Tag Archives: knitting

Kaffe Fassett – no doubt about colour

When in doubt add twenty more colours.

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Kaffe Fassett fabric used in one of his quilt designs

I heard this quote from Kaffe Fassett many years ago, long before I really knew who he was or how extraordinarily creative he is. I was a young Afrikaans girl in suburban Pretoria, South Africa. All I knew was that he’s a man from ‘overseas’ who knitted multi-coloured garments. There were so many things about him which were completely foreign to me.

Firstly, I didn’t know men can knit. Secondly, I didn’t know that knitting was considered art and that one can make a living from it. I also didn’t know it was ‘allowed’ to mix all these colours together. I came from a time and place where blue and green didn’t go together, beige was always a safe option, and only moms and grannies knitted.

I had no idea that many years later I would live ‘overseas’, have a career which revolves around creative needlework, and actually have the opportunity to meet the man himself.

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Filled with energy and enthusiasm during his talk

Kaffe Fassett and his business partner Brandon Marbly visited Australia earlier this year, doing a series of talks and workshops around the country. I had the opportunity to meet him in Adelaide on the last weekend of a hectic almost two month tour.

What struck me most about him was not his amazing talent or sense of colour, although that is something to behold. It’s his amazing energy. Kaffe is in his early 80’s yet talk, move and act like someone at least 20 years younger. He is bursting with enthusiasm about his work, about colour, about meeting other creatives, and about teaching.

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When in doubt add twenty more colours

He is extremely prolific, turning out designs for fabric ranges, quilts, as well as knitting patterns and books at a pace which makes me tired just thinking about it. As someone who takes time to process information and contemplates ideas before putting it into action (read: procrastinate), I am in awe of this skill!

In his talk he tells about his travels to different parts of the world. Australia, South East Asia, Africa and India, features alongside South America and Europe. He finds inspiration in everything from street markets to faded wall paint. But it is not just the far away and exotic which speaks to him – he finds as much inspiration from his neighbour’s garden as from a faraway location. As long as there is colour, Kaffe can turn it into something extraordinary.

Kaffe designs knitwear for Rowan, fabric for Westminster Fibres, and needlepoint tapestries for Ehrman. He also publishes an array of books on quilting, knitting and colour inspiration. I found his autobiography Dreaming in Colour, especially interesting and inspiring.

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Image from Kaffe’s slide show

One of the questions put to him during his talk was how he gets time for everything. For Kaffe the answer is simple: No television, no mobile phone and no computer. Brandon, who is his business manager, handles all those things, freeing up Kaffe’s time and mind to create. He loves listening to music while he designs and to BBC Radio 4 while he stitches.

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Brandon working on a design wall

During the workshop Kaffe and Brandon shared another secret: Work with music. Choose something with a beat and turn it up loud. Move to the rhythm! Kaffe believes in doing first and editing later. When designing a new quilt, he works on a flannel covered design wall where he can put up all his fabric pieces, adding as many colours and patterns as he wants. Then he stands back and edit by removing and rearranging. His mantra is – Don’t be afraid. Add more colour and pattern.

Listening to Kaffe and watching him work and talk about colour is extremely inspirational. He oozes energy and enthusiasm for life. Beige does not feature anywhere in his work or life, blue and green can go together, and with many other colours too.

I now realize that that quote I heard so many years ago does not just apply to needlework. It applies to life.

Have you attended any of his workshops or made any of his designs? Please share!

The Marriage Bed

This is the story of  my entry into Dare to Differ 2015.

THE MARRIAGE BED
My kombers en jou matras en …*
(My blanket and your mattress and …)
*Part lyrics from an old Afrikaans folk song
When we got married, most of our furniture were hand-me-downs from our respective childhood homes. Our bed however was brand new. The first piece of furniture we bought as a couple – a symbol of two lives becoming one and a place where we could dream and plan a future together.
The bed served us well for 15 years and even came with us when we moved to different countries. It was our refuge where we escaped the world, where we felt saved and loved, and the cradle where our family was conceived and cared for.
When it was time to replace the bed, I saved the frame and started working on the blanket, using yarn from my stash collected over the years from different parts of the world. They all represent a time and a place where we shared our lives. The blanket and the mattress are made separately and then stitched together in such a way that it cannot be separated again without destroying the whole thing.
THE MARRIAGE BED represents our marriage. Two separate entities becoming one. Each one with different characteristics and different values, which when put together cannot be taken apart again. The one provides strength and support, the other provides warmth and safety. Together they create a home and a family.
The lyrics come from our childhood, they don’t define us, but they anchor us. They make us belong.
As with any marriage, this one is not perfect. Dropped stitches, tension variations, messy colour changes, wires poking through in odd places, and loose ends – mostly hidden out of sight but still there. Looking closely you will see many flaws, but standing back, you will see a harmony of colour, the words will become clear and make sense, the structure will be strong and organized, and the threads will hold it all together.
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knitted strips

