From Knit to Patchwork

From Knit to Patchwork

Field Notes: Kaffe Fassett

When I first started to knit back in the late 1960s, everything I saw suggested possible knitting motifs to me. Mosaics, decorated china, and paving stones all had me reaching for my graph paper and knitting needles.

But for me, the single richest vein came from books on antique patchwork. I’d pore over these designs, usually of the simplest groupings of squares, triangles, and rectangles that somehow captivated the viewer’s eye no matter how often they were studied. Checkerboards, tumbling blocks, and stars gave my knitting patterns powerful structures that filled the pages of my own books on knitting in color.

So when my contact at Rowan Yarns, Liza Lucy, suggested I design for patchwork, my initial resistance didn’t daunt her. She simply opened my knitting books and began to translate my motifs back to patchwork— where many of them had started. Soon we were collaborating on quilting books, such as Glorious Patchwork, Passionate Patchwork and the soon to be released Simple Shapes, Spectacular Quilts. We also work together on a yearly Rowan Quilt book to demonstrate how I use my latest fabric collections.

Since knitting is a craft I’ve developed more than any other, I can think out colors and motifs most efficiently by sitting down and knitting up my thoughts. It is little wonder then that many of the ideas I arrive at in patchwork started life as knit designs. One of the first was a spiky pattern of long triangles I called Pennants. Liza chose this first to show me how well it would sew up as a patchwork block, and it led to one of my favorite early quilts of the same name. My most successful transformation is a knit design called “Carpet,” inspired by a Kilim carpet—a woven Turkish rug—I bought in the early 1980s. I’ve used this design for years in many different colorways.

As you’re imagining your next project, consider other textile media for inspiration. The pattern in your favorite sweater or afghan may inspire a quilt design!