Cast thy bread upon the waters: for thou shalt find it after many days.
~Ecclesiastes 11:1

We finished our third Stitchin’ Camp for 2014 this past Saturday. Everyone seemed to have a great time, and there were lots of projects finished as well as a few new ones that were started. I wasn’t able to be there on Saturday for Show-n-Tell, but the quilts that I saw before then were amazing.

The first camp that we hosted was held in January 2005, making this the 10th year that we’ve hosted camp. I remember that first camp well because I was so overwhelmed with owning a new business that I didn’t want to have camp. In fact, I had planned on not doing so, BUT I was told I HAD to have a camp and that there was no escaping it.

Camp was started by the original owner of the shop, Marie Cummins, and had become a tradition that the ladies didn’t want to give up just because a newcomer was now in charge, at least figuratively. Can you say pressure!? I felt it greatly because I had some pretty big shoes to fill given all the stories I’d been told about past camps and how great they were. Fortunately for me, I’d worked quite a bit in the hospitality industry and had been an administrative assistant to a president and three vice-presidents of a general contracting firm in my former life, so I knew something about organizing such events even if it wasn’t what I wanted to do so soon after purchasing the shop.

Based on a list that I still have from that first camp, we had 15 campers, three of whom have since passed away. Two campers that were at the first camp were at this past camp as well. While the names of our campers have changed over the years, the purpose of their coming has not. They come to spend three days with like-minded ladies who love stitching in all its forms, to get older projects (or one that has a looming deadline) finished, and to be inspired and encouraged by their peers without the fear of ridicule or quilt police. We’ve gone from as few as 15 to as many as 26 campers at any one camp and have settled on 20 as the best number for the space in which we meet. Of course, we do run over by two or three, sometimes four, if we need to in order to fit everyone’s friends in. We went from hosting one camp per year to two. Then we went from two to three a couple of years ago when our campers requested that we do so. Last year we added one in the fall which was greatly enjoyed by those who attended. This year, we’re going to add one in July and try to stress the need to get going on gifts for the Christmas season. We hope to host one in the fall again if it looks like there’s enough interest.

For Rick and me, this past Sunday was a day to rest and reflect on the camps that we’ve hosted so far this year. I’m guessing that after this most recent camp, he reflected on how he could do a better job of feeding the ladies because our baked potatoes were a little underdone on Friday night, while I reflected on the verse that began this post. Before I explain further, I must confess that due to the lack of visitors this past three months, I’ve become more and more concerned about the future of the shop. The cold weather has taken a toll on business—or at least that’s what I’m chalking it up to—these past three months. The camps have helped greatly and allowed me to bring in some new merchandise that I might not have bought otherwise.

As a shop owner who relishes enabling others to enjoy the art of quilting, I often find that my want-to-do list exceeds the available time and energy required to get the items on the list done. While I could easily make three very small people given my size, or at least two and a-half decent sized people, I’ve not figured out a way yet to split myself up in order to do so. Since I no longer have any employees it would be nice to have one of me downstairs doing the greeting and the waiting on folks part while the other remained upstairs doing the administrative part.

Over the years, we’ve had lots of ups and downs in the business. We’ve moved twice, and I’ve said the shop wouldn’t move again until someone bought it from me. I still hold to that decision. While the downs have been pretty discouraging and downright depressing at times, the ups have often made up for the majority of them. By casting my “bread” out in the form of time, listening, and caring for my quilters, I have gained so much in return.

The camps take a lot of preparation throughout the year which means that I am almost constantly thinking of my campers and what I could give them that would be different, useful, and appreciated. We have a lot of repeat campers who come to each camp so I can’t just buy one set of goodies in bulk for their goodie bag. Each camp has to have completely different items for those bags. Having multiple camps throughout the year has made my job more challenging but also more interesting. The hunt for new goodies is one of the parts that I enjoy the most about camp. You might say I’m one of those folks with a giving spirit.

