In honor of National Craft Month in March, Amy Liikala shares her camp crafting memories and what skills she learned from crafting at camp. 

When you think back to your own youth camping days, what brings the biggest smile to your face? Boating, hiking, swimming, skits, campfires, friends? For me, it’s lanyards.

Don’t get me wrong. I loved camp and everything about it (except maybe for poison ivy and skunk cabbage), but I was in love with making lanyards. Before ever going to camp, I had never heard of lanyards and really had no need of them, especially since I didn’t own a whistle. But, once the craft counselors showed me four-strand braiding and box stitch (straight and spiral), my life was changed forever.

 A lanyard long enough to go over my head, be adjustable, and have a shiny swivel hook dangling from it was my ultimate goal — along with goals of swimming in the deep part of the pond, paddling a canoe without capsizing, and not falling off my upper bunk bed. I’d just have to think about a whistle later — a minor detail.

Once my colors were selected — after much deliberation — I sat outside day after day with every counselor willing to tutor me on the finer points of gimp weaving. From the starting knots to weaving in the ends and every stitch in between, it was a challenge to undertake and conquer. My focus was fierce. My intensity was unshaken. I was undaunted by the intricacies of my chosen project. Who knew that skills like persistence, patience, determination, and coordination would all be incorporated into a seemingly simple craft project?
I walked around all week with long lacing strands hanging out of my pockets. Every free minute was spent trying to demystify the ins and outs of lanyard construction. We campers would compare our progress and commiserate about our mistakes and setbacks when we’d have to tear out and redo our stitches. And yet, most persevered. At night, I’d carefully place my lanyard-in-the-making under my pillow. 

During that week of camp so long ago, I did indeed complete my very own lanyard, in addition to swimming in the deep water after falling out of the canoe, and dreaming from my bunk bed of all the lanyards in my future. At the end of the week, my favorite counselor gave me a plastic whistle to slide onto the swivel hook of my blue and white masterpiece. While that lanyard has been gone for many years now, lost somewhere along the way, I smile every time I think about it. The lessons learned from that first lanyard project will never be lost.

Amy Liikala is a former camper, camp counselor, art teacher, classroom teacher, and board member of Camp Whitewood in Windsor, OH.

Photo courtesy of Camp Howe in Goshen, Massachusetts.