Sunday, May 19, 2013

Sewing Camp: A Long Weekend of Fun!

I'm back from Sewing Camp, and I'm exhausted and exhilarated at the same time.

"Sewing Camp?" you ask.  Well, you can call it a camp or retreat or get-away, but what it means is five days and four nights of (nearly) non-stop sewing and fun.

I'm packed for Sewing Camp!
The Philadelphia Chapter of the American Sewing Guild holds a sewing camp every year around the third weekend of May at Eastern University in St. David, Pa.  We move in the week after the students move out, setting up in a very large conference room room and sleeping in the dormitory across a breezeway from our sewing space.  This year, we started at noon on Wednesday and the last camper packed up and left at 5 p.m. on Sunday.

We stay in the dorms at Eastern University in St.  David, Pa.
If it's not too crowded, each sewer gets two six-foot tables upon which to set up her machines and supplies.  We share a few cutting tables (raised to the proper cutting height by bed risers) and ironing boards.  And then we start to work on our own projects.  We break for meals in the dining hall, which is a ten minute walk through a beautiful campus.
Candace is set up with her serger, her sewing machine and laptop.   
What's the thrill?  "The best thing is knowing that the time is dedicated to sewing and I don't have to worry about anything else," says Sue, a first-time camper.  No cooking, cleaning or laundry, no husbands, kids or work, and (for me) a 'no-phone zone.'  

Having a room full of other women who sew is an invaluable resource.  If you get stuck on a procedure or need help with fitting, there is someone who 'speaks the same language' just across the room.  This year my sewing friends empowered me to charge a more realistic price for altering a prom dress that had three layers of skirts to hem and a circumference of 135 inches!

Each of us has our own sewing agenda.  My friend Sherrie spent the first two days working on a quilt top made from beautiful hand-dyed batik fabrics she had picked up when she visited Ghana in 2003.  The women of the village gave her many pieces of fabric and garments and she bought others.  She had packed them away years ago, waiting for a time when she could devote herself to creating a one-of-a-kind quilt.

Sherrie arranged four inch blocks into a colorful quilt top.
Another friend, Janet, makes teddy bears for families who have lost a loved one, using some of their clothing.  These memory bears  often become cherished possessions.  My friend Pat has been creating her own textiles for the past few years -- she spent several hours stenciling and embellishing her hand-dyed fabric.  Some people come to cut out projects -- they have limited space in their home, and being able to spread out and walk around a cutting table is a treat.

Lest you think we're all work and no play, don't be fooled.  There is plenty of laughter, a few 'road trips' to fabric and sewing stores and show-and-tell when someone finishes an item.  Sometimes there is friendly competition to see who can make the most things during the weekend.  It's not unheard of for someone to complete a dozen or more garments.

Marge is happy with her $1.99-a-yard fabrics purchased on a road trip to Fabric Mart in Sinking Springs, Pa. 
The sewing room is open nearly around the clock...a couple of ladies stay up until 4 a.m., and the early-to- bed, early-to-rise folks are back in the sewing room at 6 a.m.

Martha's quilt

We sleep two to a room in a four person suite, with a bath between the rooms.

I'll bet the dorm rooms don't normally get this dressed up!
Aunt Pat's first quilt

Phyllis' quilt features cardinals

One of the many t-shirt quilts I have made
Personally, I spent one afternoon shopping for fabric for my 'mother of the groom' dress for the upcoming wedding of my son.  I made a fitting muslin from the pattern for the dress, and transferred the adjustments onto the pattern.  The dress is underway, but not quite finished yet.  I was able to complete several smaller mending and hemming projects, including the aforementioned prom dress.  While I didn't get as many projects finished as I have in past years, the weekend was successful just for the fact that my wedding attire is well underway.  

This week, the board will book the dates for Sewing Camp 2014.  I can hardly wait!   

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