At the first camp, the campers signed a piece of muslin, had it framed, and presented it to me at the end of camp. Needless to say, I cried—in part because it was a totally unexpected gift, and in part because I was relieved that we’d made it through. In preceding years, I wasn’t always given a memento by the campers, nor did I expect one.

In more recent years, a camper who also has a giving spirit started attending with a friend. She took it upon herself to rally the troops, so to speak, had everyone sign a card, and took up money which went to buy me something. Last year I was given a $50 gift card to Cracker Barrel so my husband and I could go out for a nice meal. So far we’ve only used about half of it so we still have one more nice meal to which we look forward. This year, at the January camp, I was given a heat pack that has lavender in it, some honey from our local quilting beekeeper, and some lavender sachets. The heat pack was for putting on my poor, tired back and has been much appreciated by myself and by my youngest daughter, who also helps whenever she can. In fact, she’s become the official Apple Dumplin’ maker now that Miss Martha has retired. In February, they bought a new ironing board and outfitted the two old ones with new batting and covers. Last week, I was Pams Colorific Quilt Penpresented with a five pound jar of honey, again from our local quilting beekeeper, a lovely pen that comes from C&T Publishing. The extra cash that was collected was included in my card with a note to take Rick out to eat as their way of saying thanks to him. Since Victoria helped too, we might take her with us as well. We’re thinking about going to a great French restaurant up in Tullahoma, Emil’s. Hmmmm…our son helped set up and tear down this time so I wonder if we should invite him as well. It was truly a blessing that he was able to help because Rick has been having problems with his hip of late. The last thing we needed during camp was to have him limping about with a painful hip, especially since he was the cook and kitchen help.

I have a card from each camp signed by the campers with words of thanks and encouragement. I keep all the cards I’m given and tend to refer back to them from time to time when things aren’t going so well in the shop. It’s amazing how just a few words of thanks can turn my melancholy mood to one of enthusiasm and get me back on track for enabling those ladies to enjoy themselves at camp one more time.

Never in a million years did I expect to be so blessed from this yearly event. All the work we do way before camp rolls around pays off with happy campers who keep returning each year, some of them multiple times. As long as I know they are having a good time and getting some much needed concentrated time to sew, I will realize that my “bread” has not only been found but has been greatly increased.

4 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Bill P J
    Mar 21, 2014 @ 09:08:40

    Thank you for the informational letter concerning the camps. As we live out of state, my visits are controlled by how frequently we get to visit out kids that live there.

    Wish it was so I could volunteer in your shop. I do have one suggestion – and that is regarding having a person to do the administrative duties upstairs while you are downstairs. Perhaps you have a person that could handle these types things via computer on a comp basis? Maybe someone that could handle the AP/AR and be willing to be paid in products rather than cash. Payment could be on the retail price and you would still recoup some from your wholesale purchases. Just an idea. Also, have you considered (maybe you already do and I dont know it) on-line selling? It might be that would increase your customer base enough that you could have the retail shop open on the busiest business days to enable you to handle the on-line.

    Hope to see you but it will probably be in June this year. Pauleta in Tulsa


    • Hooked on Quilting
      Mar 24, 2014 @ 17:58:11

      I wish you lived closer too, Miss Pauleta. Rick does all the accounting so I’m good there, it’s just the ordering, keeping track of things, working out ideas, and finding supplies, that takes up time. Of course, starting in one direction only to be side tracked and head in another doesn’t help me either.

      I just listed some fabrics on Etsy and hope to list more as time allows. While the ladies have told me they prefer a brick and mortar shop I still hear many of them talking about what they bought on-line. I’m not sure what to believe along those lines. Being boss can get really tricky sometimes.

      I look forward to seeing you when you get to visit again. Ya know, you could always schedule it so you could come to camp in July and have three whole days all to yourself. You’d still be able to see the family at night. Think about it!


  2. Ronda
    Mar 22, 2014 @ 07:35:47

    Camp is so much fun and I appreciate the time to gather with friends to sew. Thanks for all you do.


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