Kaffe Fassett and Inklingo

Monkey and I have had a big weekend. Last summer we signed up for two events at the Toronto CreativFestival (Sewing/Quilting/Beading/etc). We splurged on the champagne & hors d’oeuvre evening with Kaffe Fassett (Friday), and his color class (yesterday). It all developed in an unexpected way.

The Pattern in the Carpet
The Pattern in the Carpet

A surprise in The Pattern in the Carpet

As many of you know, I read on the NordicTrack. My days are normally so sedentary that I try not to read for pleasure unless I am exercising. I bought Margaret Drabble’s latest when it was published a few months ago, but just started it last week. The Pattern in the Carpet is not fiction, but an odd mix of biography and the history of jigsaw puzzles. Yes, it is unusual, but it is a good read. Imagine my surprise on Wednesday night, skiing happily along, when it suddenly mentioned Kaffe Fassett, who I was expecting to meet in 48 hours! Margaret Drabble doesn’t sew, but she has done some needlework cushions. This is part of what I read:

“I didn’t know who Kaffe Fassett was when I bought the cauliflower canvas. I bought it because it was so eccentric. I was stitching away at it on an aeroplane somewhere. . . when the stewardess said to me, ‘Oh, what a lovely Kaffe Fassett!’ I pretended I’d known who he was all along, but for a long time after this incident I thought he was a Scandinavian woman. . . ”

I was already breathing hard with aerobic exercise, and this knocked the air right out of me, I was laughing so hard. Of course, I wondered if Kaffe knew about it, and made up my mind to ask him to autograph and date page 287 for me. (He is mentioned on other pages too.) I did not imagine him as one of Lady Holroyd’s readers.

Meeting Kaffe Fassett (aka Gloria Snits)

I took the book with me on Friday and showed it to friends over dinner before the champagne event. (Russ walked me from the restaurant to the Convention Centre and then waited at Gretsky’s with a beer and three TV screens tuned to sports.) Brandon Mably introduced Kaffe Fassett (rhymes with Safe Asset), artist and author of Glorious Knits (hence Gloria Snits), who entertained us with a slide show of some quilts, some knitting, and some needlework. There were a few slides with veggies, but no cauliflower. Afterwards, Kaffe offered to take questions, so I asked if he knew he was mentioned in Margaret Drabble’s newest book. . . . NO! He had no idea, but he is familiar with her on radio in the UK.

I read the short passage above out loud, and the audience reaction was priceless. After this particular talk about his art and originality, and how to pronounce his name, the quotation was perfect. It was fun to be the first to tell him about it, and I offered to give him my book in exchange for his autograph on something else. I was very glad I had come. How’s that for a great evening? But wait. There’s more.

A $1400 night

There was another question after mine, but despite the large audience, there were only four questions altogether. The finale was a draw for $1400 worth of Kaffe’s knitting yarn, books, a backpack, and an umbrella. My name was drawn! And only five minutes after my question! Can you imagine? It was tremendous fun, and the prize is fantastic. It includes 60 skeins of his Rega sock yarn and 30 skeins of Colourscape Chunky.

$1400 Dollars (Monkey not included)
1400 Dollars (Monkey not included)

I have removed the raffia bows and the tissue paper, but I think you get the idea from this photo. I might even start knitting again. (I did knit from the age of three, and made some lovely things, but lost interest when I started quilting.)

Late night book shopping

When I met Russ afterwards, we had a lot to talk about. I decided this was my reward for being disciplined about exercising all these years. What if I had not reached page 287 until next week?! We stopped at a bookstore (open late) on the way home for another copy of the book, so I could still have my own copy with his autograph on page 287, and give him a fresh one. It was very late before we got to sleep, and I was up early on Saturday to drive to the color class. I had originally planned to take the train, but I needed the car to get my loot home with me.

Brandon Mably
Brandon Mably

Color Workshop with Kaffe Fassett

I enjoyed meeting both Brandon and Kaffe. They are charming men. I am glad I took the workshop, and I learned a lot, despite being so tired. What they do with color is difficult, but I understand it better now. I also understand that although these two gentle people can collaborate on one success after another, one false step creates some spectacularly ugly quilts—quite staggering in their ghastly horribleness. I have been astonished by some of the catastrophes I have seen hanging proudly at quilt shows. At least now I can appreciate what those quilters were striving for, even when they miss, as is easy to do. “Success is going from failure to failure without a loss of enthusiasm.” That is Winston Churchill, but Kaffe and Brandon bravely faced failure after failure for hours on end, confident that everything would resolve itself by 3pm.

