On not having a Kaffe Fassett quilt




I haven’t posted much recently because I am mainly trying to finish things off and there isn’t much to show.  I have taken two quilts to be professionally quilted which is a great way of getting them out of their plastic bags and off my workroom floor – so I feel like I am progressing the tidying up, although I then have to do something with them when they return.  I made the first one to cover the sofa when the dogs are bounding about, but, of course, so much work has gone into it that I now can’t let them anywhere near it.  It was made of scraps but these have been transformed into precious fragments after hours have gone into the cutting and stitching.

That aside, I have been finishing off a quilt that my sewing group made for me.  We all took a month of the year and chose a theme and the others in the group, The Saint Andrews Quilters, made the blocks.  So we have had pretty hearts for Valentine’s day, and sparkly fireworks for November, and shiny crystaline snow for January.  My month was either June or July (I don’t have a great head for details), and I wanted to use up a stash of strawberry prints that I have had for a long time.  I began collecting them because strawberries are the Medieval Historian’s favourite fruit.  Shortly before they closed down Rose and Hubble, did a line of really luscious strawberry prints and I couldn’t resist.  So, I chose a very simple Kaffe Fassett design and off we went.  This is the quilt from Quilt Road, one of those irresistible Rowan books:




And this is the book:




And this is Kaffe wearing the quilt on the back of the book:




And now we are getting to the point of the post.

The quilt is very nearly finished.  I am stitching the borders together, and it is really nice, but not what I was expecting, and this is what I wanted to blog about.  I really love Kaffe Fassett’s work and have done for ages.  I bought a copy of Glorious Knitting and pored over every beautiful page and photograph.  I love that idea that you don’t just use one red you use ten, or ten blues, and a flash of lime green.  I have loved his work for years.  But my quilt, which I will photograph when it’s finished, just didn’t look like Kaffe’s: lovely as it is,it isn’t Kaffe.  It has a large variety of blue fabric but it doesn’t have that Kaffe colour drench effect.

I was leafing through the introduction to the book and found out why.  As he says, traditionally quilters use a lot of contrast in terms of light and dark.  Make sure your lights are light and your darks are really dark, and be careful about those mediums is advice that I have been given on any number of workshops.  And if you are interested in playing around with block designs, that is good advice.  If you want those blocks to show up you have to make sure you have enough contrast in the fabric.  But Kaffe isn’t really interested in making Irish Chains that leap out at you, he is interested in a wash of colour, so he deliberately chooses all medium tones.  This is conventional wisdom overturned, but it does explain how his colour glows, and why my quilt with its strawberry prints on pale backgrounds don’t zing like his.  The question then becomes, does this matter or not?

At one level it does because I started out to make a Kaffe Fassett quilt, but in another it is quite a good thing, I think, that I didn’t make a clone.  I have got a quilt which mine and which makes me think of the Medieval Historian, rather than having a pale imitation of Fassett’s style, which he does much better than I can.  Starting with a strawberry printed on white, I could never have achieved a Fassett colourwash, but I have achieved a quilt which will have tremendous sentimental value and which has luscious strawberries all over it.  I remember a very well known quilter running a workshop in Bristol in which people used her techniques and closely specified materials who was then surprised when all the workshop samples looked as if they could have been made by her.  She was really disappointed but gave people no room to improvise.  I am not that good at slavish copies.  Better a really good version of yourself than a pale imitation of someone else, as the saying goes.

6 thoughts on “On not having a Kaffe Fassett quilt

  1. Aha! You have exactly summed up why I dislike some quilts but can truly appreciate the amount of work that has gone into the making. Dark, medium and light doesn’t always work. I’ve also heard of some groups that WANT their pieces to look like that of the tutor. No, not a group I would like to teach at all. Really looking forward to seeing your quilts. I bet they are stunning. I bet you’ll make a Kaffe one in the future and it will be the best ever!

  2. My guess is you’ll be happier with your quilt having studied this quilt artist and working through the analysis between his style and yours, without exactly copying his style. Look forward to seeing the finished quilts.

    1. True, it would be dull just to produce a clone. And I will love mine when it’s done. It now has 3/4 of a wonderful summerfruit border which you might like! Thanks for commenting.

  3. Speaking as one of the St Andrews Quilters, I can say that Ann’s quilts are indeed stunning.

    Ann, I see exactly what you mean about your quilt but one of the issues around group quilts is that when six people set to on a piece, each with their own sense of colour and each with their own idea of how the quilt should look, then what you see in your mind’s eye as the finished result is not what you will get. This can be a good thing. Or not. Plus, if you are making the quilt yourself, you can make changes along the way if you don’t like the way it is going but a group quilt is something of an unstoppable juggernaut – it will finish as it began. Plus, plus, there is the tricky issue of authority within the group: to what extent can the person whose quilt it is control the choices of the other quilters? I think there’s a paper in it…

    I am sure that the finished quilt will look lovely. It will remind you of the Medieval Historian’s penchants and it will go wonderfully well on your sofa.

    And personally, I would always rather see a Rippin quilt than a Fassett. Much more interesting and much more skilled.

    1. You’re absolutely right. The whole group quilt phenomenon is fascinating – and brings up all those issues about collaboration, power, gift-giving, taste, that sociologists are always interested in. It might make an interesting rolling project. I think it will be great in the end, and it taught me a lot about how Kaffe Fassett gets his results. Just need to finish those last borders and take it to the long-arm.

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