Janice Issitt                    Life and Style

travel, interiors, photography, home, crafts, personal style

23 Sep 2013

People I Admire II - Kaffe Fassett

I have just now watched a great programme about knitting on BBC Four, and it reinforced quite a few things that I have for a long while thought, plus it was a jolly good history of knitting in the UK.

As a nation our love affair with hand knits became really tweaked when in 1922 the Price Of Wales wore a fishermans fairisle jumper on the golf course. Only a painting of him wearing it remains as a colour reminder and you can see that on fellow blogspotter Tweed And The Gentlemans Club

It was Coco Chanels approach to comfort that revolutionised womens clothing, and it was to the UK that she came to source soft Jersey knitted fabric.


Since the minute I took up knitting, which actually was only just over two years ago, I wanted to knit fairisle, plain knitting seemed just too boring and whilst I don't mind the odd cable, its not the the fancy stitches that interests me but the way to bring lots of colour together.  This, I discovered, is exactly the same reasons which started a life long career for Kaffe Fassett.


My awareness of Kaffe and his work has come and gone over the years. He first came to recognition when in the 1970's he worked with Bill Gibb. Some pictures of his work can be seen on The Womens Room blog, I can remember buying some lovely things with his designs on in the 80s, like a tea tray and some tapestry kits. Just recently I fell in love with some patterns in a Rowan pattern book, only to discover that Kaffe had designed the range, inspired by Russian Matryoshka dolls. He seems to regularly quote the same inspirational colour pallet as I love too.

Kaffe Fassett treats knitting like his canvas to create colour, an exquisite textile artist, working not only in knitting but also tapestry and patchwork. 

In the documentary it is described beautifully as a bohemian romance of complex colour patterns, a poem of colour. 

When asked "why is colour important" Kaffe answers "this question is as if colour were some strange freaky thing, it astounds me, like asking why is breath so important. To me its air, the air of my soul".

My personal constant musings are regarding colour and hand crafting. I nearly laughed out loud when in this documentary they said that many a woman had been bought a knitting machine by her husband for it to only stay in the box. For my own other half, looks at me knitting or hand sewing and says "Im sure you could get a machine to do that". And like many husbands before him, he is totally missing the point. I own three sewing machines and prefer to hand sew even on large quilts. And as the lovely ladies on the tv show can qualify, there is something so satisfying about the repetition and growth of a hand made piece. Turning a ball of yarn into a garment, made to measure in colours of ones own choice.  



The scarf above is a design from that Rowan book by Kaffe and the socks are an adaptation of that.

I love this Rowan yarn called Felted Tweed because the colour range is so beautifully reflective of the colours of heathers, heathland, autumn leaves, some muted and some jewel like.


this was my first fairisle jumper, I can see loads of mistakes, but who cares, not me.
The yarn is Debbie Bliss Baby Cashmerino.
 You can google up scientific studies on the health benefits of knitting and heres a quote to explain why we love it
(you won't understand until you have a go) and no, dear hubbies everywhere, doing it on a machine is just not the same.

"The main reasons for knitting commonly related to it’s rhythmic, repetitive nature and its ability to relieve stress, induce relaxation and manage emotions, particularly for unwinding after work. It also helped people who had anxiety disorders. Some occasionally found knitting stressful, but this related to trying to tackle a project which was beyond their means or having a tight deadline to reach. It was felt that knitting had meditative and ‘zen-like’ qualities – it was described as ‘soothing’ ‘restful’ or ‘spiritual’. 72% of respondents knitted more than three times a week and there was a significant relationship between the frequency of knitting and feeling calm, happy and confident.
Of those respondents who suffered from depression, 81.5% stated that they felt happier after knitting with 54% of those saying they felt happy or very happy after knitting. Compare this with comments made about antidepressants – “Knitting makes me feel happy – antidepressants just numb all my senses”– and you get an idea as to just how powerful and effective knitting can be as a tool for wellness. Colour and texture also impacted on mood with texture having more of an affect – 24% indicated the colour of the yarn affected mood and 46% stating texture did. Touching something good makes you feel good. 



Mental health problems are often developed by people who think too much, over analysing, anxiety, not being able to stop certain thought processes.  I can verify that the concentration in knitting takes you out and away from that head space and whatever your reason for taking up this great hobby, it doesn't matter. Once you start you will be hooked. 









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