Begin with a body of fiber art alchemy: naturally dyed wool and squares of bright silk in solid colors and ebru marbling. Then some cotton muslin worked in to keep the fibers stable. Shape and press and steam it – all by hand – until it conforms rather perfectly to the female form.
This light-as-air felted magic is created by the skilled hands of Ikonium Studio’s Mehmet Girgic, UNESCO human treasure and 5th generation felter, and his partner Theresa May O’Brien, classically trained painter and colorist extraordinaire.
Lovely and detailed as a double-breasted vest is, it’s not yet finished. That’s where I come in: completing the garment by adding knitted sleeves. Luckily, I have more than enough yarn options ready in the right colors.
Coordinating colors is the first step. The next is finding a texture that compliments the felt. Trying to match elements is too much work; besides, it looks contrived. Better to find a gentle harmony like nature does, similar but different, diverse with repeating motifs.
In this piece, that motif is the square. So, tiny seed stitch bands at the wrist, and larger blocks of pattern on the arm. Stripes are the perfect companions to the color-blocked body. The narrow width of the arm creates the visual block effect.
The sleeves could have been knit on the garment, from the armholes down. But since it’s summer, it’s too hot to sit with all this on my lap! So high narrow sleeve caps are calculated to fit into the armholes. The nice thing about wool is that it’s flexible when easing it all together with needle and thread.
And why knit the same sleeve twice? Matching yarns and stripes on each side of the body would be too rigid. It’s enough work to keep the sleeves the same size and length.
Last step: to keep the sleeves firmly in place against the felted body, I add a decorative blanket stitch in slightly shaded wool. In traditionally tailored menswear garments, this stitch would have detailed the inner lining. Better here to flip it to the outside.
Tailored sleeves suit this formal fitted body. I love how the bright playful colors and the asymmetrical collar keep this from being just another workday jacket.
The best projects are collaborations. One artist starts, then others add until the work is complete. Fiber arts make the process easier, with hybrid blends taking shape in felt, in knitting, in a decorative stitch. More to come!