My “Foliage Bag”

by Christine Barnes

How can 2017 be almost over?! Where did all that time go? And why didn’t I get more done? This girl just wants to sew. Well, after the retreat in September, I managed to fit in a project that’s been on my want-to-do list for some time, a collage and surface-stitched bag, similar in concept to the surface-stitched vests I love to make.

So I was off and running with my “Foliage” bag. Don’t ask me why I chose that name—I have no idea. The “ingredients” included Marcia Derse prints, batiks, and—of course—a Kaffe Fassett stripe. (A few other fabrics that made it into the finished bag aren’t shown below.) Notice that the fabrics vary in 1) color, 2) the style of the designs, and 3) the degree of openness or density. Because surface stitching blends patterns and colors, it’s best to err on the side of more contrast rather than less.The collage is created on a foundation of all-cotton muslin and all-cotton osnaburg, a slightly nubby, old-fashioned needlework fabric. (I make sure neither fabric is labeled “wrinkle resistant”—you want your bag to become crinkly.) I prewash the osnaburg because it shrinks so much, but not the muslin or the fabrics for the collage.

Here’s how it works: I cut straight-edge pieces that are not perfectly square or rectangular. (I have yet to do a collage with curved pieces. One of these days.) Trapezoids like the ones shown here are great shapes for collage—they’re a bit quirky, and quirky is good in my book.I add some longer, slender shapes, and a few pieces with “chunks” cut out of them. Here are some of the pieces I started with, separated so you can see the variety in size and shape.I begin to arrange the pieces on the osnaburg/muslin foundation, just to get a feel for how the colors and patterns will look in each other’s company. Keep in mind that nothing is settled at this point. (The brick-and-gray stripe on the left was edited out early on. 🙂I layer the pieces so that some are over and some are under adjoining pieces, with no gaps.I especially like a “spinning” arrangement, where three pieces overlap like this:It’s getting there . . .Just when you think you can’t mess with it another minute (and believe me, that happens), it all comes together. The next step is to use little dots of glue and pins to tack down the pieces at their edges, followed by a zigzag stitch to secure them. The zig-zagging is tedious, but it’s well worth the effort; you don’t want any pieces flopping around.

With everything “nailed down,” I stitch a wavy grid in both directions using variegated thread and eyeballing the spacing between the lines. That’s the beauty of surface stitching—perfection is not required, or even desired. Just have fun with it!A closer look at the stitched grid. After this step, I stitch all over in wavy lines in all directions until it feels like one piece of fabric, then wash, dry, and cut out my bag. Here’s one side of my finished bag, with its “boxed” bottom. (The light was very different, very cool, the day I took these shots.)I chose a back-and-white stripe for the lining to make a strong contrast and a visual connection to the black straps. A narrow strip of the Kaffe Fassett stripe finishes the upper edge and ties the colors together.The other side of the bag. The light was unusually warm the morning I took this shot, so the color isn’t that accurate, but wow, it sure is luminous!Finally, why is it that our unseen work (the bottom of the bag here) is sometimes our favorite part???If you’d like more info about the collage process and construction of my bag, check out my next “Color Connection” newsletter in early January. If you don’t already receive it, you can sign up on the Home page of my website. In the Gallery and Store on my site you can also see my raw-edge, surface-stitched vests and their patterns.

Changing gears, you’ve seen these blocks at various stages, and here’s the finished quilt, titled “Composite Circles, Random Dots.”Sandra did my favorite quilting, wavy vertical lines. I love, love it. Mega thanks, SB!With that I wish you warm and comfy holidays, surrounded by the things that enchant you and the people you love!

 

 

 

 

 

Magical Fabrics, Color Mirage

by Christine Barnes

First up, a big welcome to all our new followers—we are delighted that you’ve joined us! If you aren’t familiar with our Artistic Alchemy blog, we take turns writing about our latest work, our sources of inspiration, and our creative processes. It’s fun for us, and we love seeing your comments in our Inbox. It’s my turn this week, so without further ado . . .

