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Something about creating fabric—be it knitting or needlepoint—was far too motivating for me to abandon and return exclusively to easel painting. I could express all my passion for color and form in these soft human textures and longed to create bigger and better examples.

—Kaffe Fassett

When I visited Kaffe Fassett The Power of Pattern at Dovecot Studios in Edinburgh my first thought on leaving the exhibition was “color is joy.” Kaffe inspires us to embrace color as an expression of our own personalities. Whether we’re knitting, stitching, or choosing a scarf to wear, Kaffe believes that color is “spiritual” in its influence on us.

Kaffe and his collective call themselves “missionaries for color” providing encouragement for us to play with color in whatever art form we love best. As Kaffe says in the introduction to his book Glorious Inspiration, even though he designs fabric, kits, and patterns for makers “this should not stop you from creating your own interpretations. Every one of us has the ability to create personal warmhearted decoration if we can only relax and let our confidence grow . . . people are filled with creative ideas that can be wonderfully and personally expressed. All they need is to be encouraged.”

Thirty years since the publication of Glorious Inspiration, Kaffe’s mantras are unchanged:

“Embrace creativity fearlessly.”

“Good designing follows no rules; remaining open to the unexpected is paramount.”

“Take courage and use the amazing outpouring of decorative art the world is constantly producing to create your own textiles specifically for your heart’s desire.”

In The Power of Pattern, Kaffe takes the collective idea to the next level by offering dozens of examples of how stitchers have employed his fabrics and daring color sense in their own quilts, needlepoint, and clothing. The whole exhibition is an extravaganza of color and pattern which the Kaffe Fassett Collective call “ A Carnival of Collaborations.” Some of the contributors are world famous and well known Kaffe collaborators like Liza Prior Lucy and other makers are included because of their explosive color sense. 

I was excited to see which quilts held people’s attention the longest.

Meet Albie

design, piecing, and quilting by Susan Carlson (2005)

Susan Carlson’s quilt called “Tickled Pink” embodies everything Kaffe loves about textile-making—history, improvisation, and unexpected choices. The rhinoceros, named Albie, is modeled on an engraving by Albrecht Durer. Who says a monochromatic fifteenth century image can’t be reimagined in wild pink? And Durer had never actually seen a rhinoceros when he imagined the animal for his engraving, he invented one from a description he read!

Conjuring a rhinoceros from a description sounds just like something Kaffe would love. Susan reimagined Durer’s ink and paper rhinoceros in fabric and thread to the delight of every museum-goer.

Cosmic Color

“Levitate” by Danny Amazonas also created a commotion. People stood around his quilt discussing his layering technique and his 3-D color theory which made all of us feel like we were at the same time inside the quilt and that the planets were ready to fly out into the room around us. 

design, piecing, and quilting by Danny Amazonas (2018)

Shine on!

Detail from the Bordered Diamonds Quilt. Designed by Kaffe Fassett, Pieced by Lucy Prior Lucy, Quilted by Judy Irish (2009) and featured in Simple Shapes Spectacular Quilts

I was especially wowed by “Bordered Diamonds,” one of Kaffe’s own quilts. Kaffe writes, “I noticed a photo of the back of a paper-pieced diamond patchwork in a textile magazine. The colored paper shapes, surrounded by fabric borders, covering the front of each diamond, inspired me to take all my newest big florals and edge them in small textured print in contrasting palettes.”

This is the thing we love about Kaffe. He can be inspired by the back of things. He advocates a way of seeing which observes small and ostensibly insignificant things and he harvests these tiny details for big ideas.

Civil War Bride, Designer Corliss Searcey, Maker Patty Harants, Quilter Judy Stone (2019)

My personal favorite among the many quilts was “Civil War Bride” by Patty Harants. Civil War quilts typically have a muted quality—many of them have naturally faded with exposure to light and with use. Patty, who is well acquainted with historic homes and historic fabrics, uses Kaffe’s fabric to reimagine the traditional appliqué picture quilt.

I wanted to join her radiant bride and walk amongst the Dr. Seuss flowers, ride the showy ponies, and listen for the hoots of the storybook owls. What a dreamscape.

