Common Threads: Quilt Camp Builds Community
Common Threads: Quilt Camp Builds Community
Common Threads: Quilt Camp Builds Community
At an Indiana camp, avid quilters get a chance to connect, grow, and even dabble in a little adventure
By Erin Brereton
Images courtesy of Camp Tecumseh Quilt Camp
Throughout the year, thousands of kids and teens come to Camp Tecumseh in Brookston, Indiana, to attend equestrian camp, field trips, and other programs.

However, unless they wander into the Leadership Center’s basement, those visitors may have no idea another group of campers—primarily adult women, stitching together sections of fabric—are on the independently chartered YMCA facility’s grounds, attending Quilt Camp.

Camp Tecumseh’s Quilt Camp is a three- to five-day experience offered six times a year that began in 1990s, according to Leadership Center Director Neal Morehead. Every session brings together a mix of quilters, from rookies to experts, many of whom first learned about the camp from past attendees.
4 health
“Word of mouth has probably been our biggest marketing tool,” Neal says.

At the September Quilt Camp, nearly 40 attendees gathered to work on personal quilting projects, share finished creations in a show-and-tell, feast on tacos and trail mix, and enjoy the unique community atmosphere.

September Quilt Camp
/ Creative Freedom /
The schedule is fairly loose at Quilt Camp, which is a plus, according to frequent camper Michelle Brown. Campers can sleep in and stitch late into the night. “At 2:30 [in the morning], you can get up, go downstairs, and stay in your PJs; nobody cares,” Michelle says. “I like not having any expectations. I can come here and just sew.”

At mealtimes, quilters enjoy bacon and eggs, pot roast, and other hearty fare in the Leadership Center’s dining room, located beside a porch overlooking the Tippecanoe River. At night, they sleep in rooms within the building that have been outfitted with bunk beds.

If someone needs fabric or other accoutrements, they can stop by the on-site makeshift store set up by a local quilt shop, with seam rippers, patterns, and dozens of containers of fabric laid out on tables near the building’s entrance.

“It’s all here,” says Cheryl Nelson, who runs quilt pattern company Pink Parakeet Designs and has been coming to the camp for more than 20 years. “You don’t even need to put your shoes on.”
Workstations
Sewing machines
Sharing advice
/ A Time to Connect /
In the mornings and afternoons, quilters can often be found watching demonstrations or at their workstations, chatting over their humming sewing machines and sharing advice.
“Someone always has tips,” Cheryl says. “You’re always learning something.”
Michelle and Cheryl have formed a close friendship over the course of their Camp Tecumseh trips; Michelle is saved in Cheryl’s phone as “Part-Time Daughter.” Marcia Burns, Cheryl’s real daughter, has also come to the September session. All three women requested sewing stations next to each other.

At Quilt Camp, friendships like these are common.

“You see a lot of the same people [each time],” says camper Kristi Medlin. “I love it.”

Kristi flies in from Flagler Beach, Florida, to attend Quilt Camp, bringing along her 1940s-era Singer sewing machine. Kristi is working on an intricate kaleidoscope design that requires multiple pieces of fabric per medallion. She cut them ahead of time at home to prevent getting distracted when chatting with other campers.

Redstone
/ Weaving Community /
Contributing to the social environment, each Quilt Camp session has a unique theme. This month’s is “You’ve Got Mail.” Participants were given the option to make one of six designs featuring inspirational messages, postage stamp imagery, and other elements, and were assigned a secret pen pal. Campers hid notes under their pen pals’ pillows and by their sewing machines.

However, a couple days into the September session, organizers realized a mix-up led to one woman not receiving any notes. Other campers overheard, and 10 messages soon appeared on her machine.

That type of proactive, unreserved friendliness has made Quilt Camp a life-changing experience for Michelle, who credits the camp with helping her break out of her shell.

“A couple of years ago, I was less open to receiving friendship [than] I am now; I kept to myself,” she says. “I feel comfortable here. Whatever happens, there’s no judgment; you’re just here to be you. Today, I run with a [running] group; I’m enthusiastic about life. Camp has changed me as a person.”

Neal has also noticed the transformation.

“Michelle connected with different types of people, and you could feel her switch,” he says. “She loves life and adventures; it changed her view on everything.”

Camp has changed me as a person.
–Michelle Brown
Quilting Presentation
/ A Chance to Relax and Do Something Adventurous /
For many of the women, including Michelle, camp provides a break from daily chores and responsibilities. It’s a chance to relax, focus on quilting, and have fun.

“They like being in the woods, away from it all,” Neal says. “So many are used to taking care of their families; it isn’t very often they get a chance to take care of themselves. They come here and can recoup, relax, and refresh.”

Campers can also squeeze in a little adventure, if they’d like.

Outdoor activities
The organizers plan periodic outdoor activities; four campers have signed up to zip line over Camp Tecumseh’s man-made lake.

As dinner is being prepared, the group treks to the Lookout Tower. They step into harnesses and climb the tower’s spiral staircase. After being clicked onto the cable, one by one, they tuck their knees in and glide for 450 feet to the other side of the lake, where their fellow campers have been cheering them on.

Outdoor activities
The organizers plan periodic outdoor activities; four campers have signed up to zip line over Camp Tecumseh’s man-made lake.

As dinner is being prepared, the group treks to the Lookout Tower. They step into harnesses and climb the tower’s spiral staircase. After being clicked onto the cable, one by one, they tuck their knees in and glide for 450 feet to the other side of the lake, where their fellow campers have been cheering them on.

According to Neal, it’s that sense of camaraderie, formed through living and being creative together for days at a time, that makes Quilt Camp about much more than a shared passion for sewing.

“To find a group to be part of and let your hair down, good things come out of that,” he says. “It’s how communities are built. Quilting is the reason they come together; that’s what brings them back.”

Quilt Camp
Quilt Camp
According to Neal, it’s that sense of camaraderie, formed through living and being creative together for days at a time, that makes Quilt Camp about much more than a shared passion for sewing.

“To find a group to be part of and let your hair down, good things come out of that,” he says. “It’s how communities are built. Quilting is the reason they come together; that’s what brings them back.”

Visit Camp Tecumseh’s website to learn more about Quilt Camp and register for upcoming sessions.
About the Writer
Erin Brereton has written about travel and other topics for magazines, newspapers, and other publications for more than 20 years.

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