I have a confession: for years, yes years, I’ve been guarding my collection of Elin Noble hand dyes. From what? From whom? Really, it’s ridiculous! But when you look at these photos (the camera is for scale), I think you’ll agree that they are magical, precious fabrics, to be cut only for special projects. They remind me of a mirage, a color mirage.

In truth, I’ve used some of these gorgeous fabrics over the years, but I’ve never combined them with solids and—drum roll please—stripes or plaids. It was past time. I began by isolating an area in one fabric with my 6-inch ruler, then marking the area, which was slightly larger than needed, with chalk.

For each block, I played with three solids and one stripe or plaid that had color connections to the hand dye, but didn’t necessarily match. The Kaffe Fassett stripe in the mock-up below was too dark, but I liked the idea of a skinny B&W strip as an accent.

For my second try, I went with a slightly darker orange, and another wonderful Kaffe stripe. I liked the combination, but I wanted to save the stripe for another group of fabrics.

Enter an ikat plaid, along with a rich yellow-orange in place of the dark orange above, and a darker yellow-green Grunge. Now there were variations in values and textures, plus a few bonus colors in the plaid. Done!

This block needed a bit more punch and a skinny strip.

Replacing the light blue-violet strip with a slightly darker version made the difference. (it’s hard to see this in the photos; trust me). Here’s the block sewn.

Earlier I made two blocks with Peppered Cotton solids and buffalo plaids. In the block below I see layered transparency where the light area of the plaid touches the center square and the yellow-green strip. The light blue-green strip on the right is an Oakshott cotton from the UK, another magical fabric.

I will probably unsew this block and insert a skinny strip. This is just a raw strip laid on top of the block.

I’m not sure this block will make the final cut. The stripe and buffalo plaid compete and take attention away from the awesome center square. It may need a makeover . . . . (Hey, so do I!)

I enjoyed the mess . . .

And the cut ingredients made for a colorful image.

I’m excited about making four more blocks, and of course I’ll show you the finished top. Thanks for following along with my audition-and-edit process.

Finally, the four of us are set to launch an ongoing “Studio Sale,” where we offer things we’ve created, fabric we love (but may never get around to using), and other treasures. Because of deadlines and teaching schedules, our first Studio Sale will happen soon, just not today. My apologies to those of you who tuned in to see what we have. It will be worth the wait, I guarantee!

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

What a Week!

by Christine Barnes

Retreat 2017 is now history, and what a great week it was. Let me begin with my intrepid, up-for-anything students—you were wonderful, one of the best classes I’ve ever had, and your blocks and projects prove it. You were fun and brave and always cheerful. Allow me to show off your work!

We began with four mock-block exercises that illustrate the adage that “Value does all of the work, and color gets all of the credit.” Contrasts in value create two important effects in quilt design: 1) they add a sense of depth (dark shapes seem closer, lighter shapes farther away) and 2) they establish the design (a dark star shows up on a light background).

When the values (lights, mediums, and darks) are somewhat similar, differences in pattern and color can differentiate the shapes, as in these Boy’s Nonsense mock-blocks. Paula combined two very different patterns to establish the design.Barb’s modern background fabric makes her block light and lively.Marti’s intense center square contrasts with the somewhat duller ombré rectangles.The Granny Square block is a great format for playing with light, medium, and dark values. In Lisa’s block, there’s even “accidental transparency.”The way in which Patti used the linear prints is smashing. (I want this block. 🙂Gale had an assist from her sister Mukhya in pasting up her Best Friends block. A bright print for the outer triangles makes the design even bolder. See how well the dark skinny triangles stand out against the red-orange half-square triangles.A busy Alice in Wonderland print separates nicely from the background and the dark skinny triangles in Susan’s block.An op-art, black-and-white print gives Gail’s block movement.I’m loving the vintage/modern vibe here, with contemporary fabrics and a Featherweight machine. Yes!Color therapy!Gail auditions fabrics for Laurie’s Spumoni blocks.That’s Susan behind her Urban Sunsets quilt top. It’s difficult to see in this shot, but the black-and-white swizzle sticks have an undulating design (check out the upper right block).Jane’s Urban Sunsets units are wonderfully different in value, color, and pattern.Variations in value, color, and pattern make for an elegant, minimal design. Lisa’s block, I believe.Cindy working on her Urban Sunsets blocks.Another one of Cindy’s blocks in progress. She’s bordering her center units with a green Gelato ombré instead of the gray. (I can’t wait to show you the finished quilt!)Gail went to town with Kaffe fabrics for Spumoni. See how the different values affect the look of each block.Isn’t our class wall colorful??? There was even more to see, on moveable design boards.These Farmer’s Wife blocks, done the morning of the last full day, really show the growth in everyone’s work. Well done, ladies!

