Early last month, I went on my first overnight crop retreat. It had been on my to-do list for some time and while I almost didn’t attend, at the last minute everything fell into place and I was able to go. Just like this post here where I shared my experiences attending a scrapbooking convention, I wanted to also share a list of 10 things to remember when attending a crop for the first time. As with everything, it is trial and error. Hopefully I will be able to give you newbies an opportunity to learn about what it is like. I hope you enjoy and let me know about your experiences as well. Here we go:
10. Don’t Be a Pack Rat
I know that the biggest fear is that you either will pack too much or not enough, which is valid. We will get to that in a second. This section is dedicated to your totes, crates, boxes and bags. Since I had never been on a crop, I figured that my super sized tote, you know–the same one wheeled one we all have, would hold most of my items. While it held a great amount, it certainly didn’t hold everything that I needed it to. I ended up packing my rolling tote and the matching over-the-shoulder one as well as my tool kit (which I have since traded up—I will share more about that soon). I also packed these containers to hold embellishments and inks:
I also had a couple of smaller baskets as well. Here’s the key: it will save you much time and a lot of hassle if you make all of your stuff has a place (a container) and that place has a handle of some sort. While you could make a case for open-ended containers, if you try to pile stuff upon stuff when you are moving things in an out, you will be cursing out loud if something falls and spills everywhere. And if do end up having a few free-floating tools, especially things like punches, be sure to put your name or initials on them just so you can keep track of your things. There will be a lot of duplicates in the room!
9. Make a List, Check it Twice
This one goes without saying. I consider myself a list maker, but if you aren’t necessarily someone who prefers to make lists try this method: In your craft space, area, closet, totes, or wherever you leave your stash, go through each “section” and thumb through it for items you think you may want to take along. For example, I have my paper organized by color and then some themed paper that I use mainly on my son’s scrapbooking pages. Paper can be a tricky item to pack because you may just own a lot of stacks for one, or you might feel inclined to take everything. Unless you want to take whole totes filled with paper, might I suggest going through each color family and selecting a few shades. Don’t forget about your neutrals like white, off white, brown and black, because you can always do a lot with those. Find one tote that will hold a good variety of colors and trust your creative abilities. Don’t forget a selection of embellishments and extras like ribbon or metal pieces. If you are an embosser, don’t forget your heat tool and if you like to sew on your pages consider a travel sized machine or better yet, bring needle and thread to hand sew! Remember, the key is not to take everything, but a selection of things. Don’t worry, I know you can do it! Oh! Don’t forget your clothes. (Seriously…I almost…just don’t forget to pack your clothes.)
8. Have an Attack Plan
I figured that the amazing ladies at the retreat really liked scrapping and creating, but what I wasn’t necessarily expecting was that the crop was really a reunion of old friends! There were women who had been friends in “real” life but also online and they were sharing in the camaraderie of the experience. That being said, your attack plan may just to sit in a shared space with people that help feed your soul, play with some paper, try out a friend’s new stamp set and laugh..a lot! And alternatively, you may want to do all that and make cards for an upcoming craft fair, create a mini album for a holiday gift or maybe even finish some home décor items. My attack plan was finishing my son’s scrapbook album, his age 3 to 4 year in review. I was on a mission! And fortunately I was able to finish it although one night I don’t think I went to bed until about 5 am! (Oh the joys of a scrapper!) The point is, if you are simply there to have fun, then don’t stress so much about what to bring. If you leave something behind, so be it. If you begin with the end in mind, then you’ve got to plan out exactly how you are going to finish the task at hand. In completing my son’s album I had a finite set of photos that I wanted to scrap. Based strictly on those photos, I chose paper and embellishments to coordinate. I even pre-organized the photos, paper and embellishments and stored them together in one of my totes so that each layout could be done as effortlessly as possible. (If you are interested in learning more about my system, just let me know.) The key is to make sure you have everything you need to complete your project.
7. Remember Your Non-Scrappy Gear
This one isn’t as fun as talking about buttons or ink, but it is just as important. I use an Ott Lite in my craft room, and I’m sure many of you have special craft lighting as well. While the rooms where you will be crafting will obviously be lit, they may not necessarily be well lit. It’s a good idea to supply your own light source especially if you are already dependent on it. Speaking of light sources, you should bring your own cords (extension cords and power strips) to help supply your personal line of electricity. I kind of threw these in as a second thought, but I am so glad that I did! The nearest outlet to me was “dead” and I had to run a cord to the table where I was working. Some other extras you might consider: a seat cushion for your tush, a bucket or some type of receptacle for your cropping trash, a cutting mat, a few crafting magazines or books, charging cords for your phone or MP3 player (and some headphones if that’s your thing), and snacks and drinks if you are particular about that sort of thing.