knitted strips

This project started way back in 2011. At that stage we were living in Dubai and had just bought a new bed. I had a vague idea of what I wanted to make, or rather what I wanted to say, but had no fixed plan of how to go about it. I knew it had to involve the mattress frame and a knitted blanket. The snippet of lyrics served as the inspiration.

The plan I came up with eventually meant I had to knit the blanket in strips, weave it through the mattress springs and then stitch it together through the wire afterwards. It was the only way to get the knitting inside the steel springs. It took a bit of trial and error to get the right dimensions for the blocks and strips, which I then used to draw up a pattern and eventually a graph for each letter.

The Marriage Bed patternThe blocks are 16 stitches wide by 80 rows long. Five blocks in a strip, times 24 strips. I started out with the blank strips at the side, using different stitch patterns, but I soon realised that it won’t work once I start the intarsia knitting for the letters, so I kept most blocks in plain stitch.

I used the yarn that I had, adding as I needed or ran out of colours. The plan was not to plan. My only guide was that the whole letter, which spans three blocks, had to be in the same colour and to not have two similar colours next to each other. I used different thicknesses of yarn but the same needles throughout, which means the tension differs, but I think that is quite appropriate for a marriage!

AssemblingI knitted over time with periods in between when I didn’t do anything. My dear husband patiently allowed me to have the mattress frame packed and shipped with the rest of our household when we moved to Australia in 2012. I have no idea what the packers thought when they had to wrap it up in bubble wrap and load it into the container to ship across the Indian Ocean…

The knitting was coming along well but was still separate from the mattress when earlier this year I decided to force a deadline on myself, just to get it done. My mind wouldn’t allow me to start anything else before this one was out of my system, so I decided to submit it for the Dare to Differ exhibition. Now I had something to work for, and even if it wasn’t chosen it would still be finished.

Behind the scenes

Behind the scenes

Putting the knitting and the wire frame together took less time than I thought. It was a bit tricky at times to get my hand in between the wires and I had several scratches on my hands and wrists by the time I was done.

My husband made the stand which I think came out really good and goes well with the rest of the work. I like the big bold wooden bases and the fact that the steel supports are almost invisible.

So there we are – a marriage bed with a story.

What will I do next?

PRUDENCE MAPSTONE: TOTEMS

027Prudence Mapstone needs no introduction. She is the queen of freeform knitting, crochet, and yarn manipulation. Her colourful, vibrant and fun work always draws a crowd – and admiring sighs and smiles. Her totem exhibition at this year’s Fair is no exception. The totems, displayed in a small alcove next to her yarn stand, cannot be missed – just follow the crowd.

021Totems represent a kinship group – a clan, family or tribe – where some totems celebrate cultural or religious believes while others are merely decorative and an artistic expression of a shared experience. Prudence’s totems fall into this latter group. She celebrates yarn. It is as simple as that.

022The colours, textures and thickness of the different yarns dictate how she applies them. “It is an organic process. “I start by choosing a colour palette and it just grows from there.” Prudence makes a swirl, or a scrumble as she calls it, adds new colours, change the stitch patterns and builds on it until she, well… stops. When she has a few of these, she lays them out on a flat surface, plays around with it, then she fills the gaps with more knitting or crochet stitches. And so the totem grows, until the scrumble clan is complete.

029Sometimes there are recurring themes, like the mitred knitting, or the bullion flowers, or the felted balls, but other times many different styles and stitch patterns sit comfortably next to each other like different personalities in one big happy family.

Prudence is as delightful as her work, she smiles, talks and shares. It is obvious that she loves people, yarn, and yarn-loving people in equal measures.

To see her work and find out about her classes, books and patterns visit her website at http://www.knotjustknitting.com