Green Grunge triangles flank the nine-patch unit in Ellen’s block. Dark-value corner squares advance and give the design a strong sense of dimension.Though there is some blending in the nine-patch unit, I’m loving the colors and prints in Gale’s version.

Lisa’s clicked when she positioned the leafy squares in the nine-patch unit so the values contrast with the greeny-brown triangles.The color in Laurie’s block is a bit off in this photo, but wow, it sure works! The nine-patch unit advances because the values are darker than the gold triangles.OK, not our best look, but hey, it’s the last morning and we were weary. We had 12 students in all (Gale, Patti, Susan, Ellen, and Jane are missing from this pic). This photo, taken by our phenomenal assistant Kathy, says it all. There is no other place on the planet like Lake Tahoe.But wait, there’s more! Gail and Laurie, my students from the Dakotas, rode around the lake, all 72 miles of it, in the “Tour de Tahoe” on Sunday. Congrats, ladies, on ending your week with a bang. I told my young hair stylist about your ambitious ride, and she paused and said, “Well, that sure changes my idea of what quilters are like.” Too funny!With that I’ll sign off. Thank you for looking at my students’ amazing work. And thanks to my students for making my week so memorable. As I’ve said many, many times, “You make this job so rewarding and so much fun!”

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Going in Circles (It’s a Good Thing)

by Christine Barnes

Have you ever searched for something (typically without success) and in the process found things you’ve been looking for for ages??? That’s what happened to me earlier this week, when I unearthed a number of experiments and leftovers from different projects. Many were circles blocks, which makes sense because I’ve made seven—yes, seven—circles quilts. Sigh, I just can’t seem to resist!

I teach three circles workshops, the most popular one being shadowed circles on background triangles. In the examples below I used a Kaffe print on a background of Gelato ombré triangles. The triangles in each block were cut from different areas of the same ombré. That’s the magic of the Gelato ombrés, with their shifting colors and values.Different backgrounds really bring out the different colors in the circle.I first started pairing Kaffe prints and Gelato ombrés for “Sassy Circles II.” (It’s now a pattern; email me for info.)A few years ago I was appliqueing Kaffe circles onto Kaffe shot cottons (in the lower left) and Caryl Bryer Fallert ombrés (upper right). I loved, loved the ethereal quality of her ombrés. And after a trip to New York City, I just had to make a modern circle on a background of gray Painter’s Palette and white Grunge.By then it was clear to me that I had a bad case of “circle fever.” If you recall my “Pop Beads” quilt from our 2015 retreat, you’ll recognize this block made of Peppered Cotton solids and neutral prints. I made more colorful blocks for the quilt, but I sure had fun piecing the background for this block. Circles quilts have a lovely bonus—leftovers. The four triangles below were cut from scraps of the ombré border fabric I used in my Elegant Circles quilt. (Scroll through the Gallery to see the quilt.) Now I want to make yet another circles quilt using four triangles for each block background, and perhaps aboriginal prints for the circles.I’ve kept the bonus circles (the fabric cut away from the back of the quilt) for future projects. I think it’s time to put them to good use. I’d like to play with more pieced circles; these have been pressed over freezer-paper circles.I made my “Transparent Circles” quilt out of shot cottons and Marcia Derse prints. (I’ll be teaching this quilt in Santa Cruz next month.) Because the shot cottons are rather loosely woven, it’s easy to align the seams in the circles with the seams in the background.And finally, my students continue to amaze me with the circles they create. Here are two examples from my visit to the Friendship Quilters of San Diego. Many thanks, ladies!Big blooms really lend themselves to circles:Circles spill over into the rest of my life, too. Heidi gave me this gorgeous shawl several years ago, and every time I wear it I get compliments. (Merci, Heidi!) Let’s see . . . how can I make this into a quilt?I treated myself to this shawl from “The Great Put On” in Mendocino, CA, where you’ll find wonderful wearables.Hey, I challenge you to consider circles for a future quilt. They are highly addictive, and they work with so many different kinds of prints. Did I ever find what I was originally looking for? Nope, but I’ll search again and probably discover new old treasures. See you next month, when I’ll unveil my “Gypsy Wife” quilt.

