Kaffe Fassett

A couple of weekends ago Vogue Knitting Live was held in New York city. I was not able to attend, alas, but by all accounts it was an enormous success.

The key note speaker at this event, and recipient of a lifetime achievement award was Kaffe Fassett.

While those of us who have been around the knitting world for a few decades are sure to be familiar with Kaffe (rhymes with safe) and his work, it occurred to me that younger knitters might not be familiar with this man and his work.

Kaffe Fasset was born and raised in California but moved to the UK as a young man to study art and to paint. He came to knitting essentially by accident and approached it entirely from the perspective of an artist. His use of colour was extraordinary.

He was not a technically proficient knitter. Even now his designs rarely use anything other than stockinette stitch and his sweaters do not feature a lot of shaping. It’s all about the colour.

What colour it is though. His persian poppies pattern was a phenomenon.

Even now,nearly thirty years after it was released there are over a hundred persian poppies projects on Ravelry.

As well as floral motifs Kaffe used designs based in geometry and inspired by carpets. And always the colour.

I can well remember the phenomenon that was the Tumbling Blocks pattern, kits for which became as rare as hens teeth in those pre-internet days. I suspect it also drove a few knitters to tears and/or the optometrist.

I was fortunate enough to attend a retrospective of Kaffe’s work in London several years ago and the colour was absolutely intoxicating.

Having thoroughly shaken up the knitting world, Mr. Fassett moved on to quilting and needlework. Always carrying forward this astonishing sense of colour.

Now those of you who know me will know that I am not adventurous with colour. In my knitting or anywhere else really. But because I’ve had Kaffe on my mind lately, I’ve begun to read his wonderful autobiography Dreaming in Colour. And while I will never take on colour to this extent it’s helping me to feel a little braver. I am considering a shawl pattern with three (three!) colours. Baby steps.

If you are interested in seeing more of Kaffe’s glorious work, so check out his website here and his designs on Ravelry here. Now nearly 80 years of age, Kaffe continues to design and to knit.

If you have a little extra time, please enjoy this short video of Kaffe talking about his knitting history and his process.

Till next time,

Alana Baig

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