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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.)
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.
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