p.s. My Zephyr workshop is full, but get in touch with me (cebarnes@sbcglobal.net)  if you’d like to be on the waiting list.

 

 

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

‘Tis the Season to Be Busy

by Christine Barnes

20-david-artSeasonal greetings, friends and followers! As I sit here in my living room, wearing my cozy slippers and watching the crackling fire, I wonder what to share during this crazy busy season. I had in mind a preview of my latest quilt project, but I usually take my photos outdoors, in wonderful natural light, and that hasn’t been an option for at least a week. We have been soaked by a series of strong storms, and my outdoor “photo studio” (really just a flat surface on my deck) is very soggy. Next time.

So I decided to tidy up my photo files and discovered some images I’d completely forgotten. Funny how photos seem to multiply if you don’t pay attention. What follows is truly a potpourri. Some are about color, others are just, well, things I liked enough to snap a pic or two. Want to see what caught my eye? Read on . . .

I recently spotted these candles in the SERV booth at the Methodist Church Craft Fair in Nevada City. SERV International is a nonprofit organization that provides clean water, nourishing food, and safe shelter in Africa. The colors of the candles reeled me in—you know how much I love yellow-green. And such a nice balance of warm and cool color. A future palette for a quilt perhaps? (The angels are pretty darn cute, too.)0-candles

I smiled when I came across this photo of the late, great Jeffrey. He was easily bored by quilting, but he did like to hang out with me in my studio. What a slacker!02-jeffy-boredI never tire of solids, and this line-up for a class I was teaching was visually delicious. I call them color canapes.03a-better-squares-of-solids

This is what happens when you pop a mug of hot tea into the freezer to make quick iced tea. These frozen bubbles remind me that science is exquisite, with a beauty that goes beyond anything I could ever create.9-frezzing-tea-bubbles

I seem to like the bird’s-eye view. Below is my one-and-only paper-bead attempt, collected in a glass given to me by a dear friend. I have a Pinterest board on paper and fabric beads that I’m eager to learn from. Soon, I hope. . . .31-paper-beads

Experimenting with Peppered Cottons, to take advantage of the gradation of dark-to-light values in my fave gray ombré. Alas, a table runner that never came to fruition. (You can just see my sketches below the fabrics.)018-icy-gray-ombre-runner

Sigh, another project that has languished in my UFO cubby. Alexander Henry dots and Painted Canvas semi-solids wouldn’t seem like an obvious combination, but that’s why we play around in our fabrics, right?06-alex-dotted-circles-in-squares

My trip to Las Vegas in October was a delight. One student’s arrangement of Gelato ombrés and Kaffe circles was so appealing.024-circles-on-gelato-2-line-up

I also taught Modern Color in Las Vegas, and these two exercises got “extreme extra credit” for using multiple stripes in one Rolling Stone block.26-my-alltime-fave-rolling-stone-lv-stripes

 

28-second-faver-rolling-stone-block-lv-stripesHere’s a transparency mock-up idea that I hope to pursue someday:39-modern-trans-block-plaidAnd here are four of those units, oriented with the light corners toward the center. Once again, my “plaid gene” is active.40-modern-trans-layout-2

A boot block (8 x 8 inches, I believe) made for a friend’s quilt. When Kaffes and Gelatos get together, it’s a party, guaranteed!04-boot-block

I guess I like those colors because here they are in a bowl of Christmas ornaments. Memo to self: next year, get a tree.05-xmas-balles-close-up

With that I leave you to get back to all the tasks of the season. I wish you happy, happy holidays spent with the people you love. And a New Year’s resolution to do and make more of whatever gives you joy!

