Shifting Geers

Ashland 2.0!

That's right...I went back to Ashland,OR to spend another week with Diane Ericson, Carol Lee Shanks and 20 other eager DOL'ers (Design Outside the Lines).  It really is like 'camp for grown ups.'  Several of the women (yes, it was all women), including me, have been to a DOL retreat before.  I was excited to attend the workshop this time because I really like Carol Lee Shanks work and philosophy about making.  

I also fell in love with Ashland last spring and was really geeked to be there again this spring.  Lithia Park in downtown Ashland is worth the whole trip for me!  It is amazingly gorgeous.

I am not exactly sure if I can adequately describe my experience this time around....it was not the week that I was expecting.

The first day we all got introduced to Diane and Carol's work and design approaches.  I love Diane's work and it is incredibly inspiring, as is Carol's.  For me, the pared down simplicity of Carol's work was especially attractive.  She creates her garments with simple shapes that take full advantage of the fabric.  Her 'zero waste' philosophy is admirable and I love the ways that she incorporates even the selvedges into her final pieces.  I wanted to try working with her ideas.

I cut out two different garments...one shift type dress and a t-shaped shrug...I realized very quickly that the equipment I was using was going to make either project a frustrating experience.  Not wanting to go there I put them back in the suitcase to finish at home.

The next day was "Pants Day."  Most of us tried and liked!!! Diane's Capitola Pants pattern. It is a one seam design and the fitting is done from the waist.  The final waist line does not follow a straight line like most patterns, but it really is a slick way to adjust for all different body types.  I am definitely going to make some more of them.

The next day I decided to take another whack at the shift dress, this time with fabric that was better suited to the basic sewing machine that I was using.  I found a really cute cotton dish towel at the local department store with bicycles on it and some fabrics at the quilt shop that were really great with it.  I started cutting and draping and piecing and painting and sewing and....

the more I worked, the more I realized... 

that the piece I was creating... 

was everything that I DON'T want to be!  

I left it on the dress form and almost ran out of the room.  I didn't know what to think or do.  I felt lost and scared...like I was losing a long time friend.  It sounds kind of 'drama queen' when I write about it now, but it was a real whack on the side of my emotional head.  My sewing and creating has always been the place I go when I need to feel centered and competent and confident.  All of a sudden it felt like that was gone.

After a good cry and some fresh Oregon air, I realized that this past year (since retiring) I have been 'hiding out' in my sewing room.  I have been making safe things.  Things that are well designed, beautifully executed, technically superb...and completely soul-less!  AND most of them I have never worn!  My sewing room has turned into a place to hide instead of a place to grow.  OK, whack in the head number two!

I was pretty shaken and thinking about just going home (the problem with that plan was that my husband was joining me for a trip to wine country and Portland later in the week.  I had to stay!)  On the way to dinner one of my fellow retreaters asked about my dress.  When I said that I hated it she asked what I wanted to do.  I said, "I want to make a rectangle!"  

I am so grateful to the "Rectangle Gang."  After dinner, and a lot of wine, they hauled me back to the sewing room and we all made rectangles!!!  It was just what I needed.  Like getting back on the horse.  I finally made the simple shift dress that I had been trying to make all week.  We laughed and sewed and made rectangles.

I know it doesn't look like that big a deal, but this little dress is exactly what I needed to make.  I am not sure what the next step in my sewing life is going to look like, but I know I want it to "feel" more like my little shift dress.  

As I said before...

I'm not sure this was the retreat that I was expecting, but I think it was the one that I needed.


  1. Such a great post, Becky! You really got something from this DOL. That place of uncertainty isn't comfortable but if you keep riding that wave you DO get somewhere. We all need to ride it more often.
    I so enjoyed meeting you, working with you and being your "back seat" mate!

    1. Thanks so much for having my back(seat!). Sitting with uncomfortable is so much harder than spinning wheels, but I know where wheel spinning goes, so I'm sitting for awhile. Next DOL I hope to be as prolific as you were...you go girl!

  2. TGFW. Thank God for Wine! I hope you'll show us your Capitola pants. Do fitting instructions come with the pattern?

    1. I have yet to hem them, but will share when they are finished. The pattern is great and has awesome instructions.

  3. Your post is so spot on. I have been watching you post project after project all the while thinking you are creating as a form of personal therapy. It is amazing how we realize our "truth" when it is time to do so.

  4. I often refer to my studio time as "my therapy." This past 18 months it has been even more true. I guess we are never finished discovering our 'truth.'

  5. I'm just figuring out the clothes I really want to make and wear after returning to sewing 3-4 years ago. You're right on track!

    1. Reinvention is kind of tricky...thanks for the encouragement.