Beyond Quilting

handwoven in wool by Dovecot Studios based on an original painting by Kaffe Fassett (1992–1993)

Along with the many sparkling quilts, this exhibition includes two giant Kaffe ginger jar tapestries made by Dovecot Studios based on Kaffe’s original paintings; a laundry line of fabulous shirts worn by Kaffe and by Brandon Mably; dresses and coats made by Karen Miller Winton, Philip Jacobs and Dora Mollov; and a heart-stopping display of Kaffe Fassett Studios needlepoint cushions.

Even the floors and walls are covered in Kaffe patterns down to an exceptional digitally printed blow-up of one of Kaffe’s favorite rugs (see the gallery above).

Detail from Roseville Album quilt designed and made by Kim McLean, quilted by Kay Fernihough (2009)

In Kaffe’s world, squirrels can be purple, rhinoceroses can be hot pink, Italian paperweights can become leaves, and a cabbage rose can become a planet. Kaffe Fassett The Power of Pattern shows us that nothing is off limits, everything is possible, and it only takes us to make the first stitch, the first mark, or the first snip to spin our own vibrant world into motion.

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Jeni Hankins. External Link. Opens in new window. is an American performing artist, writer, and maker living in London and Lancashire. You can find Jeni performing with her hand-cranked sewing machine. External Link. Opens in new window. or traveling to some local museum to see what kind of knitting or patchwork waits in an old glass case.

Kaffe Fassett The Power of Pattern is at Dovecot Studios in Edinburgh through July 8, 2023.

About The Author

Jeni Hankins is an American performing artist, writer, and maker living in London and Lancashire. Since 2008, she’s toured extensively throughout the USA, Canada, and the UK. Find her recordings on Bandcamp and catch up with her musings on Substack.


  • Thank you, simply wo derful.

  • Thank you MDK and Jeni from the bottom of my heart. Opening my day to this article has so inspired me. To quote Jeni: Such an exhibition ‘shows us that nothing is off limits, everything is possible, and it only takes us to make the first stitch, the first mark, or the first snip to spin our own vibrant world into motion’.

    • Your comment has made my day, Marlene!! Huge smiles to you! Jeni xxx

  • An excellent visit to an amazing display.
    Thank you.

  • How exciting. Our schedule this summer won’t allow me to go! Our art teacher in 8th grade had us fold our paper into 12 or 16 segments and create a different pattern in each square. I lazily started out with dots and grids and such until I ran out of predictable designs and had to think up something MYSELF. Kaffe reminds me of that very clever exercise. LOVE the rhinoceros. And would love to see the clothing!

  • Fabulous!

    • Jeni performing with her hand cranked sewing machine was really fun to watch! You have a great voice Jeni ; D

  • And thank you of course Jeni and MDK for this beautiful article.

  • Thank you for sharing this extraordinary exhibit with us! Oh! The colors!!

  • what a wonderful way to start my day!! thank you. I have been a Kaffee follower since I first heard his name…. thank you so much for this amazing article. I wish I were in Edinburgh

  • Thank you!
    Overwhelmingly beautiful!

  • Thank you so much for sharing your visit. I have been following this exhibit virtually and truly regret not being able to experience the real world space.

    Color is especially important in the darkest times. I have recently been responsible for clearing my brother’s apartment. At first appearance, it was a grim and dusty space blanketed with 20 years of unopened mail. A with sorting and clearing, small treasures emerged. A collection of brightly colored Liberty ties. A surprisingly organized collection of whimsical socks. A cheerful little Kosta Boda bowl. A Charley Harper blackbird tile. A deep purple Rogaska vase was filled with sunflowers. The boldness of this arrangement was a focal point for starting each day. The connection with these colorful pieces kept me grounded and made it possible to continue. Each was a revelation and reminder of happier times.

    • Dear Manda’s Mom, Thank you very much for sharing this beautiful story of color and how it brought solace and memories during this hard time. I’m sorry to hear that you lost your brother. You are wonderful to share this story of the color treasures you found from his life. I’m sending you kindness and gentle thoughts. Jeni

    • Dear Manda’s Mom,
      So sorry to hear about the loss of your brother. Glad this post resonated with you. Super glad that you are finding reminders of happier memories of your brother. Losing loved ones is a hard part of life, wishing you peace and comfort.

