Oriental Carpets & Exotic Textiles Inspire Patchwork Designs

Field Notes: Kaffe Fassett

Lately, I’ve written about how quilts influenced the geometry and color of my knitwear designs. Now, I’d like to pay homage to another powerful source of ideas for fabric designs, the world of Oriental carpets.

Carpets have always been part of my life since I was a small boy. My mother used exotic textiles to give a room warmth and color. When I first

moved to London in 1964, I saw how a friend draped his small apartment with gorgeous Oriental rugs and embroideries. The overlapping richness gave everyone who visited a pleasant rush. The maroons, reds and ochres of those weaves were already appealing but their motifs came to fascinate me even more. I used to visit and sketch regularly the largescale Orientals at the Victoria and Albert Museum to use in knitting designs. When I was setting up my London house I got to know all the less expensive rug dealers in the flea markets and collected quite a few good, if worn, carpets to create a cozy colorful home.

Stylized Flowers and Circles

The entire collection of designs for my newest patchwork fabrics was inspired by carpets. When I cut up prints for patchwork they are often more effective if I style them in a similar way. The flat primitive rendition of flowers I found in Middle Eastern carpets is just the ticket when it comes to playing with segments of pattern cut and reassembled.
One example is “Persian Vase,” a small scale, dot-like fabric with a fountain of tiny circular blooms cascading from long stems in a small vase. “Suzani” is another: rows of bold circles, medium in scale, with different centers on each one. “Sprays,” probably the most directly influenced by carpet designs, shows big circular blooms on staggered stems. I love playing with different scales of circles in my quilts and this new collection will be a rich addition to my other round motif fabrics.

Kaffe Fassett