Kaffe Fassett has inspired people across the world with his colourful work in fabric, knitting, needlepoint and patchwork (not to mention painting and mosaics!) We pay our own homage to Kaffe with seven reasons why he’s the godfather of craft.
Following a visit to a Scottish wool mill with fashion designer Bill Gibb, Kaffe bought 20 colours of Shetland wool and some knitting needles, and on the train back to London he asked a fellow passenger to teach him how to knit. His early collections were commissioned by Bill Gibb and later Missoni. When one of Gibb’s designs was chosen by Vogue as 1970 Dress of the Year (left), the ensemble included a hand-knitted waistcoat by Kaffe Fassett, showing that traditional textile handicrafts had become an acceptable aspect of mainstream fashion. His unique designs have been collected by Barbra Streisand, Lauren Bacall, Shirley Maclaine, Alan Bergman and Princess Michael of Kent to name but a few.
2. He’s torn up the knitting rulebook
Kaffe works intuitively and at a remarkable speed, and rarely uses graphs. He designs emerge organically and he teaches himself new techniques when he needs them. For the most part he only uses stocking stitch and rib stitch and he hates rules in knitting – the only thing that matters to him is colour and pattern.
“I think knitting is just mysteriously, incredibly magic. I mean who would ever think that you could just take two sticks and rub them together with a bit of thread in between and out would come this incredible tapestry of colour?” Kaffe Fassett
Colour is the defining feature of Kaffe Fassett’s work and he has inspired thousands of crafters to employ rich palettes of colour through his six-part television series, ‘Glorious Colour’ for Channel 4. Whether he’s knitting, designing tapestries or creating patchwork quilts, Kaffe can be working with as many as 150 colours at a time, somehow seamlessly combining them into stunning textile works of art.
4. He’s turned craft into art
In 1988 Kaffe became the first living textile artist to have a one-man show at London’s Victoria & Albert Museum. The exhibition went on to tour Finland, Holland, Norway, Denmark, Sweden, Australia, Canada, USA and Iceland. Recent exhibitions of textiles include the UK, Sweden, Denmark, America and Japan.5. He’s charitable
The international charity Oxfam asked Kaffe to work with poverty-stricken weaving villages in India and Guatemala, to advise on designs that would be more marketable in the West. As a result, a range of colourful hand woven fabrics is being produced for use as shirt fabric, bed throws and patchwork fabric. He performed similar work in South Africa.
6. He’s a gold medal winner
Hilliers Garden Centres invited Kaffe Fassett to design their garden for the 1998 Chelsea Flower Show. The garden featured his mosaic columns, planters and a shell grotto and won a Gold Medal and was written up as ‘The trend-setting garden of the year’s show’. For the 2012 Chelsea Flower Show he created an Artist’s Retreat to inspire visitors to create their own outside space in their garden. Kaffe’s retreat, called ‘Needlepoint Haven’ was a pink palace that inspired all who stepped inside.
7. He’s even done Shakespeare
The Royal Shakespeare Company commissioned Kaffe to co-design the set and costumes for ‘As You Like It’. Kaffe revealed in the Elizabethan period and used knitting, needlepoint, rag rugging and patchwork in the costumes. It was directed by Gregory Doran and opened in 2000, and according to Kaffe remains one of the most exciting commissions he has received to date.
Kaffe Fassett, for your services to textiles, for championing colour in a grey world, for inspiring a generation and for all the greatness you have brought us over the past 50 years, we salute you!
Find Kaffe Fassett fabrics and more in our designer fabric shop!