Kaffe Fassett blog tour

Kaffe Fassett and his longtime quilt collaborator Liza Prior Lucy are on tour to promote their new book Simple Shapes Spectacular Quilts (tour dates and more are here). I am a major-league Fassett fan, you really have no idea. His eye for color is particularly spectacular, and that’s what we’re going to talk about today. I’ve taken classes from both Fassett and Brandon Mably at TNNA in years past, and even with my own background (growing up with artist parents and a large number of artists in my extended family), their perspectives are both eye-opening and incredibly simple to put into practice for a knit designer. Even if you don’t sew, I highly recommend picking up a copy of this or any other Fassett quilting book, because it is a miniature art school degree in the effective use of color. And if either of them ever come to town, cut work, school and family obligations to take their classes…seriously!

In Simple Shapes Spectacular Quilts, Fassett demonstrates how basic geometric forms found in both natural and manufactured environments inspire his quilt designs. There are twenty-three quilts of various difficulty levels, along with step-by-step instructions for making each one. The Not-So-Lone-Star (page 97) is daunting to me, but I think I may well have to make it. I can quilt at a garter-stitch level, but Not-So-Lone-Star just makes me want to be a better human being, let alone quilter.

More of interest to you if you’re a knitter are the photos of geometric inspiration from around the world — Fassett will show you how to train your eyes to really “see” the sources of creativity at your disposal in everyday life. (If you’re wondering how to put them to work for you as a knitter, grab his book Kaffe Fassett’s Pattern Library — it’s one of my go-to books whenever I need a “hmmm” moment to consider shape and form and color in knitterly terms. You can find it, and many others, on Amazon’s Kaffe Fassett page).

I was given the opportunity to ask Kaffe about color for the blog tour, particularly where one can find inspiration, and here’s what he had to say:

Observe the world all around you. Breathtaking color combinations are everywhere. Great color ideas can come from anywhere. We look at art in museums, flowers in gardens, illustrations in books, eye shadows in cosmetic collections, racks of towels in department stores, piles of rocks. Truly, color inspiration is everywhere.

The new book is about opening your eyes to the shapes of everyday objects that can inspire quilts. It is the same with color. The colors in St Mark’s Diamonds, for example comes from inlaid stone floors that are found in cathedrals. The colors in the Floral Snowball are simply the colors found in a late summer/autumn garden.

But with all the mediums I try to express myself in, be it mosaic, knitting, needlepoint, painting or patchwork, I am saying the same thing, that colour has the power to transform our level of consciousness. The same as poetry and sonata forms are to writers and musicians, colour is really my subject in all I do and that is a never ending study.

Here’s Floral Snowball (which I adore):

Floral Snowball, Kaffe Fassett

and here’s St Marks:

St Mark's Diamonds, Kaffe Fassett

STC Craft, Kaffe, and Liza are hosting a Quilt-Along on Facebook that runs through July. You can join it here. Also, find out more about a special contest and a free pattern here.

One word of warning: when you get this book, you’ll probably spend the next several hours ooohing and aaahing over all the pages — I did!

Be the Nina to my Heidi

I’m teaching this summer for ArtWorks in University Circle (Cleveland), doing a fashion/fiber-related program. It’ll be up to the apprentices whether things are more Project Runway or summer theatre-y, although I have a strong suspicion they’ll veer towards the former, but no matter what, it should be fun.

If you’re in the neighborhood, stop by the tents and see what we’re doing! And if I know you, don’t be surprised if I pull you in and make you pretend to be Tim Gunn or [cue Heidi Klum accent] top American designer Michael Kors. Anyone want to be the Nina to my Heidi?

Seaweed wrap

No, this isn’t a spa. But you could, given a sewing machine and a few minutes, whip yourself up a seaweed wrap. Check it out: seaweed fabric at ReproDepot. Or use it stitch up a bag to hold your Handmaiden Sea Silk yarn, which is made out of the same lovely oceanic stuff.

I had a great time teaching in Chantilly, VA this past week despite extreme rental car adventures Wednesday night. Hearing an area of highway intersections referred to as “the Mixing Bowl” should immediately indicate you’re in for it. And I finally got to meet Karida from Neighborhood Fiber Co., not to mention hang out with Kim and Amy.

Book deadlines are hanging over my head like Damocles’ sword, but I’ll upload photos and some other cool stuff asap.

“The Knitting Circle Shows Its Chic”

A new article in the NY Times today: check it out here.

Needlework hobbyists have become more savvy, said Joelle Hoverson, an owner of Purl and Purl Patchwork, neighboring yarn and fabric boutiques in SoHo. “A lot of that is driven by fashion,” she said. Ms. Hoverson has noticed that designers like Mr. Jacobs inspire her customers. “But they’re also looking at clothes from the ’40s, ’50s and ’60s,” she said. “And they’re looking at each other. It’s very cool.”

So far, so good. The quote that annoyed me, though, was this one: “Sewing is the latest of the domestic arts to be touted as a hipster passion, the rock ’n’ roll of the crafts world.”

What? What does that even mean? Just because younger people are starting to sew doesn’t make it “hipster.” (Think about it — in our parents’ and grandparents’ days, no one would have thought twice about someone wanting to make their own clothes. My mom supposedly repainted her clogs to match her outfits regularly when she was in art school, for example).

The New York Times also had an article about “hipster librarians” this week — maybe this is all part of a larger “hipster series” or something…

Declared: Sew-/Knitt-ing month

What with Kerrie Allman starting her new site this month, and all the other things I’ve had on my mind, there’s a lot of sewing/knitting crossover in the Knitgrrl brain this fine February. So why not roll with it? From the knitted projects in my upcoming sewing books to the overall trend of using multiple techniques in one item (whether it’s knitting + sewing, or two types of felting, or… you name it), I see these crossovers as not only fascinating but inspirational.