 

 

 

 

 

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Mixing Work with Pleasure

by Christine Barnes

A mixologist is someone who mixes drinks, right? But aren’t we all mixologists when it comes to our quilting/sewing/artistic lives? We must balance work with creative pleasures, or we’d lose our minds, to put it mildly. One of the many benefits of teaching is that I can often schedule some fun before or after a gig, especially if I have a buddy.

That’s what happened a few weeks ago when I set off for Mendocino with my friend Kari to teach Transparency for the Ocean Waves quilt guild in Ft. Bragg. (Ft. Bragg and Mendocino are on the north coast of California.) The class happened at Sew ‘n Sew, a wonderful quilt shop. Needless to say, I came home with some fabric treasures.

Here’s our class hard at work. I LOVE the mineral-green color of the walls at Sew ‘n Sew.img_1697

The nine-patch structure is perfect for a transparency using a light “parent,” a dark “parent,” and the logical “child” of the two.img_1560

The color wheel comes in handy when doing transparencies: yellow + blue = green.img_1561

This block gets “extra credit” for sure! See how the design lines appear to flow from the light parent through the child? Lucking out and having just-right fabrics makes all the difference.img_1564

Although the “child” fabric is an aboriginal pattern, this block works well, especially from a distance. The light splotches in the light parent repeat in the child, helping to fool the eye.img_1593

The objective in this star block was to make it appear as if light and dark triangles overlap, creating a smaller, transparent triangle. It’s really effective in the upper star unit.img_1612

The next day Kari and I bummed around Mendocino, visiting my favorite shops. This crocheted and beaded necklace was in the window of The Great Put On, Art to Wear, a delightful shop. I didn’t buy it but did get a fabulous Boho Chic shawl.img_1708

Heading out of Mendocino, we stopped for a quick photo. The light, the sky, the water were spectacular early that morning. I never get tired of the coast.img_1711

A stop for lunch at the Culinary Institute of America just north of Saint Helena was a real treat. The beautiful stone buildings were once the Christian Brothers winery.img_1650

While sitting in the cafe, we could watch a class in session behind glass. Don’t you just love the chefs’ hats?? No such thing as too many cooks spoiling the broth here!img_1660

The next week I was in Stockton teaching Modern Color for the Tuleburg Quilt Guild. What a great group—a big “thank you” to my intrepid students!

The Granny Square block has become my new favorite design for working with color combinations because all the squares are the same size. You just cut the fabrics and start playing with the placement of value and pattern. Take a look at a few mock-blocks:

Linda keyed off the center fabric to make a near-complement of red-violet and green. Extra credit for the organic “stripe.”img_1673

Sandy achieved what I call accidental transparency with red and red-violet. So vibrant.img_1676

Kevin’s split complement of blue-green, red, and orange is hot, hot, hot! And what a perfect fabric for the center.img_1686

I don’t recall who made this block, but it’s another great example of transparency, as if a large, on-point square of bright green is on top of a blue “X.”.img_1688

Sorry I can’t remember who did this charming block, but it’s been more than three weeks, and students sometimes forget to put their names on their exercises. (Teacher also forgets to remind them :-). I love the freshness of this complementary blue-green and red-orange combination, with an intense yellow-green check/plaid. I hope you like the “eyeball” fabric in the center as much as I do.img_1691

Last but not least is another complement of blue-green and red-orange (here a color I call salmon). Extra credit for the stripes and the way the squares are oriented. Look how well they echo the center fabric.stockton-1-gs

Once again, my students displayed a creativity I could not have imagined. What’s next? I’ll be in Las Vegas teaching soon, but once I get home I plan to work on a quilt made up of transparent Granny Squares. Sometimes, work becomes pleasure!

And finally, Heidi and I are both in the Fall issue of Modern Patchwork. (She’ll tell you all about her fabulous project.) Here’s the first page of my article: module-quilt-mp-scan-2

Thanks so much for reading and looking about my latest travels. Until next time . . . .

 

 

“It’s All About Color” at Zephyr

by Christine Barnes

Where to begin? There are so many great memories from this year’s retreat! The weather was perfect (there have been snow flurries since then) and the lake gorgeous. We made wonderful new friends and shared in the creative excitement of each class. Without further ado, let me show you what my students accomplished in our workshop, “It’s All About Color.”

