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The first time I heard about the Michigan Womyn’s Music Festival (aka just plain “Michigan,” in my hippie youth), I thought it sounded exactly like summer camp for grownups. Wow, was that a long time ago.

In this millennium, there are suddenly all kinds of summer camps for adults: guitar camp, digital detox camp, yoga camp, sailing camp, coding camp, dude ranch camp (actually not sure about that; I might just be thinking of City Slickers). And of course there are now so many knitting camps, all of which I’m pretty sure would cream the guitar camp guys across the lake at horseshoes. Not for nuthin’ is our forearm strength the stuff of legend.

I really do hope that everyone who longs to go to knitting camp gets a chance, either this year or very soon. But if you’re not going away to knit under the pines and sleep under the stars, or even if you are but it’s hardly going to be long enough—how could it, really?—here are some ideas for organizing your own custom adventure with like-minded campers this summer.

Because you know what they say about self-care: even better when we do it together.

Crafting Skills Acquisition

Crafts are a natural fit for a self-organized summer camp. You could go broad, like they do at sleepaway camp: do a little macramé, a little embroidery, a little indigo dyeing, a little fabric printing. Maybe you’ve already got a collection of domain experts in your knitting group. Or have a look at Making magazine, a great resource for accessible introductory projects with gorgeous results. Someone in your group is going to find their next obsession.

Or you could go deep. If you have a group of friends that are all about lace, say, I can suggest Jen Arnall-Culliford’s book Something New to Learn About Lace, which came out just in time for dog-day knitting.

Take Me to the Water

Speaking of hot weather, taking the waters is what summer was made for. Beach days if you’ve got one close enough. Picnics at the lake, if you’re more inland. Or hot springs, if you’ve got them in the vicinity! Pack your seasonally appropriate knitting and put together a potluck picnic. Food 52 has some great ideas.

A Tastier Book Club

Here’s where today’s camp is so much better than regular camp: mealtime. If you don’t think book clubs sound fun, it may be that you haven’t tried a cookbook club. We know from the global history of book clubs that many begin in great ambition, and fizzle by month three. This can be as true of YA-focused book clubs as it is with Russian-novel book clubs.

What isn’t going to meet premature book club death is the book club built around dinner, especially when fire is involved. Pick some people you know to be 1. willing cooks and 2. adventuresome eaters and 3. prepared to bring more cookbooks into the house, because the good ones aren’t always available at the library. I recommend Francis Mallmann’s Seven Fires: Grilling the Argentine Way. (Again, if you’re actually in Argentina or anywhere else in the Southern Hemisphere, where it’s midwinter right now, just move the party indoors.)

Get-It-Done Camp

If summer is your chance to catch up to life, you could put together Accountability Camp for an important project. Does this sound grim? It really doesn’t have to be. Summer is an ideal time to tie the bow on things you’ve meant to do for too long now.

Is it too hot to clean out the attic? All the more reason to wake up early and git ’er done fast. Is the beach calling your name? Very well, then, you have a ready reward/bribe.

Your project doesn’t have to be the whole attic (or the whole novel, or the whole of your sports nutrition textbook—haha! just found my project), or 100 percent of anything else. That’s what Accountability Camp is for: periodic check-ins. Enthusiastic cheering from the gang when you meet mini-goals.

Suggestions: pick only projects you truly want to do, or to have done. Only pick sister campers you really want to give truthful updates to, and who are ready to be your biggest boosters. Have some rewards in mind for when you finish. And although you could certainly do Accountability Camp virtually, like the other self-care camp ideas, it could be more fun in real life—because that way you can celebrate together!

So there you are: the fundamentals of self-care, i.e., crafting, bathing, reading, eating, resting and getting important things done. All made easier by longer days, and pleasanter with company.


Many thanks to Beverly Army Williams and the women of the Infinity Pool for sharing their ideas with me.

