If you sew clothing or love wearable art, chances are you’ve heard of Lois Ericson.
She was an amazing woman full of a zest for life and art. Lois passed away in January, after suffering a massive stroke. She will be greatly missed.
One of the greatest legacies that Lois gave was her ability to inspire others to create and design.
She developed clothing patterns, called Design and Sew, wrote or co-authored several books such as The Great Put On, Design and Sew it Yourself, and Opening and Closing.
She was a frequent contributor to Threads magazine. She wrote a monthly newsletter filled with design inspiration, news of her life, occasional recipes, and an appreciation for life. She also loved to draw, paint, and garden.
Several years ago my Mom, sister and I were lucky enough to attend a wonderful sewing retreat with Lois and Diane Ericson.
Our paths took an interesting turn.
My husband, Greg, was about to have a career change when Texaco and Chevron merged. He was going to take the opportunity to be a full time artist for a few years. He and I explored some ideas of how we might earn additional income while we built our creative careers.
Lois Ericson, was in her seventies, and wanted to sell her pattern company to have more time to create art. I wondered if this could be the answer for us.
I was taking pattern drafting courses, at the time, not really planning on making a career of it, but just because I enjoyed it.
When I was about 11 years old, I wanted to be a fashion designer. At age 16 and 17, while in high school, I also attended an occupational school for fashion design. Then life intervened, and my career path changed.
I was sure my husband would think I was crazy but he surprised me by being intrigued by the idea that we might run this business together.
Lois, and her husband Len, invited us to Salem, Oregon in July 2000, to see first hand what they did on a day to day basis.
We stayed in Lois’ studio, which was a charming house they rented down the street from their home. I wish I had been into taking pictures back then because it was such a cool studio, and I would have had a picture of Lois too.
It was filled with creative touches in every nook and cranny. There were shelves of beautiful fabric, a printer’s cabinet filled with fabulous buttons and intriguing found objects. Lois was especially known for her inventive closures on wearable art.
There were stacks of books on art, design, and fiber. There were pieces of her art, from sculptures to paintings, along with paint brushes with twisted twig handles.
Upstairs, she showed me her collection of unique clothing, encouraging me to enjoy looking through her samples.
I remember the excitement I felt at seeing such creativity and beauty surrounding me at every turn. I felt honored to be invited into such a personal space, especially of someone who I had looked up to as an inspiration.
Lois and Len were generous, gracious and charming hosts to us as we asked countless questions and got a better idea of what it might be like to step into their shoes to run their business.
But they also let us be part of their home and treated us as friends and house guests. I wasn’t expecting that at all. They had us over for several meals, we talked about the business and about personal things, played scrabble, and went out to dinner.
We left feeling very excited about the possibilities and imagining what it would be like to buy the business.
After we got home and looked at the costs and the risks involved, we reluctantly told them we could not make an offer.
I wish I had stayed in contact with Lois, though. She and her husband had such vitality for life. She seemed to effortlessly apply her creativity to everything she did.
One of the greatest gifts she gave was sharing her design process to allow others to find theirs. She was a teacher, a mentor, and an inspiration.
An email by Marcy Tilton said it best. “If you want to honor Lois, follow her lead….go into your studio and create, make, invent. Teach.”