You wanna take it outside?
Do you miss the long, lazy days of summer camping? The unique brand of family bonding that happens only while swatting mosquitoes and retrieving a melted marshmallow from the dirt? The chance to briefly step off the hamster wheel that is your life and commune with nature? Good news! You can enjoy the classic summertime getaway and stoke your creative quilting fires at the same time. Use the great outdoors as your guide—Mother Nature has perfect color sense, after all—and you’ll return home juiced up and ready to tackle a new project.
Let’s get you started:
Find your inspiration.
Take along your favorite lightweight camera to capture patterns, shapes, and color combinations you can take back to your design table. The delicate veins of a leaf, a fiery red and orange sunset, your child shrieking when a bug lands in his baked beans…keep an open mind and just about anything out there can serve as your muse. Skeptical? Rent season two of “Project Runway” and see how Andrae used a photo of a pebble-filled gutter on the streets of New York as his inspiration for an elegant pewtercolored gown.
Harness solar power.
Remember when you were little and you ironed leaves in waxed paper? Well, now there’s a better way to preserve the grace and beauty of the natural world—sun dyeing, a.k.a. sun painting. Collect a variety of leaves, ferns and other plant material. Then apply fabric paint to a piece of white fabric, arrange your treasures on top while it’s still wet, and let the sun work its magic to create your own custom fabric. (Just be sure to avoid picking any plant that’s protected— adhere to posted park rules and bring along a field guide. No sense in ticking off the Sierra Club).
Train your eye on the landscape.
Have you been secretly yearning to try your hand at making a landscape quilt? Whip out that camera and capture the scenery. Take a series of shots and stitch them together with Photoshop to create a panorama. A tree-lined mountain range, a vibrant wildflower meadow, a long row of tricked-out RVs…whatever gets your pulse racing.
Channel your ancestors.
They didn’t have fancy electronic sewing machines and longarms. Use your camping trip as the perfect excuse to improve your hand piecing, quilting, and appliquéing skills. Do it the time-honored, electricity-free way. You’ll make Al Gore proud.
Don’t forget the postcards.
Skip the gift-shop variety. (Have you ever remembered to bring stamps on vacation?) A leaf, an animal track, or a pinecone you find on the trail can inspire a series of postcard quilts you can make and send to your quilting buddies after you return home. They might be so impressed that they’ll beg to come along on next year’s trip. Just make sure they agree to bring the marshmallows.
But I hate roughing it!
Everyone’s idea of camping is different and, fortunately for the blow-dryer fans among us, there are plenty of options. You decide just how much nature you can handle.
Yeah, yeah, you need to pack things like a camp stove, hiking boots, and a compass. But here’s what you’re really going to want:
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