I attended Diane Ericson’s Design Outside the Lines Retreat in Ashland, Oregon. The theme was “Coat as Shelter” and the guest instructor was Carol Lee Shanks. This was my second year attending the coat retreat. Last year I made a coat using Carol Lee’s method of pattern design. Her process for approaching fabric is intuitive. She works primarily with geometric shapes and transforms cloth into textural works of wearable art.
Diane likes to approach design with pieces of fabric that she makes into what she calls “bits.” They are draped on a dress form and the creative process unfolds. She utilizes paints, stencils and hand stitching to weave a story which becomes a theme for her garment.
Gwen Spencer was Diane’s “angel” assistant. She is an extremely talented seamstress and works closely with Marcy Tilton. She brought some discarded fabric pieces she acquired on a trip to Paris and I watched her transform these pieces into a beautifully textured fabric. She offered assistance and guidance to all 19 of the participants of the retreat.
I decided that I would use Carol Lee’s method again this year. The fabric I chose for the coat was a 1950’s
vintage embroidered wool that I purchased in the spring from Sandy Ericson, Center for pattern design. I cut my fabric, put it on the dress form and started pinning. The fabric did not slide easily on my body so I consulted with Gwen and decided to line the coat sleeves and shoulders with dupioni silk. Luckily I found a pale pink dupioni at Fabric of Vision. It matched the embroidery on the wool fabric and made a beautiful cuff for the sleeves. Gwen, with her expert eye and sewing skills, helped me construct and attach the lining.
Next came some fit issues. The coat was too big in the back and the underarm/bust area in the front. Carol Lee started pinning pleats in the area’s that were too big and I stitched the pleats with embroidery thread. The coat was then hemmed with some asymmetrical lines.
I did not want to put a collar on the coat but I wanted something that could become a companion piece. I found a grey fabric with lots of texture, cut bias strips (with Gwen’s assistance), and made a cowl. Using one of Diane’s techniques for creative play and design, I made bits of fabric with the silk and attached it to the cowl.
The four days I spent in this retreat were magical. I met some amazing women who were sharing, laughing and creating. A little bit of their spirit is still with me as I go back to my studio for some creative play.