For the past couple of summers, Kelli Martin, of the Eastern Shore in Maryland, has been coming to camp to teach campers sewing.
That’s so exciting to me because I have wonderful memories of actually sewing at Camp Alleghany as a child. I remember actually making my own doll as a camper! In addition to sewing her, I stuffed the body, painted the face, and added yarn for hair. I even sewed her clothes!
It was a kind of elaborate project now that I think of it and I think we only offered this for one or two summers. My aunt was on staff that summer and I remember she helped me a lot with this project. We still have my doll at home and it’s a treasured memory and project of mine.
So it’s so thrilling to see a new generation of campers take up needle and thread and get some time at the machine to learn this age-old art.
Sewing is housed under the umbrella of our Arts & Crafts Department. When campers sign up for Arts & Crafts they get to choose from things like Sewing and Pottery to do during the summer.
So I thought I’d catch up with Kelli to hear about sewing at ‘Ghany and how she got involved.
Elizabeth: What is your connection to Camp Alleghany?
Kelli: I live locally and have a friend who has been working at camp doing pottery for a looong time. I grew up on the Eastern Shore of MD so I didn’t know about Camp Alleghany until I moved to West Virginia.
Elizabeth: What is your experience with sewing and teaching sewing?
Kelli: I loved sewing in my Home Economics classes in middle and high school, and performed well at it. My mom sewed a lot of my dresses for dances in high school. So when I took more interest in late high school, my mom gave me more pointers. I took it and ran from there — mistaking my way to learning how to be a better seamstress as I went.
I sewed clothing from store bought patterns and came up with my own. I also made abstract wall hangings. This went on all through college.
Then when I moved to West Virginia, I had my own sewing business for quite a few years. In my business I did alterations, custom work, and sewing lessons.
I’ve also taught sewing to adults and children through various workshops, camps, and classes over the past 15 years. Many of these have been through Carnegie Hall programs. I currently have taught sewing at Camp Alleghany for four summers now, and I love it!
Elizabeth: What project(s) did you choose for the girls and why?
Kelli: We’ve made reversible purses, banner flags, pillows, and canvas tote bags.
Elizabeth: How do you think it worked out?
Kelli: I think that all of the projects have turned out well. The girls have loved all of them.
It’s been a learning process to discern what’s appropriate for the wide range of age levels, numbers of girls in each sewing class, and the limited space, but we make it work and the girls have lots of fun with it!
Elizabeth: I think that’s great! Sewing has been woven in and out of camp for many years over our nearly 100 year old history.
My mom even wrote a blog about her own relationship to textiles including some aspects of textile arts at camp.
We look forward to having Kelli back again this summer with some new projects up her sleeve for the girls to try, including a headband project. So if your camper is interested in sewing, tell her to be sure to keep alert for when Sewing is announced in the Arts & Crafts Department!
Can’t wait to see you all at camp!
— Elizabeth Shreckhise, Director, Camp Alleghany for Girls