After a crash course in basic color concepts and the color wheel, we warmed up doing one of my favorite blocks, King’s Crown. Pat’s version is soft and beautifully balanced, and it shows just how effective stripes can be in the corners. (Imagine the secondary pattern where four identical blocks meet.)29-pat-kings

Lori’s modern block illustrates how repeating colors in different values and intensities can unify a design. The intense colors of the center fabric are echoed in the low-volume fabric for the corners.9f-lori-kings

To learn about color-wheel combinations, we made Granny Square blocks. Here’s Sally’s triad of yellow-orange, blue-green, and red-violet. And look—her center fabric has all three of her combo colors. You can find color-wheel combinations in many multi-colored fabrics. 22-sally-granny-color-combo

Tamberly’s Granny Square is a rich split complement of red, yellow-green, and blue-green. You start with red, then go opposite to green on the color wheel, and “split” it into yellow-green and blue-green. What a contrast between these two blocks!26-tamberly-granny

As a group we decided to use black-and-white fabrics for the “rolling” squares in our Rolling Stone blocks. Mary Ellen’s version is a celebration of dots and stripes. (She gets double the usual extra credit for using both in her block.)34-mary-ellen-rolling-stone

Linda Bellman also used stripes, and here they draw the eye to the center. See how dramatic her block looks with a denser black-and-white fabric for the squares.35-linda-bellman-rolling-stone

Party Hat is a delightful block, and it gave us the chance to combine prints and mostly solid fabrics for a contemporary look. The background in Diana’s sophisticated star is a white-with-navy print by Carolyn Friedlander. Oh so modern!72-diana-star

For the final cut-and-paste exercise, students did the Japanese X and Plus block. (It goes by other names, too.) Barb chose to work with Kaffe Fassett blues and a printed plaid by Jane Sassaman. Love the crisp contrast between the organic prints and the plaid.84-barb-x-plus

Tamberly also chose blue for her X shapes, but her plus pieces were cut from a woven plaid. Doesn’t the “plus” look luminous?87-tamberly-x-plus

Jane’s block proves that batiks work beautifully in a modern design. Here the cool indigo blues are perfectly balanced by warm yellow-greens. Visual temperature is one of the concepts we worked with.92-jane-dunnington-x-plus

Another example of warm-and-cool balance, by Linda Brewer. The green “stripe” is a nice contrast to the splashy prints.91-lindda-brewer-x-plus

Judith chose the Kaffe stripe “Strata” to lighten the look of the bold print. (Again, extra credit.) The almost-solid, yellow-green Grunge fabric provides a bit of visual relief from the patterned fabrics.88-judith-x-plus

Cindy’s fabrics say “the more the merrier!” She went on to sew a number of X and Plus blocks using the same modern background fabric in each. What fun!86-cindy-x-plus-block

Back in the classroom, I couldn’t resist taking a pic of Lori and one of her fabrics. Students often choose fabric in the colors they’re wearing.48-lori-wears-her-color-combo

Some students decided to start sewing X and Plus blocks for a quilt, while others chose to start making my Urban Sunsets quilt. Here’s a visual reminder of that quilt:urban-sunsets-quilt

Diana’s units (and one completed block) on her board for our open house on the last full day. The super-skinny swizzle sticks are cut from a white-and-black print. 113-dianas-units-and-1-urb-sun-block

Judith’s Urban Sunset units and blocks with gray ombré borders. (Each center unit measures 7 inches square.)e-judiths-urb-sun-unitsHere are Trish and her husband Norm checking out our room. 121-room-with-trish-and-norm

We “curated” our class, ganging the same exercises on boards, so others could see them as a whole. Don’t they make great “paper quilts”? On the left are Sally’s fabrics for her Pop Beads quilt, a project from last’s year’s transparency workshop. Way to go, Sally!111-walkabout-wow-multi-exercises

Late on the last afternoon, when most students had packed up. I just wanted to show you the view from our classroom. So sereneg-toward-lake-on-walkaboutA huge thank you to my students for bravely tackling new exercises and being willing to try (and try again) until we found what worked. You are both a joy and an inspiration to me. What a fabulous week we had. I’ll be enjoying our Tahoe time together for weeks—make that months—to come!