  • Wow!

  • I met my daughter in London last November (birthday treat) to see this exhibition at the Fashion & Textile Museum. It was amazing!! Happy to revisit. Thanks Jeni!

    • I too was knocked out by this exhibition in London last October. Such amazing designs and fabulously talented execution of vision!

  • Wow! So amazing, thank you for sharing!

  • Love this. Thanks.

  • Kaffe brings back memories of Gloria Vanderbilt’s quilt room.

  • What a gift!!!

  • Thank you so much for this, Jeni and MDK. What a feast for early-morning eyes!

  • This just made my morning! Color, Color, Color!!!

  • MDK and Kaffe Fassett….what a way t start my day!

    Thank You!

  • Thank you, Jeni! Drinking in all that glorious color with my tea! Plus I enjoyed seeing you sew and sing, rethreading your machine with aplomb!

  • Me encantan todos los artículos que publican,he aprendido tanto con ellos ,y este en especial nos saca de nuestra zona de cóndor y motiva a experimentar con los colores y texturas ,saludos desde Costa Rica

  • Glorious! A word most often used by and about Kaffe. Says it all!!

  • Wow. I found this so inspirational, so joyful. Thanks

  • Breathtaking. Beautiful. Inspiring!

  • A wake up call for me. Stop always thinking in grays and neutrals and start thinking in color. I almost always think I need to make things that will go with everything. While that is practical and nice, I think it’s time to add a little color to my life Thank you.

  • Love the encouragement to be colorful.

  • Love this article. Color is joy!!!!

  • Thank you for the article. We love Kaffe’s creativity and how it has influenced so many creative outlets. I have several of his needlepoint books. I think that sometimes we forget how important color is to our lives. I just love that quilted squirrel.

  • Glorious Kaffe. What a beautiful treat to see a bit of this exhibit. Thank you, Jeni!

  • “Color is joy” — so true!

  • I am holding out hope that this exhibit will find its way across the pond.

  • My quilting, knitting, and needlepoint life would be poorer without Kaffe. I think he invented color.

  • Thank you for yet another take on this wonderful event.

  • SO cool! I wish it was still going to be there when I’m in Edinburgh in the fall!

  • simply mahvelous!!

  • thank you for the information

  • Thank you. Got to this a day late and thoroughly enjoyed.

  • Thanks for all the gorgeous photos.

  • IT is amazing how a well curated exhibit of truly remarkable and breathtaking quilts can change your life and perspective. I was privileged to see the Quilts of Gee’s Bend exhibit at that Boston Museum of Fine Arts back in… 2006(?) and it was truly life altering. I hope that this exhibit of Kaffe & Collective’s works will come to a location where I might get to see it and be in the presence of the stitches and results of decisions made by talents that may inspire and alter me in a similar manner!

  • This is incredible! I attended a fantastic virtual talk from him recently so it’s extra wonderful to see what the exhibit is like from you. Thank you so much for sharing with those of us that are unable to attend!

  • I have always been fascinated by Kaffe Fassett’s imagery through knitting. I inherited a copy of Glorious Inspiration from my Mom, who was a master knitter and taught me everything I know. My Mom made me one of his coats from the book and I treasure it. It’s like wearing a blanket of my Mom’s love. Kaffe Fassett will always continue to inspire my love of knitting.

  • Great article! Love everything that Kaffe does and so glad he urges people to embrace the joy of color. He’s been a favorite of mine since I discovered Glorious Knits, made a sweater for my son out of hand dyed yarn.

  • Thank you beautiful

  • Color is truly joy. Thank you for sharing you journey with us. This was both inspirational and motivating. Peace to you and your family from New York.

  • Kaffe and his work are lovely gifts to the world. Thank you, Jeni, for sharing it with us. I thoroughly enjoyed your article.

  • Inspirational, heart warming and very encouraging. I feel like im wrapped up the Pink Rhinoceros Quilt. Thanks for a great article.

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