Dreaming in Colour

8 Oct

Now here’s a book to chase away the autumn blues (and greys).

Quilt/needlepoint/knitting supremo Kaffe Fassett’s memoir Dreaming in Colour is, as the title suggests, an absolute riot of bright photography and paintings, tracing the designer’s life from his childhood as part of a large, bohemian restaurant-owning family on the Pacific coast, to one of the biggest names in textiles.

There’s gorgeous imagery in this scrapbook-like autobiography, such as Odilon Redon’s painting Bouquet of Wild Flowers, which inspired knitting, needlepoint, fabric prints and rag rugs all in shades of scarlet, turquoise, lime green, dusky yellow, cream.

I must admit I associated Fassett with needlepoint kits and crazy 80s jumpers- I  hadn’t realised what a rock n’roll life he led, hanging out with the big names of Swinging London (and Princess Margaret!) and selling out shows of his own designs – which really changed what people thought you could do with yarn, and colour. It’s a gossipy read, especially as he knows a lot of fabulous arty types.

It’s an inspiring story for anyone interested in craft – and in how to make it into a career (he tells the story of demonstrating his knitting to a WI group – and them disappearing halfway through, so anxious were they to get started themselves!) – and also how to get over failures along the way.

I particularly liked this quote:

“The distinction some purists draw between art and craft doesn’t exist for me… I always try to make my textiles as beautiful as I can manage, imbuing them with all the efforts of a work of art. It’s up to others to describe, if they have to, what it ends up being.”

There’s a retrospective show coming up next year of Kaffe’s work – I’ll definitely be going.

 Kaffe’s family in the 1950s- growing up in California

The gorgeous designs inspired by the Redon painting.

One of Kaffe’s amazing quilts, made from Indian woven stripes.

The man himself, surrounded by knitting.

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