LorsSave

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Color, Glorious Color, by Kaffe

by Christine Barnes

A week ago Heidi and I traveled to the San Jose Museum of Quilts & Textiles, to hear Kaffe Fassett talk about color. We’re both big fans of his fabric, knitting, and needlepoint, and we were excited to see him in person, to say the least. He did not disappoint.

Kaffe was there as part of an exhibit from the collection of The Quilt Museum and Gallery in York, U.K. (The San Jose exhibit runs through July 3, so you have plenty of time to go.) Historical quilts were used as the inspiration for new quilts made from his fabrics. “I like taking traditional quilt ideas,” Kaffe said, “then feeding new fabrics and patterns into them.” We quilters agree!entrance poster

Where does he find color inspiration? In a word, everywhere. Travel, modern art museums, Oriental rugs, patterns of Morocco, china, tile, succulents, fruits and vegetables. He showed a slide of a pot that inspired an intricate sweater design. He loves to see laundry hanging on a line all over the world: “It makes a patchwork of ideas.” And, of course, plants and flowers, like the pansies in this exquisite needlepoint piece:pansy pillow, Kaffe

He’s also a painter, of course, and his paintings show his love of complex pattern.painting by KaffeI tried to be a good reporter, but honestly, he said so many wonderful things that I couldn’t keep up. A few of my favorite quotes:

• “Anything worth doing is worth overdoing.” If you’re familiar with his fabrics, you know that he loves profusions of pattern and color.

• “It’s OK to make things that are ‘show-offey’.”  Heidi and I were rather show-offey ourselves that day, being the only two people wearing garments made in his fabrics. (He commented on both; see our picture farther down.)

• Kaffe delights in “gorgeous, juicy, punchy color.” “I make it up as I go along,” he says.

• Beige is NOT in his palette. Beige-minded people favor quiet colors that “won’t scare the horses.” He has no time for such “good, grown-up taste.”

Do you begin to see how much fun it was to hear him speak? Following the lecture there were questions from the audience. I forgot to ask a question I’ve had for years: Why aren’t there more blue-violet (my fave color) fabrics in his collections? Another time . . . .

Here are a few of the quilts in the exhibit:

This cool little quilt was near the entrance. I love Kaffe Fassett Collective fabrics for many reasons, but it’s the balance of color that makes me so happy. Bits of warm color among cooler colors make a design feel complete, like a “complete protein,” only with color. (These ladies work at the museum. Can’t you imagine this as a New Yorker cartoon? What would the caption be???)

blue triangles, entranceThe Lotus Leaves print in the quilt below has always been one of my favorites, in all the colorways. If you aren’t familiar with Kaffe’s online store, which includes fabrics by Philip Jacobs and Brandon Mably, check out www.gloriouscolor.com 
lotus leaves sized, yesI was so busy chatting that I forgot to read the history of the antique quilt in this pairing. But if you look in the lower left area of this photo, you can see the inspiration for the new quilt. The low-intensity teal shot cotton in the new version really emphasizes the vibrant colors in each group of four units. Of course, extra credit for the pieced “striped” border.
new quilt with slate blue

I love both the old and new versions of this pattern:
old quilt wheelsnew quilt wheelsAnd finally, here we are after the lecture. We thought this would be our only chance to have “our picture taken with Kaffe” (that’s him in the background, signing books.) Yes, yes, we are shameless.Me and Heidi at Kaffe, SJose

I hope hearing some of Kaffe’s thoughts on color will inspire you to keep dreaming and collecting and sewing and quilting. That’s what it did for us, and we came home exhausted from talking about what we had seen and heard, and scheming about our next projects. (Heidi will be showing more pics and sharing her thoughts in her next post.)

 

 

 

A Kaffe Extravaganza

by Christine Barnes

Earlier this week, Heidi and I presented our program “All Things Kaffe” to the Pine Tree Quilt Guild here in Grass Valley. We talked a bit about his life, showed two short videos, then presented a trunk show of our quilts and wearables that feature his fabrics. We had so much fun, and our audience was wonderfully responsive.