6. Know What to Do Just in Case You Don’t Know What to Do
This one is dedicated to your bosom buddies or anyone that you end up spending a lot of time with at the crop. Most of the time, these are your next door neighbors and the people you end up seeing the most. (However, I encourage you spend some time with as many people as you can!) If you are meeting up with friends, you can often pre-arrange to sit with your BFFs. In my case, I was really open to sitting wherever and my main intention was to meet new folks, which I did! No matter how you wish to go about your experience, make a least a couple of pals to connect with for a few reasons. One, if you are there alone, be sure to exchange cell phone numbers, emails, Facebook accounts, etc. With the 24 hour nature of crops, people are coming and going all the time and if you are unusually absent from the common space, you want to be sure someone will notice—sooner or later. Another reason is that it’s nice to have someone to go to meals with, if that’s what you like to do. But the biggest reason to become friends is because you never know when you need a green marker to complete that one layout or like me, a Cricut mat to cut out those letters I needed for my title. (Yes, I brought my Cricut expression, my Gypsy, all the cords, but not one mat. I have several at home and I brought none—fail.) Luckily, I was able to borrow a mat and that particular layout could not have been completed without it.
5. Let’s Make A Deal
At this particular crop, there were a lot of bells and whistles. One of the things that I was personally looking forward to was a table of giveaway items. There was one designated area where scrappy friends could leave less loved items from their personal stash and take something else that they could definitely use. It was not a requirement, but an invitation to share and we all have something we could donate right? There was a variety of items including paper, stamps and even dies. While I shared some items from my scraproom, I was able to grab a sheet of while chipboard numbers that went perfectly on a page. Without those numbers, not only would that page have not turned out so nice, but I might not have been inspired to even create that page in the first place. On my last layout I scored a large chipboard frame from the shared pile, covered it with decorative paper and inked it—it was the absolute best thing about that page. One man’s trash is another’s treasure and you never know where you can find inspiration.
4. Take a Penny, Leave a Penny
In the same vein, there was also a garage sale table for items that people wished to sell. Again, the table had lots of variety, including lots of brand name things and new items never opened. The ladies there, including myself, would tag items with the price and left their name. Then if someone wished to purchase something, they could go over to that person and pay them directly. However, there were a couple of times when money just “appeared” at my personal work table because someone had bought something from my section. It goes without saying that this table wasn’t manned and we all operated on the honor system. It worked well and I ended up selling stuff and didn’t even know it. I should mention that this table did not house pre-made items like things you might find a craft bazaar. That wasn’t the purpose and nor should it have been. It was meant as another venue to simply unload items that you thought might fetch a reasonable price. I don’t think I saw anything over $10, for example.
3. Mad Money
You know that jar of quarters you’ve been hanging onto? Time to grab it and cash in it for a crop! While you will have paid your registration costs and maybe hotel fees beforehand, you will definitely need some pocket money. Remember how I talked about not bringing everything with you? Just in case you really do need a couple of extra sheets of yellow cardstock, you should be able to locate a couple of nearby spots where you can pick something up if necessary. The host at my crop treated us so well—she had printed out directions to all the local big box stores and printed out coupons for each one! Serious enabling but sometimes it was necessary. For example, you know how I wanted to finish my son’s scrapbook? Well I was able to complete a number of pages but I didn’t have any more page protectors! I scooted (only once, thank you) to a local craft store and picked up a set. Problem solved. In addition, this particular crop had an on-site vendor as well, which meant that you didn’t have to leave the crop to shop. How divine! And if you happen to be running low on mad money, you can do like I did and use the profits from items I sold for lunch or anything else I needed. That wasn’t something that I had anticipated but it was a big help financially!
2. Everything is Not For Everybody
Besides some amazing door prizes and raffles, one of the other offerings at the crop was a couple of make-n-takes. They were super cute and each “class” was held a different times throughout the crop. Remember how I said I was on a mission? Well, while I really wanted to stop and take advantage, I knew that if I did, I would have been off track to finish. Would that have been so horrible? Of course not. But that was the choice I made, and was able to bring home items from the make-n-takes including directions. So, I was able to still benefit even though I didn’t directly participate. And, I was still able to take advantage of the raffles which was really great.
1. Share Yourself
I hinted at this one a littler earlier—it’s all about the experience, the experience you have, the experience you bring. That’s the stuff that you don’t really pay for because it’s created and grows all on its own. I really got so much from sharing with everyone, about my crafting, about my life and hearing about them as well. It’s so refreshing to be around people that speak your language and know exactly what you are talking about when you say things like “scraplift” and “second generation stamping.” Seriously, where else can you find that? I’ll admit that I love the serene nature of my scrap space that allows me to have my whole scrapbooking world right at my fingertips. It’s reassuring at the very least. But besides all the wonderful conversations and laughs I got to have, it was nice to share myself with me again. When I started scrapbooking, all of my supplies (and I mean everything!!!) fit into one rolling tote. Of course, I find that laughable now in that I think that I took no less than 4 or 5 pieces of scrapbooking luggage of varying sizes to the crop. And that wasn’t even all my stuff!! But being separated from the majority of my stuff with limited supplies helped me to remind myself why I got into this hobby in the first place—for the creativity. Of course, it’s nice to have die cutting machines to do the “work” for you, but what if you had to sketch a die cut from scratch and cut it out by hand? Or maybe you have to color your page using inks or chalks because you didn’t have the perfect color of cardstock. (That happened to me by the way.) So yes, it is important to share yourself with others, but don’t forget yourself. We can benefit in all the wonders of this industry but it’s up to you to express yourself. That’s something that you have to do all on your own.