I came back from the mountains to report out on my sewing camp for adults — Camp Workroom Social.
I was supposed to go to camp in spring 2020, but a little global pandemic got in the way (and also sunk plans in 2021). So, I had to wait until last week (April 27-May 1) for this sewing retreat.
Following is my hot take on the experience, now that I’ve had time to process it.
What is Camp Workroom Social?
Camp Workroom Social is a sleepaway sewing camp for adults. This installment of camp was titled “Wardrobe Week,” and we were invited to bring 3-6 projects to work on during unstructured open sewing time.
Camp is held at a real sleepaway camp — the Frost Valley YMCA camp in the Catskill Mountains, which is a few hours outside New York City. The location truly is in the middle of nowhere; you’re surrounded by forested mountains, idyllic streams, and almost zero cell service. It’s peaceful and beautiful.
Our sewing camp schedule looked roughly like this:
- Open sewing (9a-12p): Campers were sorted into small groups (my group had eight sewists) guided by a sewing instructor.
- Open sewing (1-5p)
- Open sewing (6-8p)
- Full group activity (until bedtime)
During open sewing time, various instructors would step away from their groups to give breakout classes on sewing stuff — for example, I went to sessions on hand sewing, interfacing, and pattern hacking.
You also could step away from opening sewing (or any activity) to wander trails, take a nap, whatevs. One afternoon when I needed a break, I snuck away to visit the camp’s horse herd (one of our activities was horseback riding!).
My Camp Sewing Projects + Current Status
If you read my previous post about what I packed for sewing camp, you know that I showed up with all my pattern pieces cut and interfaced, ready for needle and thread.
True Bias Lander Pants
I made the most progress on the Landers. I started with this project and took it as far as it could go, which was *almost* to the end.
I cut a curved waistband for these pants. But, thanks to a measuring error (D’OH!), the waistband didn’t fit the top of the pants. I have more of the gold denim here at home, so it’s NBD to cut off another waistband.
Once I add the waistband, sew down the belt loops, stitch a top buttonhole, and install the hardware, these bottoms are finished. Can’t wait.
Sew Over It Ultimate Shirt
I got as far as sewing the collar band and collar to the Ultimate Shirt. I hit a snag when I realized I didn’t cut TWO yokes — an inner and and outer yoke.
I scoured camp for a suitable inner yoke fabric so I could keep working on my shirt. I came across a blue-and-white-vertical-stripe shirting that wasn’t claimed in the fabric swap.
It was unclear whether the blue-stripe shirting was washed. A helpful camp staffer suggested washing it in my sink with hot water and letting it dry, and let’s what I did. My roommate even had some powder laundry detergent for me to use!
Short story long, I did sink laundry and used the shirting for the inner yoke. I think it’s a cool complementary pattern to the wild Liberty of London print.
Sophie Hines Euler Bra
I didn’t start the bra at camp. I worked on the Landers for about two days and the Ultimate Shirt for about one day, and I didn’t have open sewing time to get this project underway.
But, since it’s all cut out, I can start it at home any time, yay!
What I Wish I Had Brought
If I had brought some more gold denim and LoL yardage, I could have cut pattern pieces and kept rolling. I, however, made a choice to minimize the weight of my luggage and leave extra fabric at home.
Truth be told, having extra fabric is a good insurance policy in case anything goes sideways with a fabric pattern piece — accidently cut, lost, scorched, etc.
Muslin + Block + Pattern Paper
Coming to camp with muslin (fabric), a pattern block, and pattern paper would have been a smart move. I could have had my sewing instructor help me fit a bodice block I could later use for Erin-sized patterns. Lost opportunity.
Fabric for Fabric Swap
Guyssss, the fabric swap looked SO COOL. I should have let go of some yardage in my fabric stash that’s been collecting dust for new-to-me textile.
What I Wish I Had Left at Home
These are sewing supplies I could have left behind:
- Tailor’s ham: There were hams at the pressing stations.
- Sewing machine tools: I brought a presser foot that adjusts for fabric layer height, a small screwdriver, and a thumb screwdriver. Each sewing machine came equipped with these gadgets.
- Glue stick: I didn’t use it.
- Embroidery scissors: I only used my applique scissors.
What I Would Do Differently
Should I go to camp again (and I’d like to!), this is what I’d change:
Sew One Big Project
I would take my time sewing one big project, such as a coat. I would have all the pattern pieces cut, but I’d do the interfacing at camp.
