Limited by Imagination: Carol McCollum


By Deanna Lockett


Carol’s coat, pieced from various scrap fabrics.

“Come play in my Sandbox.” The invitation was given by Carol McCollum to visit “Rococo Studio of Fiber, Color and Design.” For those of us who love fabric design and sewing, Carol’s studio is a “playground” where her creative juices spill over, filling the room with her imagination. There is a black and white coat collection, aprons, and commissioned designs for her clientele.


Tools and machines of her trade await her skilled hands. Boxes of projects line the walls of the Rococo where recycled jackets, dresses, and tops are transformed to new couture. She refers to finished projects not as recycled, but “up-cycled.” She feels her gift is to look at a piece of clothing or fabric and in a few minutes know how to make it into something new and special. Carol’s passion is poured into each project. Her conversation surrounding her work is filled with words of passion such as “caress the fabric.” She seems to know what the fiber wants to become, as if it talks to her.


Carol comes from a line of women designers. Her mother, Miriam, had a TV program on LEARN channel where she taught pattern grading and design. Her grandmother Bessie Decker sewed for Mel Marshall, a New York clothier. When Carol was a child, she would use pieces from her mom’s discarded cloth to make doll clothing. So she was up-cycling even as a child. In her teens, she made her own dresses; she even dressed the dog. She made her high school prom dress using thousands of beads and sequins recycled from old clothing.


After high school she studied law, architecture, political science and history, but after a couple of years she knew she had to create. She graduated from Haywood Tech around 1990 and was inspired by the architect, Gaudi’s, steep spires and pointed buildings. She studied sericulture (the study of silk), and used threads the size of hair to weave gossamer cloth which was made into Kimonos. One kimono was borrowed by a famous person and used for a wedding ceremony. Carol continued to weave for fifteen years. One small loom remains in her spacious studio.


A simple denim skirt: Now one of a kind.

In 2005 she began going back to her roots of playing with clothing and fabric. She loves to drape cloth and make shapes of something flat. “I enjoy the challenge of taking a pile of clothing that was made of nice fabric and ask it to play dress up.” Carol said. Clients bring used clothing or something that had been a favorite of an aunt or mother, and she transforms it into something wearable for them or their loved one. She enjoys the texture and feel of the cloth. She manipulates the cloth by ruching and draping the fabric to re-purpose it into something other than the original intent. Each project is her favorite while she is caressing it, then on to the next project.


Recently she took a 125-year-old prayer shawl called a Talis and rescued it by saving the stripes and corners. She used silk and remounted the entire garment. The grandson of the original owner, a 13-year-old boy in Washington DC wore it to his bar mitzvah. Carol has helped dozens of children in Asheville create their own Tallit for their coming of age. She says, “Each one is a reflection of that person and their soul.”


Carol is a volunteer grandmother “Bubby” at the Jewish community center where she holds babies and follows them through pre-kindergarten. When time for them to graduate, she helps them each paint six pieces of cloth and helps puts it together to make their graduation gown.


The second Asheville Project Runway was held this year at the “Fine Arts Theater.” Carol was the Master of Ceremony for the event. Over $4000 was raised for the Asheville Jewish Community Center. One of Carol’s black and white gored coats was modeled at the show. Project Runway is a bi-annual fund raising event for the JCC. The event doubled in size this year and they are seeking a larger venue. Anyone wanting to contribute to the 2014 event should contact Carol through JCC. Planning for Project Runway begins a year in advance.


You may remember that I had a play date with Carol. She asked me to bring something to re-purpose. I brought an old denim skirt that I felt was outdated and a bit frumpy. While I asked questions, and observed, Carol redesigned my skirt by ruching one side and added lace that she gathered on the spot. Then she added a box pleat to make the skirt into something completely different than what I had brought in. She even prepared a visually pleasant, delicious lunch which we shared with her husband. Thanks, Carol, for a unique and fun day at “Rococo Studio of Fiber, Color and Design,” also known as Carol’s “Sandbox.”


Deanna Lockett is a RN, Lactation Consultant, author, and Send Out Cards representative. Send a card of gratitude today.

Sandi Tomlin-Sutker
Written by Sandi Tomlin-Sutker