So, it was with great interest that I read Marnie MacLean’s interview with Jennifer Stafford of domiKNITrix in two blog posts (one, two). The first post is all interview, the second is a review of Jennifer’s new book, domiKNITrix: Whip Your Knitting Into Shape. Full disclosure: she whipped me into shape at TNNA!

Coming from a sewing background to a knitting one, Stafford had much to say of interest to both knitters and sewers, such as:

The nice thing about sewing is that when you make something a little too large, you can just go around and re-stitch each seam to make the garment a little tighter. Too small, rip out the seam and insert a strip of fabric to broaden it.

I use similar techniques to salvage a knitting project with fit problems. Steeking is one good way to rescue a project, like the Herringbones sweater you see on my site.

Ah, the miracle steek. My favorite. And on the matter of fit…

I noticed that when people complimented my knitwear, it was the darts, the lean close fit that they were into. So I figured I owed it to them to be sure I put that trim fit into the book. There are SO many books out there with sweaters that have absolutely no shaping, just two squares put together with a drop sleeve or whatever. I knew I didn’t even need to go there.

I wanted to include more guidelines on where to alter the pattern for custom fit, like you find on sewing patterns, that alteration line, but time really didn’t permit that.

Which is a shame, if you ask me. I think more patterns should regularly include customization guidelines, however rudimentary. If you can’t figure it out all on your own, maybe a little push in the right direction would help keep shapeless sweaters out of circulation. Also, fans of Amy and Jillian, Stafford’s got your back, too:

When I wore looser clothes in fashion at certain times, I discovered that they just made me look fat. So I started going for the trim fit. Even if you are a little self conscious about a bulge somewhere, I promise you are going to look more attractive overall if you wear well-fitted clothing. Women are so overly critical of themselves, we often go hide in loose clothing, but it just makes us look worse.

Amen to that, I say. Lately, I’ve made a conscious effort to not wear such oversized clothing myself. And I think that anyone calling for better shaping / fit is someone to watch! Plus, the designs in domiKNITrix are really beautiful, and fun, too. (My boyfriend had his eye on the “Bob” sweater).

Interview with Kerrie Allman

To celebrate the launch of her new site Sew Hip today, I interviewed MagKnits editor Kerrie Allman here for AlterNation. Yarn and fabric, my friends. Like peanut butter and chocolate, I tell you. Sewing is a good skill to have as a knitter — things like Bonne Marie’s excellent zipper tutorial make more sense, you can figure out new ways to fit things, make liners for your bags and heavy, jacket-like cardigans…

This just in…

My editor Christina informs me that the spring issue of Adorn hits newsstands today. It’s got an article by yours truly featuring recycled clothing and more by AlterNation co-author Xan, Lekkner, Tiffany Tomato (now at RePlayground, Betz White and more.

Adorn has a truly great blog. And now they’re offering subscriptions to the print magazine for a mere $9.99 — 33% off!

I love new magazine season, too.

What’s great about Adorn is that not only does it show you how to make things from scratch, but they’ve got a column called “Buy Retail, Add Detail” that’s a lot of fun. It’s given me some good inspirations for embellishing knitwear.

New website for AlterNation

My upcoming book with Alexandra Underhill, AlterNation, now has its very own website, where I’ll be concentrating my sewing-related posts, as well as cross-posting stuff that’s relevant to both knitting and sewing, or just generally crafty.

You should also know that my shop is currently undergoing a major behind-the-scenes expansion. We’re adding many new knitting (and indie sewing) patterns, and bringing on new products. Out with some old, in with a lot of new. I’m hoping to have the renovation completed by late spring, but some of it will require outside programming help, and therefore takes time.

In other news, the Crafter Culture Handbook (which features a project from yours truly) is now available for preorder directly from the publisher.

Fall 2006 Cutting Edge

Why, check out that adorable redhead on the contributor’s page at Cutting Edge magazine. She looks like…um, me! (Ok, subtle I ain’t).

There was a giant stack of Cutting Edges at Borders last night — we took a short break from working on the sewing book manuscript that’s due Monday and another top-secret holiday sewing project of mine. (Tamas is doing graphic design work for it, more later when I can make it public! I can hardly wait.)

This is the issue they were laying out when we visited Soho this summer — I’ve got a few projects in the holiday gift guide. The felt jewelry looks a little weird just sitting on a blank white space, but trust me, it looks really cute close up when a human is wearing it. I love my dachshund and pear wallets, but there are other cute ones they didn’t photograph…I sewed about 6 in all. And naturally the liner fabric they showed is the one I like the least. But hey, I’m not complaining! I think Cutting Edge is seriously awesome, particularly the “Buy Retail, Add Detail” section.

Sewing magazines, like knitting ones, usually dictate what fabric (or yarn) you can use in the project, to keep their advertisers happy, etc. They actually send out an entire box of suggested fabrics! But don’t let that get to you — you can always substitute something you like or have on hand. Those wallets would be adorable with some Repro Depot fabrics, for example. I’m actually thinking of making one for myself out of this one Kaffe Fassett fabric I have in the stash…

And with that, it’s back to the deadline grind. Things are looking promising — I can see the light at the end of the tunnel (or is it a train?)!

Sewing with kittens

Spike modeled in the first Knitgrrl book and now his baby brother Giles is helping with our sewing book! We didn’t even prompt him, he just got up on the table and started playing with the zipper.

(He’s a big yarn fan — he’ll actually play tug of war with you! And he thinks the Addi Express machine is the coolest piece of machinery we own).