Women and beach days: the Ur-ritual of communal self-care.
Image:  Women at the seaside, Jan Toorop, 1885-1897, Rijksmuseum

About The Author

Max Daniels is a research-based life coach whose weekly emails make us laugh with recognition and rethink everything we thought we knew. Her new book is Meals at Mealtimes. What a concept!


  • My summer project is all about finding time to can or freeze our garden produce. This year especially new jalapeno sauces and or jellies. It’s not a leisurely stroll, like my knitting, which can be comfortably tucked away until the creative juices flow..but is a full blown race against time as the veggies and fruit rippens. There is a certain satisfaction when it’s done and even more in mid winter and you open that blackberry jam. Yum almost sounds like a mantra.

    • “Yum” is an excellent mantra! This reminds me of how much I used to love putting away groceries with my dad, who would say, “Oh I feel like a squirrel! Ready for winter!”

  • When I was a kid I went to the camp fire girls summer camp in the Sierra Nevada mountains of California. We had company, good food, crafts and activities, and lovely streams tall trees, all kinds of nice things. However, there was a little homesickness to get through but after that the two weeks flew by. The bus ride up and back was long, 7 hours to and from San Francisco, but that was nice too. We sang songs, stopped to eat our bag lunches.

    Now all grown up, I’ve just returned from the first Mason-Dixon Knitting getaway. It was so wonderful and relaxing to meet people who are so interested in knitting who have skills at all different levels, to be in a lovely and quiet place, and to be nourished by well prepared and delicious food. I feel as though I found myself again.

    • I’m still basking in the afterglow of the knitting getaway too! Definitely one of the year’s highlights.

      • So glad this happened! May it continue.

  • I’ve been itching to do something new this summer that also isn’t super-time-consuming and will pull me away from my usual leisurely summer crafting (knit, crochet) and reading. My 11 yr old stepdau and I recently saw a book that introduces very basic yarn dying and we found an indigo dye kit online. We’re looking forward to trying some yarn dying this summer when the right weather and mood strikes us, and we may pull in 1-2 other friends. We’re going to have ‘summer camp afternoon in our backyard’ one of these days!

  • When I retire, I will offer this camp. I have the location locked down!

  • Ugh, the attic, You just reminded me. And today would be the perfect day, as it’s going to rain. (It’s just the box room, and I can do it in a day — have to, as the only place to put stuff is all over the bedroom including the bed.) But the grandkids are coming over for the day, so alas, we’ll have to go to a movie instead. Too bad.

    • Judy, what’s the difference between an attic and a box room? I thought they were the same, from the hand-me-down English novels of my youth…

  • Accountability camp sounds deadly. But so useful! I dream of the days when I could just ride my bike and read all summer. (After chores, of course.)

    • The eternal pendulum! Sometimes the chores just have to wait… 😉

  • Max Daniels, you have penetrated my atmosphere once again with your genius!
    Just yesterday a woman approached me about starting a “group”….
    ”Uhhhhhhgggg, a group of whaaaat?” I thought.
    I played with changing the name from group to….crickets…..I chose to put the idea on a shelf until a concept was powerful enough to allure me – enter YOU!
    Summer Camp, Accountability, Get-it-Done campers…Yesssssssss!
    This I can do and WILL do, perhaps gather campers interested in clutter clearing their closet, night stand or home. Marie Condo style? We could play with what truly “Sparks Joy” and support one another in saying goodbye to all that doesn’t!

    • LOVE it! Report back if it pleases you 🙂

  • I love to go to camp! When my grandsons were younger, there was always a week thatbwasnt covered by their day care/preschool and camp. I would go down to stay with them. We’d do crafts, cooking, go out to lunch, and take a field trip to the local Lego store to buy new toys. My daughter eventually began to call it Camp Mama. This year they’ve been busy, so Camp Mama is on hold. They’re 14 and 12, so they are busy.
    What I need to take the place is a knitting camp or a ukulele camp. With campfires and arts and crafts and Smores. Also, I could also be happy at a laying around and reading camp. With a pool.

    • And lots of singing camp songs. Forgot that.

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