Then I would work at a relaxed pace, socialize more, and ask my instructor for more demonstrations. I’d know less about a project and its techniques before I went to camp, so I could focus on learning vs. executing.
Or, instead of one big project, I would bring a couple easy patterns and make multiples — something I had sewn before.
Patterns for leggings, a simple skirt, and a T-shirt (maybe Sie Macht’s Cass T-shirt???) could be sewn quickly and with little stress, and by the end of camp, you could have sewn a capsule wardrobe.
Instead of burying my face in my sewing projects, I wish I would have set them aside to watch the instructors fit other campers. I kinda blew the opportunity to watch professionals at work and ask questions.
Final Thoughts on Camp Workroom Social
I had a wonderful time at camp, and now that I’m back in the real world, I feel energized and re-centered on my sewing practice.
My favorite part of camp was the people — campers and instructors. It’s not hyperbole to say that this crew was the nicest group of folks you could ever hope to be stranded in the wilderness with. Everyone was so encouraging, helpful, and positive. Truly.
My least favorite part of camp was… the people. But, it’s not what you think!
I’m an introvert, and I need time by myself to recharge. It’s taxing for me to be “on.” I think it’s because I get into my own head about how people perceive me.
I worry that I sometimes come off as cold or snobby, and then I become hyperaware of everything I do and say, and it feels unnatural in my body and brain. I did feel less anxious the more time I spent with other campers.
If you can budget for it and spare the time, I definitely recommend this sewing camp for adults. It’s a unbelievably welcoming place, and the instructors and fellow campers are hyped to help you learn any sewing skill you can think of.
Plus, it’s an absolutely blast to hang with folks who understand your obsession with sewing and are excited to talk at length about all things stitching.
Over to you: What’s been your experience with sewing retreats? What questions do you have about Camp Workroom Social? Please leave a comment; thanks!
I thought long and hard about trying the lottery for camp but I’m also an introvert. (I live on a mountain top in a less populated area than Claryville. There are covered bridges nearby, and an Amish buggy just clickity-clacked by my window.)
I was concerned about the rooming situation. As in I haven’t been to a “sleep over” in more years than I care to count, lolol… So, no time alone. How did that work out for you? Was there more sewing time than there was in the past?
Thanks for this piece. I’d like to go. Tomorrow would be lovely!
Hi, Lodi! Thanks for reading. It was a wonderful time.
So, I was in a hotel-style room – two double beds, ensuite bathroom – with one roommate I had never met before. We got along great and talked a lot. TBH, I wasn’t concerned about rooming with a stranger; I thought if it didn’t work out I probably could swap with another camper – NBD. In any case, it’s just a few days. (I might be speaking out of school here, but I think, for a premium, you could request a single room.) Before camp we filled out a few surveys regarding lifestyle/personality stuff – early riser, light sleeper, etc. etc. I think Jennifer, who’s the gal behind Workroom Social, takes a lot of care to make sure campers are placed in good situations.
RE: sewing time – Workroom Social does a camp in the fall, too, that’s class focused; campers pick a topic (bra making, hand sewing, etc.) and follow a curriculum with an instructor. And it sounds like most of (all?) the supplies for your class are provided. Wardrobe Week, the sesh I attended, let campers sew what they want and the instructors were there to provide support. Plus, I guess fall camp doesn’t have night sewing time.
Did I answer your questions? If you are serious (or even half-serious) about attending camp, I’m SURE you could drop a line to Jennifer/Workroom Social. Extremely responsive and friendly.
P.S. Your mountain hideaway sounds heavenly, you lucky so-and-so!
Follow-up comments please!
I saw the hotel-style rooms on the camp’s website, but thought they might be for family stays only, not “campers”. Great to know it’s not my childhood Y camp! Kid OK, but adult EEEK! (I thought mice were cute when I was little.)
I thought I could read, since one of my master’s is in reading, but I didn’t realize that the camp had two different formats. Seriously. I love the idea of wardrobe week, and the fall session would really depend on the classes offered (for me). I’ll be watching to see what’s offered this year!
Yes, my mountaintop is a good place to be during a pandemic (or not). Today I could almost hear everything growing during my walk around the lake!
Yes Erin, you answered my questions, and I’m jealous. It really sounds like a fantastic experience… right up my sewing alley!