knit hats and had never done any knitting or crocheting," says Coviello. i4I met an expert knitter who taught me the basics but also encouraged me to do my own sweater collection. She became my mentor and introduced me to the beauty of the craft."
He loves the fact that knitting allows him to create a garment and its fabric simultaneously. "Given all of the yarns and stitches that exist, the ideas are limitless if you're a good knitter." Too busy these days to knit samples himself, Coviello develops
77^ ¿rkm his collections with a group of South American hand knitters whom he describes as some of the best in the world. "I'm a designer, but because 1 know how to knit and sew I understand the technical aspects of how things are made. I think that puts me way ahead of the game."
Known for his sophisticated color combinations and intricate stitches, the designer says that the quality and attention to detail found in vintage clothing inspire his romantic, slightly quirky styles. He also has a library stocked with a vast number of reference books, and his design featured here [left] began with an idea he first saw in a book on counterpanes. "I liked the idea of mixing classic cable stitches in a basic body, and also making it feminine," says Coviello. "The book featured a sampler with a beautiful ruffle that was knit in the opposite direction." Developing the swatch was difficult and required the help of his Peruvian samplemakers and a talented knitter friend. "The finished sweater, knit in a thick yarn on large needles, is a bit of a challenge. Rut the result is classic, unusual—and well worth the effort!"
Coviello divides his time between Manhattan and a historic house in upstate New York that he is slowly restoring. He loves to travel, and when he's away on business, he often schedules side trips to such places as Beijing, Buenos Aires, Bangkok and the famous ruins of Machu Picchu in Peru. "Relaxing on a beach is not for me," says the designer, who confesses that his creativity needs constant stimulation. "Pm always incredibly busy—and I wouldn't have it any other way." ^
Martin Storey left his role as head designer for Jaeger Handknits to lead the design of Rowan's RYC Classic Collection of hand knits, launched in February 2005. He currently produces four pattern brochures a season for the line. Today James Coviello sells to more than forty specialty boutiques and department stores throughout the world. In 2003, he began designing a collection of affordable hand knits and home furnishings for the Spiegel Catalog, which is sold exclusively through Spiegel's Big Book.
by Donna Gould
Kaffe Fassett is known for his signature knitwear designs: intricate intarsias and elaborate patterns rendered in layers of glorious color. But VK readers may not know that Kaffe s unique sense of color and design has inspired legions of devoted fans—and brought him recognition worldwide as an expert on color and craft. "I'm a painter, knitter, quilter, needle artist and designer," he says, "but my approach to every discipline is the same—manipulating pattern and seeing how color comes alive in different forms."
Until age 28, Kaffe devoted his life to painting. Born in San Francisco, he won a scholarship to the School of the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston at age 19—but left after three months to paint in London, where he took up residence in 1964.
I Ie had no experience with needlework but was often drawn to the richly patterned textiles he saw in museums and flea markets. "As a painter, I often tried to render them," he says, "but I had an urge to move from the canvas to something someone could wear." During a visit to a Scottish woolen mill, Kaffe succumbed to the
Knitters around the world covet their evocative and inventive designs. But while Kaffe Fassett, Brandon Mably and Vladimir Teriokhin share a passion for knitting, they have traveled vastly different roads to success. A peek into their intriguing pasts
reveals their surprising artistic roots. !
"exquisitely subtle colors" of the yarns, bought twenty shades and some knitting needles, and was taught to knit by a fellow passenger on the train ride home. "I got the gist of it, and from there 1 taught myself."
1 lis first design appeared in VK, in 1986, and he went on to produce commercial collections for designers Bill Gibb and Missoni. Celebrities such as Barbra Streisand, Shirley MacLaine and Lauren Bacall have collected his one-of-a-kind knits, and in 1988 he became the first living textile artist to have a one-man show at London's Victoria and Albert Museum.
Kaffe has traveled extensively and communicated his design philosophy through numerous workshops, television and radio lectures, books and videos. He has been interviewed countless times on the subjects of color and design and has inspired thousands of crafters to incorporate vibrant colors into their projects. "Color is my inspiration," Kaffe says. "When it comes to knitting, it's about using big, strong geometries and as rich and complex a color palette as possible."
He often designs "right in the middle," beginning with one idea but letting the piece develop as hes working. "When I knit, I work as a painter," he explains. "In my workshops, I tell people to pretend they're painters and to just let the dreamy part of themselves take over." He believes that knitting is not cerebral—it is intuitive. "Don't do it with your brain; just let your hands take over."
To make it simpler to layer in countless shades of color, Kaffe developed a technique for knitting-in the ends of yarn as he goes along. "This saves knitters hours of laborious darning in when they're done knitting," he says. "When introducing a new color, leave ends of about 3 inches [8cm] on the old and new yarns. Work the next two stitches with the new yarn, holding both ends in your left hand; lay them over the working yarn; and work the next stitch. Now insert the right-hand needle into the next stitch as usual, then bring the ends up over the point of the right-hand needle and work this stitch past the ends."
. • ri gether a mix of juicy watermelon pinks, rich browns, swimming-pool blues and lapis lazuli," he says, and then sat down and started knitting. "I just designed it as I knit. One of the things 1 love most about knitting is that you never know how something is going to turn out. It could be a disaster, but you'll always come away from each project having learned something new."