Kaffe Fassett
Kaffe Fassett

What to expect

If you are taking this class, get a good night’s sleep, if you can.  Unrelenting decisions and re-evaluation of color placement is tiring. There is nothing spontaneous about this design process. It is good old fashioned trial and error, and no matter what you think of the finished quilts, it is definitely NOT “anything goes.” The actual method is prosaic and workmanlike:  arrange diamonds on a flannel wall, walk back to see it from a distance, and repeat, for six or seven hours, literally.

The scene of the crime
The scene of the crime

At times the room looks like a technicolor crime scene, and you must not be overwhelmed by your hideous surroundings. To survive the visual assault, plan to leave the room for an hour at noon, preferably to rest your eyes on a neutral wall and think calming thoughts.  To survive walking 10 feet from the wall and back again—over and over for hours on end, wear comfortable shoes. The air in our convention centre is horrible, and I wish I had eye drops with me. My eyes were red and bloodshot by noon.

Supply List

The supply list requires 20 different huge prints, at least a half yard of each. Take more. Much more. Many quilters took twice that, and bought heavily in class. The workshop is a stimulus plan for fabric manufacturers. Oh well. Wouldn’t it be a shame if van Gogh had skimped on paint?

You should be prepared to slice up enough fabric for at least two quilts to make one. I did not take enough and my prints should have been bigger, even for two-inch diamonds. Designs with just texture do not work. Four of us (out of 30?) scaled the 5 inch diamonds down to 2 or 2.5 inches.  Mine were printed with Inklingo KISS 102.

Museum Quilts
Museum Quilts

Kaffe and Inklingo

I confess that I originally signed up for the class thinking that it might be a good opportunity to introduce Kaffe and Brandon to Inklingo. I especially like Kaffe’s Museum Quilts, and all of them would be faster, easier, and better with Inklingo than with the weak, generic instructions in the books. I hoped they would be receptive to the idea of easy preparation, so that quilters can forget measuring and technique, and just concentrate on design. I was wrong, because they don’t think about technique in the first place. That is someone else’s problem.  (Kaffe does not rotary cut or sew his own quilts.)

Page 287, autographed by Kaffe Fassett
Page 287, autographed by Kaffe Fassett

So, I gave Kaffe “The Pattern in the Carpet,” and got mine autographed, but did not bore him with my books or even a fabulous clamshell sample I had made for him. It could not register on that mind, although I’m sure he would have been polite. His brain sees fabulous color and is blind to other things.  He would have been bored. Inklingo made no impression whatsoever, so my original purpose was not achieved, but we had some good laughs thanks to Dame Margaret.

To share with freinds and friends
To share with freinds and friends

Lasting heirloom?

I will use my class diamonds for something else, wash and re-use the printed sheets, and be glad I made the effort. It will be fun to share this cache of yarn with my knitting freinds (you know who you are), but I will never part with the umbrella. It is very like my longtime favorite—also red, also beautiful, now broken, also with a connection with England.  The original made several trips to the sceptered isle, and twenty years ago it rested overnight at Blenheim Palace (where Churchill was born). We reclaimed it the next day and called it the royal umbrella ever after. This is a worthy successor, my new heirloom. I would like to take it to the British Museum, sit with Margaret Drabble, and talk about cauliflower and other things. (She would not be interested in Inklingo either.)

How’s that for a weekend report?  Monkey says, just think, if the prize had been fabric!

Linda & Monkey

13 thoughts on “Kaffe Fassett and Inklingo”

  1. What a fascinating week-end! Congratulations on your terrific win. Will you knit yourself a pair of monkey socks with the colorful yarn? VBG Connie and I are off to a retreat this week-end so I’d better get to packing.

  2. How wonderful to win all those goodies and meet Kaffe.
    Are you sure Monkey will not get a sweater from that beautiful yarn. Definitely will not take too long as Monkey is petite! He will love it with a matching hat!
    And I know you will put those books to good use!
    Shelly in South Florida…getting back to sewing soon.

  3. A very entertaining weekend for you and Monkey too.
    I am one of those who “don’t get Kaffe” and his style but as I say often to my quilting friends…I can appreciate lots of different stuff even if I don’t actually like it! LOL
    Congrats on your prize and I think Monkey deserves a little sweater from the yarn too.

