Kaffe Fassett is to the craft industry like yarn is to a knitter. They go hand in hand. We feel very lucky to have a Q&A with Kaffe today all about the craft industry and exciting things coming our way.
1.You recently celebrated a 50-year anniversary of working in the textile industry. What have been the biggest changes you’ve seen over the years?
I suppose for me the biggest change in the past 50 years in the patchwork world, is the change from small Debby Mum and thimbleberry prints, to what I prefer, large scale florals and geometrics. I was so influenced by English quilts that used large scale florals in their furnishing fabrics in the quilts (when I came to the UK in the 1960s). I wasn’t the only one up scaling my prints and it made the resulting quilts a lot juicier with bigger pieces used in them. Another change is the timidness of new knitters to use pattern and colour changes in their garments. We had such a flourishing in the 70s and 80s of competent knitters gaily knitting whatever us designers threw at them. Then a lot of young knitters joined the craft who only felt confident to do solid colour scarves and jumpers. They took to the multi tone yarns for their colour but few do colour work as such. I think it’s beginning to change a bit. Colour is more important now to quilters who used to be enthused by two contrast colours only in a quilt. Now one sees real flights of colour experimentation.
2. You managed to pack so much in – lectures, workshops, knitting, quilting, painting, mosaics, books, patterns, exhibitions, touring and more… What’s the secret of your sustained creativity and productivity?
The secret to getting so much done is confidence. I don’t really know where it comes from but when someone is afraid to get going on a project, I can see that I never mind getting something wrong. I just grab a new project with gratitude and get stuck in. I know if it doesn’t work out I’ll learn something valuable. With that attitude, things usually go well and I make quick progress. Also, I have a great team to help me sew, and appraise my work as I go along. Encouragement comes from my fans all over the world. I meet them in workshops and through the Kaffe Collective where people display what they have made from my fabrics that is immensely enabling. Also, it’s so life enhancing to see a new project take shape on my design wall (it’s addictive).
3. How do you see technology changing the face of quilting? What does it mean to create by hand in the digital age?
Creating by hand is deeply satisfying in a way that can’t really be explained to someone who is in their head. When the hands create something that is only a vague dream in my mind, it’s like a surge of tonic entering my system. I can’t wait to get up in the morning to carry on with a new project and to see it take shape in my fingers – not try to imagine what it will look like as I manipulate an image on a screen. I’ve worked like that before and it’s not half as satisfying. When a needlepoint design that I had painted on paper came back from stitchers, I’d always be disappointed. Finally, I decided to always stitch out a design and let the printers use my placement of colours to make a design printed on the canvas, and I was so much happier stitching the exact design I wanted.
4, What’s next? Can you let us in on anything exciting that’s coming?
Next in the pipeline are more artisan fabrics – Indian block prints, batiks etc and more of my upscale florals that I am itching to use in new quilts. Also this fall I photograph quilts based on a collection of antiques at the American Museum. We will shoot the book in Pennsylvania and travel a show of the antiques and my versions of them – Liza Lucy and Brandon Mably will also do versions of the American quilts. We just shot a book in Ireland that was exciting even though it rained every day of the shoot!
You can purchase Kaffe’s new book, Quilts in Ireland in store now. West Ireland, with its streets of colourful painted houses and ancient stone walls, provides the perfect inspiration for the richly varied quilt designs in Kaffe Fassett’s Quilts in Ireland. Renowned for his use of colour, Kaffe creates colour palettes of brilliant hot pinks and reds; deep blues, purples, and greens; and soft blues and whites from his journey to Ireland, showcased in striking quilt designs that are as unpredictable as the landscape of Ireland. With contributions from designers Liza Prior-Lucy and Philip Jacobs, Kaffe Fassett’s Quilts in Ireland will inspire quilters of all skill levels. Each quilt pattern includes complete instructions, with colour diagrams, and the book includes a section on patchwork and quilting basics.