You wanna take it outside?

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.

  • Backpacking - You know who you are. Let us know how it was. u
  • Car camping - For the less hardy among us. Pull up to a parking spot, pitch your tent, and keep your snacks locked in the trunk, safe from the prying claws of bears. (Bears?!?)
  • KOA Kamping(Kabins, Kottages, and Kampgrounds) - To hardcore types, this isn’t “real” camping, but I say, how can you go wrong with hot showers and wireless Internet? Downside: putting up with all the “kute” names.
  • RVing - If you’re blissfully unaware of gas prices and climate change, this is the option for you. All the comforts of home, on wheels!
  • Day camping - Find your ideal outdoor destination and book a hotel room nearby. The best-of-both-worlds option— the call of the wild and 300-threadcount sheets.
  • Backyard camping - Pitch a tent and save your pennies for fabric. You can find nature’s wonder right in front of you—you just have to look. Not convinced? Check out Suburban Safari: A Year on the Lawn by Hannah Holmes and be prepared to be astounded at what’s going on right outside your door.

Must-have gear
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:

  • Headlamp - Quilters have at least one thing in common with backpackers—we’re always jonesin’ for new gadgets. Strap one of these babies on your head, and you can appliqué well into the night.
  • Marshmallows, chocolate, and graham crackers - Be honest. Ever since you read the headline, you’ve been lusting for s’mores.
  • Camp closet - When I saw this beauty in the L.L. Bean catalog, I wasn’t imagining organized clothes and shoes—I was thinking fabric stash.
  • Ice cream ball - Have you seen this thing? Load it up with ingredients, let the dog roll it around, and this plastic bad boy delivers the frosty goods in 20 minutes.
  • Travel hammock - All that quilting inspiration can be exhausting. Besides, don’t you always get your best ideas when you’re suspended in canvas between two pine trees? We thought so.

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