On Teaching Fashion: An Evening With Kaffe Fassett

Photo from Monarch Knitting and Quilts, Pacific Grove, CA

Photo from Monarch Knitting and Quilts, Pacific Grove, CA

 An Evening With Kaffe Fassett, in Pacific Grove, California this past Sunday the 27th of December was fabulous, as expected.  The event was coordinated by two local shops, Monarch Knitting and Quilts and Back Porch Fabrics (you can also read their write-up of the event).  I went to last year’s Evening, and that one was marvelous.  This one was very similar, a delight like last year’s with new material added in, plus a display of many of Fassett’s well-known designs. 


Fassett started off his talk by saying, “I live in a world of textile and color.”  If you know his work, you know his vibrating color combinations.  The textile artist in me loves that he named textile before colour.   He gave his biographical backgound, telling us of how when he first went to study painting in Boston (you can read his biography on his web site), the lessons included an introduction to color wheels, and how he reacted to them as, in his words, “the work of the devil,” saying that “colour is a very instinctive thing.”


If you look at the span of Fassett’s career, and the development of his work, it is fascinating to see how in his early work as a painter, he was, in his own words, “terrified of color.”  For a long period, he painted white-on-white still lifes (not as colorful as the more recent painting pictured above), often assortments of white china, sometimes broken china (interesting, when you see his recent work with broken china mosaics, pictured below).


As the legend goes, Fassett learned to knit after a visit to a Scotland wool mill with designer Bill Gibb.  He purchased twenty different colored balls of yarn and some knitting needles, and asked a woman on the train back to London to teach him to knit, which he says took just twenty minutes.  He immediately started on a twenty-color sweater, and when it was finished, took it to Vogue Knitting and had his design published.  Kaffe Fassett’s very first sweater is pictured below, as seen in the book Glorious Knitting


Kaffe Fassett's First Knitting

Today, Fassett is known for his textile designs for quilt fabrics and interior design, needlepoint, mosaics, painting, tapestries, and quilts, and, of course, his ten books.  Currently in progress are a book about his lifetime process of becoming a designer and an update of Welcome Home: Kaffe Fassett.  Additionally, a new quilt book, Simple Shapes Spectacular Quilts: 23 Original Quilt Designs, is due out in March 2010. 

Fassett described in his talk how travel has been a continuing source of inspiration for him:  first, in his travels to places with “intense love of color, no fear of color,” such as Guatemala and India, and second, as a teacher.  He described how in his work teaching workshops around the world, seeing people discover how to work with color was one of the things that keeps him teaching (I know that’s one of the things that keeps me teaching, now to figure out how to get paid to travel the world while doing so).

Fassett’s talk was filled with wit and humor and kept the audience well entertained.  Here are some of my favorite quotes from the Evening

When in doubt, overdo it.

So basically, it’s a TV cozy.

Deep down, I’m shallow.

When he described how he chose to hand off teaching knitting workshops (now done by his partner, Brandon Mably) in favor of teaching quilting workshops, he said it was because the quilters could accomplish an entire quilt in a one-day workshop, he said “much more to my taste, because I’m a speed demon.”  Having taught both knitting and quilting myself, I can relate.

The night was rounded out with booksigning and time to view the quilts and garments on display.  Pictured below are some of Fassett’s knitted creations from the on display on the stage:





I had brought my first edition copy of Glorious Knitting. with me and had it signed, and then had my picture taken with Fassett.  I had my photo taken last year, too.  I figure I may as well make it an annual tradition.


Like last year, many in the audience proudly wore their own handknit creations, Kaffe Fassett designs or otherwise.  The bag pictured below was particularly eye-catching.  Made and designed by Therese Stark Felder, of StarKreation, it is an entrelac knitted and felted bag, with a vintage belt for a closure. 



If you would like to learn more about knitting Kaffe-Fassett-style, I recommend you pick up one of his books, and likewise if you are interested in his quilt designs.  If you are interested in his appearances and workshops in California, bookmark the site Kaffe in California.  His entire international tour and workshop schedule is on the main Kaffe Fassett site, here.  Lastly, while Fassett is a self-professed Luddite, his partner Brandon Mably is on facebook, and you can also become a fan of the Kaffe Fassett facebook fan page.

If you are interested in shopping online for Kaffe Fassett fabrics, visit Glorious Color and Westminster Fabrics.  If you want to see his needlepoint kits, visit Ehrman Tapestry.

Have any of you knittted up any Kaffe Fassett designs, or used his fabrics, quilt patterns, or needlepoint patterns?  If so, let me know and share a photo.

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