March 20, 2018

The power of feeling normal: reflecting on the Cashmerette Curvy Retreats, Australia Edition


Well, we’ve been back in Boston for 2.5 weeks now, but as we head into our third snowstorm in that time, Australia feels like a million years ago! As you may have predicted – especially if you were following along on Instagram – Carrie and I had an utterly fabulous time running the Cashmerette Curvy Retreats in Australia in February. Neither of us had been to Australia before, and it was such a delight to experience a new culture, but even more so, to meet a whole bunch of amazing curvy Australian sewists.

Bringing cake is always a winner!

We started off in Sydney at Bobbin & Ink, with a meet and greet, where I got to meet so many awesome sewists, and also showed a sneak preview of the Montrose Top.

Then we ran the weekend retreats in Sydney, Melbourne, then back to Sydney for a second round (and one participant, Cassiy, even came back again!).

Teaching retreats focused on fit is so rewarding – as I talk about a lot over the weekends, like it or not, our appearance has a big impact on our emotional wellbeing, and being curvy or plus size and having a limited range of clothes or sewing patterns available to you can really erode your self esteem. But, with patterns that are in (or close) to your size, and then with having the knowledge of how to alter them to fit you well, there’s huge potential not only to improve your wardrobe, but also your confidence.  I think it’s a testament to that idea that so many people end up in (happy) tears at the end of the retreats! And of course, it sets me off too…..

There’s also something so fundamental about being in a room with lots of women with (basically) the same body shape as you. In our retreats there’s always a wide range of attitudes about our bodies – from people who are totally confident and fabulous, to people who are still struggling to accept and love themselves. Within a few hours though, you can see the group visibly relax, and it’s not long before everyone’s whipping their clothes off to try things on and parading around half dressed (note, this isn’t a MANDATORY part of the retreats, it just tends to happen!).

Feeling normal and average in a group is something not everyone gets to regularly experience, and quite the contrary, I’ve heard tons of horrible stories about curvier women being made to feel “difficult” by sewing teachers who simply don’t know how to alter patterns for larger bodies.  In our retreats, you’re just part of the crowd, and no body is “too difficult” – which is such an absurd idea, anyway. As I always say, I could make our patterns fit a mouse or an elephant – all you’re doing is putting structured fabric on a 3d object – so there’s no human body that’s going to be “too hard” to fit.

Talk of “safe spaces” and representation sometimes get hijacked in political conversations, but I know from the Cashmerette Retreats that they are incredibly meaningful and important concepts, and can actually be life-changing for people. I’m so glad that in a tiny way I can help create those environments for a few women. If you want to read more about how it feels to be on a Cashmerette Retreat, and about the ideas of inclusivity, I highly recommend reading Kate’s great review here.

We had some lovely feedback from our groups which make me so happy:

“That empowering feeling of accomplishment knowing that you have made a garment to specifically fit your body is, priceless. Thank you Cashmerette for making me appreciate my body shape.”

“The Cashmerette Retreat was a wonderful experience, one that I would repeat at every/any opportunity. I learned heaps, enjoyed the relaxed and hands on teaching. Everybody made something, we all had fun, Jenny Rushmore is a brilliant and inspirational teacher.”

“I came away with personalised, informed, fitting advice and a wonderfully body-positive experience, which translate into well-fitting, attractive garments! It was well worth the time, effort and money; I’d be back again in a heartbeat!”

“I had so much fun at the retreat that I went twice! You learn so much at the retreat about selecting sizes, grading patterns and how to fit clothing to your body. You can make beautiful clothing that fits you. I now have the clothing making “buzz” people talk about. I want to make all my clothing now and not just in knit fabrics. Thank you Jenny for changing my sewing life xxx”

“Jenny was so positive and helpful and full of pearls of wisdom about fitting a garment well. Even though I have been sewing for many years, I learned so much, and came away with confidence that I can adjust patterns to fit me better than before.”

Another huge highlight of the retreats for me is being able to help people wear particular garments for the first time, whether from RTW or sewing. We had quite a few examples of that in Australia, in particular, well-fitting jeans, button-down shirts and woven dresses!

Check out these gorgeous Ames Jeans (and yes Chloe’s is a muslin rather than a trendy fashion statement!).

Some amazing Upton Dresses (can you believe that for Angie on the far right, it was the first dress she ever sewed?!)

