Scouting Tomorrow's Weavers

Summer is a time for bright and breezy weaving projects: a colorful something to grace our summer wardrobe or a summer table; something quick so we can get back to the garden or other summer hobbies, or something we can do as a summer activity with children or grandchildren. Here's Kathy Augustine to tell you about a summer camp program that is helping to grow the weavers and designers of tomorrow. ––Anita

Campers dyeing yarn for their handweaving project    
 Campers exploring color with Kool-Aid dyeing  

Girl Scouts is about so much more than cookies, and Girl Scout Camp can offer so much more than swimming, songs, and s’mores. It can also be a formative experience for budding textile artists. Many girls today dream of a glamorous fashion career. Captivating fashions in magazines, movies, music videos, and TV reinforce their fascination with the industry. In 2012, Camp Shady Grove, a summer Girl Scout Day Camp in Palmerton, Pennsylvania, organized itself around the theme of Camp Runway to give girls a fun opportunity to explore this enticing world. For one week in the middle of July 2012, in unusual 100-degree weather, girls from ages five to eighteen learned aspects of the nuts and bolts of fashion––from weaving to fashion photography.

The most recognized jobs in the fashion world are model and fashion designer, but there are countless specialty trades that work behind the scenes. Our goal at Camp Runway was to let the girls whet their appetites exploring all the possibilities. Since the fashion industry revolves around textiles, one of the first steps in our agenda involved the actual construction of a fabric from raw materials. Our project would be a hand-dyed, handwoven purse/cell phone holder.

    Handwoven cell phone purse with KoolAid-dyed skeins

Cell phone purse handwoven by one of the

budding textile designers at Camp Runway.

We began our venture with bulky Bear Creek yarn generously donated by Kreamer Yarns of Nazareth, Pennsylvania. After learning about the unique qualities of wool as a protein fiber and its awesome ability to take dye, the fun began. With shared pie plates, the girls saturated their skeins with multiple Kool-aid colors, popped them in the microwave to heat-set the dye, and hung their fruit-flavored skeins around our campsite to dry. The following day, we warped small cardboard looms and began the weaving process. Soon the muttered mantra of “over, under, over, under . . .” could be heard around the work table. For some of the girls, weaving the purses was more challenging than they had expected.

During the week at Camp Runway, the girls also had an opportunity to try handspinning and to card a raw fleece with hand cards. They discovered that all sheep do not sport the same kind of wool, just as no two girls at Camp had the exact same kind of hair! They learned that making fabric can take a really long time and a lot of patience. As we discussed our dyeing and weaving project, the girls developed a whole new appreciation for the skills of our colonial ancestors, and they gained insight into some of the steps and decisions that textile manufacturers or artists make every day. Fashion doesn’t just happen overnight.

Textile artists don’t just happen either. I hope your summer includes an opportunity to share your interests with a young person. Learning opportunities like Camp Runway or guild outreach programs can build the passion that will fuel a lifetime of exploration. Who knows? Maybe you’ll see some of the Camp Runway girls in the pages of Handwoven in years to come.

––Kathy Augustine

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