Kaffe Fassett

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Kaffe Fassett
Born Frank[1] Fassett
San Francisco, California
Nationality American
Known for Textiles

Kaffe Fassett (born 1937 as Frank Fassett), is an American-born artist who is best known for his colourful designs in the decorative arts—needlepoint, patchwork, knitting, painting and ceramics. [2] While still a child, Fassett renamed himself after an Egyptian boy character from the book Boy of the Pyramid by Ruth Fosdick Jones)[3] (rhymes with 'safe asset'[4])

Early life[edit]

The second of five children, Fassett was born in 1937 in San Francisco, California,[5] to parents William and Madeleine.[6] He is the great-grandson of the wealthy businessman, lawyer and United States Congressman Jacob Sloat Fassett, and it was his great-great grandparents who founded the Crocker Art Museum in Sacramento, California. He received a scholarship to the School of the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston at the age of 19, but shortly left school to paint in London and moved there to live in 1964.

A Kaffe Fassett quilt depicting Hat Boxes, on display at Whipps Cross Hospital, London


In the late 1960s Fassett met the Scottish fashion designer Bill Gibb, with whom he was in a relationship for a while.[7] Until Gibb's premature death in 1988, they were very close friends and design collaborators, with Fassett creating many of the multicoloured, complex knitwear designs that became one of Gibb's trademarks.[8] When one of Bill Gibb's designs was chosen by Beatrix Miller of Vogue as the 1970 Dress of the Year, the ensemble included a Fassett hand-knitted waistcoat, showing that traditional textile handicrafts had become an acceptable aspect of mainstream fashion.[9] Fassett and Gibb worked together through to the end, collaborating on Gibb's final collection in 1985.[10]

Fassett's work attracts a considerable following. His work was the subject of a 1988 one-man show at the Victoria & Albert Museum in London, the first time a living textile artist had such a show there. The show toured nine countries.

Being more concerned with colour and design, Fassett has also worked extensively in other textile arts. He was a supplier of tapestries to Women's Home Industries and its designer Beatrice Bellini, attracting a number of private commissions and creating kits for the company during the 1970s.[11][12] He has also collaborated with quilter and teacher, Liza Prior Lucy, on the construction side of things since the 1980s. Working as a team has enabled Kaffe to design quilts, fabric, stage sets, and costumes for the Royal Shakespeare Company, while staying engaged in making rag rugs, knitting, tapestries, and mosaics.[13]

Author of more than 30 books, Fassett concentrates on teaching the colour and design stages of craftwork rather than the construction stage. In addition to books, he has hosted craft-related television and radio programmes for the BBC and Channel 4, including his own show, Glorious Colour.

His fabric prints are largely for the patchwork market along with Indian stripes fabric and shot cotton fabric range.

An exhibition of Fassett's quilts, knitting and needlepoint at the Modemuseum Hasselt, Belgium in 2007, followed a multimedia solo show in 2006 at the Prince Eugen's Waldemarsudde, Sweden. He made a workshop tour of Australia and New Zealand.

In 2013, Fassett followed up his 1988 exhibition at the Victoria & Albert Museum with 'Kaffe Fassett - A Life in Colour' at the Fashion and Textile Museum in London. The exhibit features over 100 works including nine foot wide knitwear and throws, patchwork quilts, as well as items never before seen in the public eye. Fassett even designed a tactile installation for visitors to touch so that they would get a better understanding of the structure behind his work.[14]

He is a fabric designer for Rowan Patchwork and Quilting and the primary knitwear designer for Rowan Yarns.

Personal life[edit]

Fassett has resided in England since 1964. He lives with Brandon Mably: his partner and studio manager.

External links[edit]


  1. ^ "Dreaming in Colour: An Autobiography ~ Kaffe Fassett". dovegreyreader scribbles. Typepad. Retrieved 6 January 2013. 
  2. ^ Kaffe Fassett Studio Painting
  3. ^ Russell, Marjorie L. (November 2010). "Kaffe Fassett: It's a Colorful Life". American Quilter. 
  4. ^ Steege, Gwen W. (2011). The Knitter's Life List. p. 57. 
  5. ^ "Kaffe's Biography - A Colourful Life". Retrieved 6 January 2013. 
  6. ^ Steele, Romney (2009). My Nepenthe: Bohemian Tales of Food, Family, and Big Sur. Andrews McMeel Publishing. ISBN 9780740779145. 
  7. ^ "Frock prince". The Scotsman. 31 August 2003. Retrieved 16 January 2013. 
  8. ^ "Higher Still Resource: Bill Gibb London" (PDF). Education Scotland. Retrieved 7 January 2013. 
  9. ^ Wood, Holly (19 September 1998). "50 GREAT BRITISH FASHION MOMENTS". The Independent. Retrieved 16 January 2013. 
  10. ^ Moore, Jackie (21 March 1985). "Bill Gibb's Bronze Age". The Glasgow Herald. Retrieved 16 January 2013. 
  11. ^ Fassett, Kaffe (2012). Dreaming in Color: An Autobiography (PDF) (2014 Kindle ed.). STC Craft /Melanie Falick. ISBN 9781584799962. Retrieved 6 July 2015. 
  12. ^ Mills, Nancy (7 April 1977). "Knitmen". The Guardian. 
  13. ^ Jack Braunstein article, QuiltWorks Today magazine
  14. ^ "Kaffe Fassett - A Life in Colour". Fashion and Textile Museum. Retrieved 2 February 2015.