More gorgeousness with a first-ever button down shirt, a first-ever fitted dress, and a beautifully fitting Concord T-Shirt.

Another first-ever dress from Cassiy, a gorgeous swan Webster Top, and another lovely Harrison shirt! 

And here are all the gorgeous smiling faces I got to hang out with!

As a final treat, we got to attend Sydney Frocktails, and who should I bump into but these two gorgeous Rivermont Dress-clad ladies… big floral scuba for the win!

As always, the retreats got me thinking about what I can do to improve them, but also how to try to capture the magic of retreats for those of you who aren’t able to attend. One thing that really stuck out to me this time is how many people are intimidated by grading between sizes (or don’t know how to do it, or that it exists), so we’re going to be doing in-depth guides to that on the blog, with guidance for each of our patterns, and adding info to our instruction booklets.

I also want to capture the experience of getting one-on-one advice from me, and learning from others who are getting that advice, so watch this space for more details on an exciting project!

We’re now looking at when/where we will do future retreats, so if you have an opinion, let us know…

A HUGE thanks to everyone who made the retreats possible, all our amazing amazing sewists, and especially to my right-hand-lady Carrie for venturing around the world with me on such a big adventure.

22 thoughts on “The power of feeling normal: reflecting on the Cashmerette Curvy Retreats, Australia Edition

  1. Alison says:

    Please come to Canada! The retreat sounds like a life-altering experience.

  2. Andrea Letourneau says:

    Are you planning on offering any workshops in the US?

  3. Denise says:

    I second the comment about coming to Canada, particularly the West Coast, Vancouver. Or even better, how about the Okanagan Wine Country?

  4. Megan Eliza says:

    I am going to third the request for Canada, and second the request for either Vancouver or the interior of BC. Vancouver has sewing facilities that accommodate this, there is also a great little sewing studio in Comox BC that could accommodate if you wanted to do something on Vancouver Island (a great possible getaway location)

  5. Christina says:

    I’ve only recently discovered you and your company. Then to find out you are within a train ride of me. Please have a retreat or live classes in Boston.

  6. Jen says:

    Nashville!!!! Craft South already carries some of your patterns and I’ve had/overheard several of their employees talk up your patterns — I think it’d be a great fit!!

  7. Catherine says:

    U.K. or even Norway!

  8. Stacey says:

    Oh yes, please come south!! Atlanta would be great!

  9. Geniese says:

    I’ll second/third for a class o=anywhere on the eastern seaboard! I’d fly or drive quite a ways for some solid class time :). I love sewing with Cashmerette patterns.

  10. Sierra says:

    Berlin wants you!

  11. Lynda Woerner says:

    Please offer a retreat in the U.S. What do you need to get something started?

  12. Mary Newcomb says:

    I already feel happier seeing a group of women like me. I want to make my own clothes again (like back when I was young, thin and patterns fit) . I live in Central Minnesota.

  13. Itto says:

    Wainting for you in Paris !

  14. rosemarysews says:

    Southern California would be a great place to hold a sewing retreat.

  15. Karen says:

    Hosting a workshop on the US West coast!

  16. Billie says:

    I’m in Calgary, but I could easily get to the Okanagan or Vancouver for a sewing retreat.

  17. Patty Wood says:

    Please have a workshop at Canaan Valley Resort & Conference Center in Canaan Valley, WV. Lovely nature and mountain views, near Blackwater Falls. They have hosted sewing retreats before. Rates could be good when the ski season is over, right now. If this location is too remote, how about in Pittsburgh, PA? Or Baltimore, MD? I would love to attend an event like this! Thanks.

  18. Diane says:

    Please could you come to the UK, particularly the North (everything happens in and around London) and we tend to get forgotten about! Can’t wait to book myself in it you do!

  19. Claudia says:

    Somewhere in Germany! or even Europe
    I would love this !!

  20. Samantha says:

    Adding my vote to Vancouver (area), Canada!

  21. sewgrandma says:

    Here is another vote for Canada. I’m in Manitoba but west coast is fine since my grandkids are on Vancouver Island. My thinking is that many sewists are quilters because we are put off with our sewn garments.

  22. Vicki says:

    Would love to see a retreat in the Midwest part of the US! I am from Wisconsin, but the Chicago area would work too!

Let me know what you think!