Good Omens

Good Omens

Field Notes: Kaffe Fassett

Isn’t it amazing how a seemingly random creative inspiration can foreshadow events to come?

My first brush with patchwork, which occurred while I was primarily painting for a living, came back full circle to lure me into the quilting world several years later. Many years ago, I was hired to paint a mural in a newly decorated dining room and bathroom. It was a joy to walk to work through my developing neighborhood every day. I particularly enjoyed passing a small antique shop with a stunning window display. An old patchwork quilt comprised of simple squares hung down, serving as a backdrop. Its jade, turquoise, soft dusty pink and cream palette was echoed by an arrangement of vintage kitchen utensils and containers of the same colors in the foreground.

I was so impressed that I passed a note under the door saying, “Whoever put this window together is a born painter; I’d love to do a still life of everything here. If interested, call me.” The very next night a lovely English voice on the phone said, “What a wizard idea! Come to dinner.” After our meal, she handed me a box containing everything I had seen in the window. The trusting gesture spurred me to paint my best in record time. Two weeks later I had a large still life to show, and a newfound appreciation for squares and the designs they make.

Painted Inspiration Reappears

Jumping forward a few years, my yarn representative and friend Liza Lucy tried to convince me to expand beyond the needlework world into patchwork. I resisted, saying how much I had on my plate with knitting, needlepoint and painting. One day, a stranger offered Liza one of my paintings. Upon hearing it contained a patchwork quilt, she bought it on the spot, seeing it as a clear omen that we would work together.

The painting hangs in her living room and has inspired many patchwork versions of that arrangement of squares that caught my eye so long ago. Liza noticed that the painting shows a very fanciful interpretation of the quilt’s sixteen-patch design. As I write this I’m just finishing a book on the basic geometry of quilts, which opens with a chapter on squares. Even after writing fourteen books on patchwork, I still find the squares that started it endlessly captivating. Never underestimate where you might find inspiration for a quilt design, much like I did in that antique shop window.