Getting scrappy in the woods (or what happens at Quilt Camp....)
Someone would always invariably encourage me to come early to the Brooklyn Quilt Guild meetings. I didn’t get it. I wasn’t on the committee or volunteering for the sign in table.
So, I would just follow my usual Saturday routine. Have a lazy coffee, cruise Pinterest and chat with the kids.
Then realize I didn’t have enough time to actually walk to catch the F train as I’d planned.
I’d have to stuff my charity quilts in a tote, forget my badge and scramble to summon an Uber.
Despite my best efforts, I’d rarely arrive much before the official meeting kick off. Usually about 10:50!
Just early enough to buy a few raffle tickets, grab some (more) coffee, then find an empty seat near enough to see the show and tell.
But before 11, when the business of running the guild is discussed, is when everyone else gets settled in and socializes.
One Saturday in March I’d managed to arrive earlier than usual. Settling into an open seat at a new table, I started to hear snippets of intriguing chatter.
“Oh, that was so much fun, well the rooms were nice or there was enough room for us to (couldn’t quiet catch it).....together.”
It sounded like a fun party had happened, but far away. And there were hints about other events I couldn’t quiet catch.
I didn’t think much more about it until later when the microphone was passed and a serious announcement was made: Don’t forget to get your checks in for the next retreat.
Oh, a quilting retreat, at a nearby camp. Ha, I chuckled to myself, that’s cute and sounds peaceful. Enjoy yourselves!
But the group was very encouraging. Someone at my table said “It’s fun, you should think about it.”
After the meeting I was a little curious.
When I got home, I searched through my gmail. I must have missed with the original retreat details. Or perhaps filed it in the Trash folder. 😂
Somewhere in NJ, remote location, rustic food hall, at a Camp, no alcohol allowed on the premises….I stopped reading and gently closed my laptop.
Now I don’t mind a little rustic and country, but there would certainly need to be cold Sauvignon Blanc to see me through!
The following week I got an important email from the guild. Last call for retreat signups and deposits.
And a PS: Bring your own snacks and your choice of, wait for it..… adult beverages.
And you know what?
I thought what the heck, get out of your comfort zone and do something you would never do.
So, I signed up for to Quilt Camp!
And then this happened.
In the back of my mind I thought maybe I won’t actually go. What the heck would I do there? I only know one person, and only a little bit.
And would my fellow quilters judge me for my skill level, use of or lack of color, or my creative abilities. Did I mention the English Paper Piecing?
As camp got closer I toyed with the idea of saying goodbye to my deposit, faking an illness or just not showing up.
Is this what it feels like when you are nine years old and told you are going to sleep-away camp for the first time?
I told myself not to be such a big baby and just GO!
I still had a few weeks to get ready, and only a vague idea of what to bring. I wanted to make sure I had enough fabric to last me the whole 4 days, so I didn’t end up bored or feeling awkward with nothing to do.
But I needed options in case I changed my mind about something.
Or created a fabri-c-atastrophe!
Packing turned out to be a rather interesting exercise in restraint. After all, I’ve packed projects to take away for the weekend before, but always knowing I’d have only an hour or two to work on them.
I’d never had to be disciplined enough to limit the creative options and plan for days.
But I gathered my fabrics, stuffed a couple of half-finished projects into a giant Ikea bag and got my sewing machine ready to take on the road. I loaded a few novels on my kindle app, just in case.
I was ready for my first sleep away camp experience.
When I arrived, most of the group were already set up in the big main space. The room hummed with the sound of finely tuned sewing machines.
I found a spot to set up and unpacked my projects.
I started out easy, finishing a couple of Baby quilts I was making to donate to the guild. This involved combining random test blocks, leftover triangles and coordinating printed fabrics.
Things that previously had no home. And technically did not belong together.
It was an endless blur of sewing, cutting and flying threads.
I was in heaven.
And that's when I got it. I got what quilt camp was about.
The company, the impromptu tutorials, the laughter, the stories ……and the uninterrrupted quilting!
I learned so much in those 4 days, not least of which is that you can actually quilt and drink wine at 4 in the afternoon. GENIUS!
And there are a few other things I learned:
Sewing machine envy is real.....and fun.
Quilters love gear as much as fabric. (Someone busted out a new rotary blade sharpener
machine, and it was like a Youtube un-boxing).
No one pulled an all-nighter, but there was talk of one die-hard quilting at midnight.
Everyone admired everyone’s work regardless of skill level and style.
Oh, and about getting scrappy.
Now I like to work in a clean space. I like the feeling of slicing into a big, fresh piece of fabric.
Ah, the possibilities!
I'd never liked the random fabric stash, the scraps and miscellanous cuttings.
But at Quilt Camp, all those little leftovers, those tiny, pretty bits of fabric, those mad prints and strange colors, the odds and ends of projects, and everyone’s block trimmings from 4 whole days of quilting, all found their way to the communal scrap table.
Those scraps were all up for grabs.
And free fabric, no matter the size and shape, has a strange and magical allure.
Each piece starts to spark the germ of an idea. You begin to think to yourself, “H’m, I could just save that for…..?” Or “well, I generally don’t like purple, but…..!
And it is true, what quilters say,
“If you think your fabric is ugly, you just haven’t cut it small enough!”
Exploring the scrap table, I remembered how I'd discovered fabric as a kid.
When I didn’t even know there were rules about scale, proportion and color theory.
I loved what I loved and just went with it. And it always seemed to work out just fine. And felt great.
That's what quilting is like. The more you mix things together the more interesting the result.
So, I got scrappy in the woods and came back with a surprising stash, a few new ideas about fabric, and some new friends.
Maybe that’s what camp is really all about!
PS: Sign me up for next summer.
PPS: Happy Quilting Face (thank you vino verde)!
Got a camp story of your own. Got an idea about something scrappy? I'd love to hear from you! Email me firstname.lastname@example.org