stitch to use and the best way to machine sharp points. After this the members making book covers practised their applique while those of us doing larger cushions or quilts continued with our foundation piecing. At lunch time we all went up to the cottage for Jean’s delicious vegetable soup and cakes donated by other members.

On Monday Jean had given each of us some small pieces of material with instructions to sew it for Tuesday evening. After our meal at the hotel we went up to the cottage and each made a pincushion (while enjoying a glass of wine). Sandra rounded off the evening reading a selection of funny stories to much laughter.


On the first day I texted my family “this is going to be fun”. It certainly has been, so much laughter mixed with a constant flow of help and information from our lovely tutor Anja – the lesson today was on Sexy Curves! Anja, with her endless patience sorted out a multitude of my ‘newbie’ problems, and a panel may at last get finished. Our evenings in the cottage have been a hoot. Can’t wait for next year.
Mary and Lee

Wednesday was our half day off – what do quilters do on a day off – go to a quilt shop of course!


Thursday was a day of companionable sewing, of sharing and lending, gentle chatter and impromptu show and tell. Conversation was interrupted by bursts of laughter every now and then. Jean announced “I’m too sexy for my swirls”. Anja would have been proud of her.

The afternoon was quieter, sewing machines hummed as we worked with determination to finish our projects. By 4.30 we all had something to show for our efforts and our work was displayed on a long table for everyone to see.

After dinner we made our way to the lounge bar for a pub quiz. Amazing how competitive quilters can be. Lots of fun and laughter, and we retired happily to our rooms at the end of the evening.
Jan Purrett.


It’s Friday already, we can’t believe how quickly the week has gone. After breakfast and vacating our rooms everyone gathered for the last time in the function room for a workshop by Sandra Scott. Great fun was had making small gift boxes. We never knew that so much laughter could be caused by a three ply serviette, pva glue, an elastic band, a plastic drinks bottle with a waist and a hair dryer. Just when you thought the fun was over, a mix up between coffee and glue added to the fun.

After that, sadly it was time to clear up and say goodbye to all our new friends, we would thoroughly recommend applying next year as this has been a wonderful experience. We learnt so much this week both from Anya Townrow and from the other quilters. Everyone sends a big thank you to the organisers.
Happy quilting Claire and Share

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