Inspired by French & English Chintz

Field Notes: Kaffe Fassett

My first motivation to design fabrics for patchwork arose from my delight in an antique quilt I saw in Wales featuring big roses on home furnishing fabrics. I started noticing how fond the British were of using floral chintz prints in their charming country houses. The unapologetic floweriness appealed to me, and some 20 years later, when I started designing quilts, I longed to capture that look.

A Perfect Partnership

One contemporary designer’s work in particular, Philip Jacobs, had always caught my eye. A well-known designer in the United Kingdom, Philip produces designs for furnishings, wallpaper, and quilting fabric both in the UK and the United States. I learned he lived in a country farmhouse and had a huge barn full of collected documents—scraps of wallpaper and fragments of printed fabrics—of vintage French and English prints for inspiration.

One day I paid him a visit. As we dined on a picnic lunch in Philip’s studio, I looked around. The space housed a surprising assortment of Tibetan art and huge dinosaur bones, two of this amazing artist’s passions. What a contrast from the beautiful English chintzes he designs! Colorful Buddhas and religious Tibetan paintings decorated the walls, and the floors were strewn with dinosaur vertebrae and foot bones. Philip combs the British beaches for bones and London salerooms for the Tibetan art. Huge Oriental bowls are bursting with rolls of his printed textiles to add to the exotic mix.

During that visit, I commissioned Philip to do a fabric collection for Westminster Fibers. After choosing from many possible documents and adjusting them to create floral motifs that suited our patchwork needs, I was delighted to hear he wasn’t that interested in defining colorways for his patterns. I chose colors for his designs that coordinated with my collections so that our fabrics could be used together easily.

As our collections grow year by year, I am delighted to see the patchwork shops and their customers enthusiastically agreeing with my decision to add Philip’s designs. His big florals mix well with my contemporary ones and bring that old world flair and panache to our fabric palette.

Kaffe Fassett