  4. Wow, Linda (and Monkey, of course!), what a story! I am envious of all that yarn. I have exactly enough of Kaffe’s sock yarn for one pair, and was looking at more online earlier this evening. How coincidental that I then was checking email, and caught your post to the group! I have been a quilter from way back, and the knitting thing with me was a struggle when I was a girl. I am left handed, no one else in the family knit, and I couldn’t manage knitting with the English method. NEVER heard of Continental style knitting until years later. Elizabeth Zimmerman is one of my heroes! But, I digress. Regarding Kaffe, and Inklingo… try talking to Liza, NOT Kaffe. It is Liza, who first learned to make a quilt at a shop I worked in, in Lahaska, PA, back around 1988 or 89, using, of all things, Pierre Deux fabrics (if you don’t know Pierre Deux, it’s horrifically expensive home dec fabric), and I helped teach her. She introduced me to Kaffe’s work, and had done much knitting of his designs, owned one of his paintings, and had somehow struck up a sort of friendship with him, back when she owned a needlepoint shop, I think (I might have that last bit incorrect… my memory is faulty). But she was determined, even back then, to get him to look at quilt design, and collaborate with her, if nothing else… and of course, he eventually DID. She is one high energy person, and efficiency ought to be her middle name. She is the one who arranges and works out the cutting, stitching and quilting of his designs. SHE is the one who would really appreciate the Inklingo. So, you can talk to Kaffe, but try to do it in a joint meeting with Liza. I think she would be the key for you. She’s very sharp, and intense, so once she grasps the concept, she doesn’t take a long time to make up her mind. Liza can be lots of fun, in a fascinating sort of way, and has a kind heart, but I think she has a list for everything she wants to accomplish in her life, and she is determined to get it ALL done, ASAP, because the list is still growing! As a friend, I enjoyed our time together, but was worn out at the end of the day, from the focused intensity she shares with those she is around. I cannot imagine having all that sock yarn, and the other yarn too… wow, haven’t you cast on something yet??? I am so excited for you! All the possibilities. Yes, you can quilt AND go back to knitting… my goodness, I even started spinning! and now own 3 spinning wheels and 2 floor looms for weaving! Our house is truly taken over by my fiber obsessions. Oh, the mind boggles. Edward has decided to take up some of these things as he prepares to retire… he muttered something about “if you can’t beat them, join them….” LOL. Love, Elaine Terdal

  5. Hi Linda,
    Congratulations on the win, that sounds just wonderful. His yarns are so fantastic. I was at the festival on Saturday as well and I just wanted an autographed copy of his new book but they were sold out. His class sounds interesting although I’m not sure I would have the patience to do that for 7 hours!!

  6. OMG….I won too….not 1400.00 worth but I won his book at Quilt Market and I was electrified and jumped from my seat. My smile was so big I think it could have hit the people at the edge of the room. Doesn’t he have the most clear and beautiful radiant energy?

    I adore my book and look forward to crossing paths with them again.

    Kelly Jackson

  7. Wow, Linda…what a great read! I laughed out loud over your report of your weekend. What fun that you actually won that prize!!! I was at the Needlework Festival yesterday!! I unexpectedly ended up going by train (!) with a friend whose friend had to cancel at that last minute and gave me her train ticket. We had such fun. Too bad I didn’t see you at lunch time. I do love Kaffe Fassett’s fabrics, but haven’t made anything with them yet…but I love the colours!

  8. What a wonderful weekend you had! Congratulations on being the winner of such beautiful yarn and books. What wonderful colors!
    I also appreciate their work and talent, but its beyond my interest level. Hope to see some socks from all that yarn!

  9. Congratulations on winning the yarn, Linda! Perhaps you can take up knitting again. I quilt in the daytime and knit in the evenings – when I’m not quilting, that is. 🙂

    What a wonderful experience you’ve had! I’ve been an admirer of Kaffe Fasset for a long time now but knew him only for his knitting in the beginning. I knit one of his sweaters as a gift and the person who wore it told me that she had people recognizing it immediately as a Kaffe Fassett.

    I agree with Martha. It may not be too late to introduce Inklingo to him. He may not need or use it but it will be fantastic for those using his quilt books and I would think he’d recognize that. Go for it!


  10. I couldn’t think of a more worthy person to be the “winner”! We already knew you were/are!. Thank you for sharing your experience. Your prose is delightful to read. I usually walk past Kaffe Fassett books and fabric because it was so far above and beyond my pea-size brain. I can, however, appreciate the work and talent of their “masterpieces”.
    AND, I do love the umbrella!

  11. wow. I have been collecting Kaffe Fassett books since the eighties!!!! and you are absolutely correct that Inklingo will make them easier. I think he would have appreciated it. In any event you are a lucky person!! I have bought some of his yarn to make holiday mittens and it is beautiful. I have always loved his colour sense…
    and that is why I ordered the six inch diamond pattern and three inch hex patterns-to use with my huge stash of Fassett fabrics, along with my other brights–no small amount! So “the check is in the mail”. You must have been reading my mind:)
    I am glad you had such a wonderful time and thanks for sharing it wlth us.

  12. Wow!! All that glorious yarn — are you going to start knitting socks for Russ? And the books!! Lucky, lucky you!! I’m so glad it was you who won. I know just what you mean about the air in the Convention Centre. How the vendors who are there all day for 3 days in a row cope is beyond me!


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