He encourages knitters to take advantage of all the wonderful yarns available today. He has a preference for the sophisticated palette of Rowan yarns, saying, "They know what I'm all about. They have gorgeous shades, and their natural-fiber yarns are wonderful." For years Kaffe's designs have appeared on the pages of the company's pattern books, which revolutionized the industry by introducing imaginative designs to knitters of all ages.
Kaffe's limitless drive to create has led him to r.
Calling himself "an old hippie," Kaffe says he prefers clothes that are romantic and intriguing. For this issue, Kaffe shied away from doing a classic crew- or V-neck sweater. Instead, he created a lush jacket with a generous shape, inspired by one that was given to him by his sister Holly, whom Kaffe describes as "a sensational knitter who bakes wonderful pies and runs our family business."
Describing the design for the jacket as a combination of abstract shapes and colors, Kaffe began hy choosing hues that struck his fancy. "I pulled to-
branch out into other mediums, including tapestry, fabric weaving, quilting and mosaics, and he has published a highly popular scries of how-to books on each. Over the years, he has never stopped painting, and says that his style has evolved as a result of his work in other media: "There's a glow and intensity to my work that I've learned from textiles." But he says that knitting offers him the greatest creative freedom. "When I sit down to paint, I have something in front of me to get me going. It's more limiting," he explains. "But when I'm knitting, I feel fearless and free. Knitting is living row by row."
Kaffe Fassett in a colorblock jacket he designed, featured in the Special 2002 issue.
A CHEF'S PASSION
Brandon Mably is crazy about color and design. He remembers being mesmerized by the yarns displayed in—of all places—the local candy shop while growing up in a small seaside town in south Wales. "Next to the glass jars tilled with candies were shelves and cabinets bulging with vivid knitting yarns, all arranged by color," Brandon recalls. "That's what always caught my attention."
While pursuing a career in the food industry in London in the early 1980s, Brandon had a chance meeting with Kaffe Fassett and made a radical shift, turning in his pots and pans for knitting needles. "I walked into Kaffe's studio—which was overflowing with baskets of yarn, Turkish carpets, Chinese ceramics and needlework cushions—and knew in an instant that I wanted to be part of that world."
Brandon became Kaffe's studio manager and Kaffe became Brandon's mentor, encouraging him to create his own designs. Eventually, Brandon started teaching the Kaffe Fassett knitting workshops, which led to the discovery that he enjoyed helping people connect with their innate sense of color and design.
Ironically, Brandon says that he doesn't consider himself a teacher. "My job is to encourage knitters to let go of their fears. I want them to learn to play, to be children again, to make mistakes." One of the first things he urges knitters to do is to experiment with combinations of dark and light hues and observe what they can do to one another. "Light shades can just kiss dark ones, and that's often what gives a garment dimension."
Anyone who attends a Kaffe Fassett workshop must know how to knit, since Brandon rarely focuses on technique. "Sooner or later, beginning knitters will get tired of making a mess and will learn to clean up their technique. I want to focus on helping knitters open up the gates, not bog them down with worry."
Conducting the workshops requires constant travel, and Brandon says it is a continuous source of his inspiration. "I'm exposed to new and exciting happenings all the time, and I soak it up like a sponge." He thrives on visual stimulation and asks his students to kx)k at the patterns in things around them for inspiration: "A border on a carpet or a design on a porcelain vase can trigger an idea." The sport of rugby inspired his design for this issue. "1 knit it in a lightweight yam, and instead of using black or gray—those safe colors men usually go for—1 gave it lots of color."
Admitting that his approach to technique is "quite basic," Brandon describes his style as simple, strong and clean. "I have a very practical mind, and I try to strip out complexity so that things are not too fussy. It's a look that's pure and contemporary but also nostalgic." As an example, he cites a sweater he designed for the Winter 2000/01 issue of VK. "I called it 'Nantucket,1 my inspiration. I started with color— seaside colors, weathered cottages, white laundry hanging on a line." He distilled the images into an abstract design featuring a series of vertical lines and chevron shapes that represent seagulls. "It was like a domino effect, with one thing leading to another. Any devoted knitter can do it, just by letting his imagination run wild."
In the process of learning to knit, Brandon found that cables, fancy stitches and intricate shapes distracted from the impact he wanted to make. "I don't really know how to knit cables," he confesses. "I prefer to stick to a simple stocking stitch and basic shapes that can be sized easily, and that's what we do in the workshops."
When knitting designs that use many colors, he offers knitters the following tip for speed—and for preserving their sanity: 'The different-colored yarns invariably get tangled at the back of the work, so I rarely have balls or bobbins attached," he says. "Instead, I break off short lengths of 2 to 3 feet [60 to 100cmJ, depending on the area to be covered. As they get tangled, it's easy just to pull through the color you want." When more color is needed, "You simply tie on another length, knitting-in the ends as you work," he adds.
Brandon is fascinated by the varied backgrounds of the people who attend the workshops. "Last fall, Kaffe and 1 did a book tour and I taught workshops in twenty-one cities around the world. It was challenging to work with people from so many different places and cultures. One thing I've discovered is that people don't knit out of necessity but rather as a form of meditation. Professional people knit to give time back to themselves."
While he enjoys knitting gifts tor others, his busy schedule prevents him from knitting for himself. "My work is my life, and I love it," he adds. "Since September 11, I've been thinking a lot about how fragile life is. And if you have a God-given talent, you shouldn't waste it. You should express it."
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