Some of you are in the guild, so we hope you’ll forgive us for reprising a bit of our program in this post and next week’s, when it’s Heidi’s turn. Did you know . . . ?

Kaffe was born in San Francisco in 1937. His great grandfather was a U.S. Senator, and his great-great grandparents founded the Crocker Art Gallery in Sacramento. Kaffe earned a scholarship to the Museum of Fine Arts School in Boston but left at 19 to go to London to paint. On a visit to a wool mill in Scotland with Scottish fashion designer Bill Gibb, he fell in love with the colors and textures of yarn, and on the train going home, a fellow passenger taught him to knit. His first sweater design was published by Vogue, and from there he went on to collaborate with Gibb and Missoni to create colorful, intricately patterned sweaters that make the leap from handcraft to high fashion. 1 Kaffe with bagIn the mid 80s Kaffe began his love affair with needlepoint, called “tapestry” in the UK. He also created stunning mosaics inspired by his extensive travels. In 1988, Kaffe became the first living textile artist to have a one-man show at the Victoria & Albert Museum in London. Now that’s impressive!2 Needlepoint cabbageIn the 90s, he teamed up with Liza Prior Lucy to create and market colorful prints, woven stripes, and shot cottons for quilters. Two other designers, Philip Jacobs and Brandon Mably, produce many of my favorite fabrics under the umbrella of Kaffe Fassett. Check out the Kaffe Fassett Collective on Facebook—there are more than 19,000 members. Heidi and I love to post there and have made friends from all over the world.

I’ll never forget my introduction to his fabrics: In the early 90s, I bought a yard of gorgeous hand-dyed fabric at PIQF. I turned the corner to another booth and spotted a woven stripe by Kaffe. Here’s a scan of the vest I made from those fabrics, in an article I wrote on color for Threads magazine:3 Hong Kong vest in Threads, 7 at 72I recently decided to sort my Kaffe prints into stacks, more or less by color. I have at least a dozen stacks, including one that’s labeled “dull and dreary” (they have their place, too). It’s not very tidy, but it works for me.5 stacks of KaffeI have three (yes, three) IKEA cubes filled wth Kaffe stripes, and as odd as it sounds, I organize them by how recently I’ve acquired them. Here’s one cube, looking down into itCube of stripes 2Almost all of my quilts made from his fabrics have been in past posts, but here’s one I made early on, “In & Out,” using many of his stripes and a variety of light-value batiks. I sent a pic to Liza, she forwarded it to Kaffe, and he emailed me, saying he “liked the way I used his fabric in fresh new ways.” That made my day!4 In & Out early versionBelow are two “Japanese X and Plus” blocks. I challenged myself to make them all in Kaffe, Brandon, and Philip fabrics, except for the background. It was a challenge to gather four medium values for the X and two darker values for the “plus,” but what fun I had!

6 X Plus pink smaller 7 X Plus blue, 8 and 72 smallerThese are just two of the vests I’ve made using his stripes and prints. 8 Summer Triangles smallerIn this vest I used his “Turkish Delight” print for the left front, and a leaf print in the upper area of the right front.

9 Turkish front smallerI love to combine his prints and stripes with Gelato ombrés. This is a block for a quilt I never finished. Someday . . . .16 fresh-cut color 2Finally, I just had to show you the quilt started by student Joanie in my “Swizzle Sticks” class at Sugar Pine Quilt Shop last weekend. It’s all Kaffe—prints, shot cottons, and stripes—and they all came from Sugar Pine. (Aren’t we lucky?) I’ll show you the quilt when it’s finished (there will be sashing). Thanks, Joanie!10 Joanie Swizzle sticksI hope you enjoyed these fun facts about Kaffe Fassett. For more about him and his work, check out his official website. To get an idea of the scope of his fabrics, visit his online store, www.gloriouscolor.com. Tune in next time and let Heidi continue the story with his stunning knits and her own wearables made of his fabrics. Until then, make time to create . . . perhaps with Kaffe?