Friday, March 29, 2013

Shambolic Felt, a Decadent Cookie, and the Problem with Expectations...

Every now and then I stumble across a bit of creative artistry that makes my heart beat just a bit faster, and such was the case when I ran into my friend Marlene Gruetter at SAFF last year.  I saw her Shambolic felt jacket from afar and started hyperventilating.  I think that I even heard angels singing as I ran toward the display.

Oh.  My.  God.

Marlene models her lovely Shambolic creation.

The jacket was glorious----a flowing white feminine confection.  Light, airy, and very ethereal in a "Stevie Nicks during the Fleetwood Mac Years" sort of way...and I wanted  needed to make one JUST LIKE IT.    Much of the nuno felted apparel  that I see is somewhat shapeless...heavy on MuMu, short on style.    Clearly, Marlene's work was something special.

Stevie Nicks

We chatted a bit and then parted ways, but I could not get the jacket out of my mind.  Seriously, I needed a bit of ethereal fluff in MY closet.  See, my husband recently mentioned that my attire was running a bit too "black and combat booted" for his taste.  Hmmmm....and then I remembered that he had a wicked crush on  Stevie Nicks back in the day....and THAT recollection sealed the deal.  Clearly, this jacket was meant to be!

Day 1: Kim & Deb make jacket templates

Discussions were had, arrangements were made, and last week Marlene came to Florida to teach me, and six of my creative friends, to make the jacket of our dreams.    Marlene is as cute as a button....animal lover, funny as heck, ridiculously humble, and talented beyond belief....everything I need in a house guest.   It was a whirlwind, for sure. I am a felter, so I knew that this would be somewhat physical, but even I was impressed by the physicality of the process.

Shambolic felt is a kind of like making a mosaic with silk.  The jackets are pieced together with many, many, MANY small pieces of silk fabric that are seamed together with the tiniest wisps of wool.  There is no sewing involved AT ALL; rather, the jackets were entirely felted.  On Day 1 we took some measurements and created a giant template.  We anticipated a shrinkage rate of 50%, so it was necessary to make the initial garment two times larger than what we hoped to wear.  We set about cutting and ripping pieces of silk and "fiber seaming" them together to form the back of the jacket.  Uh Oh....Marlene warned me that I was a bit heavy handed with wool placement, but I wasn't about to start over and figured that it would be interesting to see how it all played out in the end.

It was hard work but we persevered with the help of chocolate and wine.  I tried a new cookie recipe that proved to be a winner....Dark Chocolate and Caramels....what could be bad?  Day 1 ended with aching backs and big smiles.

Salted Caramel Dark Chocolate Cookies
2 sticks of Butter, softened
1 Cup of Sugar
1 Cup of Brown Sugar
2 eggs
1 Tablespoon of Vanilla Extract 
2 Cups of All Purpose Flour
1 1/4 cups of Unsweetened Cocoa Powder
2 teaspoons of Baking Soda
4 tablespoons of Milk
1 b ag of Dark Chocolate Morsels
1 bag of Rolos Chocolate Covered Caramels
sea salt

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.  Cream the butter with the sugars until light and fluffy.  Beat in the eggs and the vanilla.  Add the flour, cocoa powder, baking soda and beat until mixed.  The mixture should be thick and difficult to manipulate at this point.  Stir in the milk and add the chocolate morsels. Refrigerate the dough for a few hours so that it will be easier to manage.   The caramel might leak through to the pan so save yourself clean up time by lining a cookie sheet with parchment paper or a silicone liner. 

When the dough has chilled, take a golf ball sized bit of dough and wrap it around an unwrapped candy.  The cookie will spread as it bakes, so I usually only put a dozen on each cookie sheet.  Sprinkle each cookie with a few grains of sea salt.  Bake for about 10 minutes.  The cookies will look very soft when you first take them out of the oven but they will be perfect when they cool down.

There were ten dogs in attendance for the workshop!  Fortunately, they were all well behaved!

We spent Day 2 concentrating on the front of the jacket.  Snip and Rip, Snip and Rip, seam, seam, seam...We lost one participant to a sore back, but the rest of us moved forward...snip and rip, snip and rip, seam, seam, seam....Day 2 ended with aching backs and big smiles.

Marlene's cute cropped jacket

Day 3 proved the most interesting day of all as we endeavored to make the magic happen. There were moments of panic and mini melt downs.  This was an intermediate to advanced level project and some of the participants had minimal felting experience.  Fortunately, all are good sports and Marlene used her best teacher's voice to assure everyone that we were on track, that we would love our jackets, that EVERYTHING WAS GOING TO BE OKAY.....and it was!  We rolled, manipulated, and beat our garments until they fit us the way they were meant to fit.

Every jacket started with identical materials...white silk fabric and undyed  merino wool; yet each looks so different!

Of course, because I was, indeed, very heavy handed with the wool, I did not get anything that remotely resembled Marlene's delicate jacket. I tried to tie the front "A La Marlene's" but the fabric was too thick and heavy to pull it off. Bummer. I experienced a brief second of disappointment when I realized that I wasn't going to be Stevie Nicks after all, but I knew that there would be many more jackets in my future.
I added Swarovski Hot Fix Crystals to the Lapel and incorporated Swarovski Crystal Yarn in the Fringe....YUM!
I played around with my jacket a bit more and suddenly saw what it was trying to be---more  unstructured blazer than frilly frock---and I absolutely ADORE it.  I dyed it, trimmed the lapel with Swarovski Crystal Hot Fix Elements and included some Swarovski Crystal Yarn in the fringe.  What a difference!  Several of the participants continued to refine their jackets, as well!

Lorie Honey McCombie dyed her jacket
Deb Mahoney moved her fringe to the front
Pam Beauchesne camps it up in her ethereal jacket!
Deb's lighter touch made for a spectacular drape!

It is funny....the Tyranny of Expectation can be a downer and sometimes blind us to the joy of what IS.   I may not have gotten the Stevie Nicks jacket I expected initially, but I wound up with something that exceeded my expectations...I just had to adjust my expectations a wee bit.  I have learned over the years that Wanting What I Have keeps me much more content then always Having What I Want and this was no exception. It is an interesting lesson ...and one I need to re-learn every few years, it seems!

It was an amazing experience.  We laughed, we cried, and we emerged victorious! Thank you, Marlene...the three days we shared opened a creative window for each one of us.  In fact, I am dyeing up some silk and planning three days at the felting tables next week.  After all, there is  a Stevie Nicks Jacket in my future, I just know there is!

Have an interest in Nuno Felted Apparel?  Contact Marlene to order a copy of her new Ebook on Shambolic Felt Making...The instructions are great and easy to read...C' is time to channel YOUR inner Stevie Nicks!