I took a workshop with Kaffe Fassett and Brandon Mably last week! The project was the Mediterranean Hexagons quilt from the book Kaffe Fassett's Quilts in Morocco, available on Amazon here (affiliate link).
I'm going to start with a quick synopsis so those of you who are crunched for time can just skim through the pictures and be done with it:
|Brandon Mably and Rebecca the Rebellious Workshop Student|
Seriously -- no fault of Kaffe and Brandon whatsoever; they were delightful. I was miserable. I couldn't follow directions. I wasted a lot of money and -- worse! -- I wasted a lot of FABRIC. But Brandon was nice to me, and I learned to read the workshop description first before stampeding to the front of the line to sign up for a class next time. By the way, just because I didn't enjoy the class doesn't mean I wouldn't recommend it to others. If you have a small hoard of fabulous Kaffe Fassett prints in your stash that you just don't know how to use in a quilt, or if you tend to stay in your comfort zone when it comes to color and you want to learn how Kaffe puts his fabulous combinations together, you would LOVE this workshop. Kaffe and Brandon are delightfully entertaining and I swear I was the only person in the room who was feeling stifled.
Everyone loved this workshop except me.
I shouldn't have signed up for this class in the first place, since it was all about learning how to imitate Kaffe Fassett's color and design style. I love his fabric designs, but I'm not really interested in making quilts that look like they were designed by someone else. Also, having worked as an interior designer for 20+ years, I'm used to having to work within a client's parameters as far as how much color and pattern they can live with and which colors they prefer or dislike, but I am NOT used to having anyone walk up while I'm creating a color palette and snatch fabrics right out of my hands or off my design wall... Honestly, what first attracted me to quilting is that I can put whatever crazy prints and colors together that my little heart desires, without needing anyone else's approval before the project can move forward. Quilting for me is about total design freedom -- and yet here I was, in a very restrictive class where I had to design a quilt using the same two shapes as everyone else. Students were instructed to fussy-cut large scale prints from the same color family for their hexagons, and then Kaffe and Brandon helped each student select a wildly different color for their triangle star points that would make their hexagons "glow." The workshop is ideally suited to anyone who admires the glorious mixes of colors and prints in Kaffe's work, but who doesn't feel confident putting those combinations together on their own. Although we all brought lots of fabrics to class, the quilt shop sponsoring the event had also stocked the classroom with bolts of fabric from their store that students could shop from to supplement what they'd brought with them, and those were the fabrics available for Kaffe and Brandon to suggest to students whose fabrics from home weren't wowing them once they were cut up and positioned on the design wall.
|Original Mediterranean Hexagons Quilt from the book, made by Judy Baldwin|
Okay, so Kaffe didn't REALLY tell the whole class that he hated my project, but he was definitely frustrated with me for Willfully Failing to Follow Directions. He said my hexagon fabrics were not all the same color family as instructed; rather they were all the same MOOD. And I knew that; every fiber of my being was resisting the conformity of using the same fabrics/colors/design concept as everyone else in the class. When I rooted through my stash to decide which fabrics to bring, I was mostly drawn to some Anna Maria Horner prints that meshed with the Melancholy Autumn vibe I was feeling that day. And whereas most of the students in the Kaffe Fassett workshop were using Kaffe Fassett Collectives fabrics, I deliberately chose different fabrics so my project wouldn't look like everyone else's. However, the fabrics I'd selected for my star points were all VETOED by Kaffe. And then I ran into the dilemma of being halfway through an all-day workshop, with no fabrics that I liked for the star points among what I'd brought from home, yet none of the fabrics lined up in bolts in the classroom was doing it for me, either.
|Kaffe Fassett Explaining to the Class Why He Hates My Project|
There was nothing in that conference room that looked amazing with my "moody" hexagons -- all of the fabrics that were brought in for the class were too bright and cheerful. So I ended up settling for these ugly dark teal batiks that you see in the photo above... And since they are about the same value as my hexagons, those fabrics (which I had to purchase in class in order to avoid sitting there doing nothing all afternoon) just make the whole think look like a muddy mess. Blech! I agree, Kaffe; my project is hideous -- and the whole exercise of cutting up my favorite fabrics just so I can put them up and the wall and THEN decide if I like how it looks? That feels like the DARK AGES to me!!! Never again!! You guys, I butchered so many fabrics in this workshop that are not even going into a quilt now. What a horrendous waste, especially since some of them are treasured discontinued skus! I wish I'd had a computer in the class loaded with EQ8 quilt design software (affiliate link) so I could audition fabrics like a sensible 21st century quilter, and only start cutting into fabric (or purchasing additional fabric!) once I was 100% certain I was going to love how everything looked together.
|Students Working With Kaffe Fabric Prints Had the Most Options for Coordinating Fabrics|
The Digital Workshop Do-Over in EQ8
So today, with a little help from fabulous Matt at EQ Tech Support (he walked me through setting up the quilt layout for the hexagons with star points, which only took about 5 minutes), I decided to give myself a Digital Do-Over for the workshop. This is what I came up with:
This first version is what I was originally aiming for in class. Kaffe wanted everyone to pick out fabrics for their star points that would "make their hexagons glow," but I wanted to explore what it would look like for my stars to glow and my hexagons to recede instead. And of course, unlike designing a quilt by chopping up actual fabric to audition it on a wall, once I've set up the quilt layout in EQ8 software I can recolor it over and over again as many times as I want, without wasting any fabric in the process. It's a LOT easier to change your mind about a fabric that isn't working with the others when you haven't already chopped your yardage up into Swiss cheese.
|This is the Vibe I Was Going For in Class|
So here's my second version, which did use mostly Kaffe Fassett Collective prints:
|See, I CAN Follow Directions. I Just Choose Not To!|
By the way, these computer renderings are totally to scale, and the fabrics are all to scale as well. I can rotate them and slide them around to simulate "fussy cutting" a particular flower so it's right in the center of my hexagon, as well.
See? I was able to design two quilts that look like they came right out of a Kaffe Fassett book. But I still like my version with the gold stars better, even if no one else does!
|Version Three, Also Following Directions|
If I was actually going to make any of these quilts, I'd have to jazz up some of those hexagons, maybe with some appliqué in some of them or some pieced hexagons made from stripes. I can actually plop any pieced block design inside my hexagon with EQ8, so I could put stars within stars... The possibilities are limitless.
|Still My Favorite|
Anyway, I'm done with classes and workshops for awhile. I've got too much of a backlog of unfinished projects, too many ideas swirling around in my own mind, and too many techniques that need to be practiced until they are developed and solidified into skills.
I'll probably write up an EQ8 tutorial within the next two days, showing how to draw this quilt layout in the software, just for my own future reference so I don't forget, but I've got some other work to get caught up with first.
Meanwhile, I'm linking up with:
I agree with you. I prefer the stars popping. I seldom get any progress at workshops. Trying to figure out what they are teaching and translating that in to my fabrics. I drove an hour each way to take a 2 day machine quilting workshop with Sue Patten three weeks ago and did not get much done on my practice squares. I brought the wrong extension table for my Brother machine and could not manipulate the rulers to quilt straight lines. I love the theory they teach but there is way too much distraction for me to focus and actually get anything done. And, I only bought 2 rulers. And some fabric. And a template. Then I gave away my entire Kaffe collection at the Slow Sunday Stitching retreat.
Right there with you...Took the class several years ago and the project is still wrapped up in its portable design wall. No need to go into details...it just didnt gel as a productive class for me...sigh...
I like your version with the gold stars, lovely! Sorry for the wasted treasured fabrics. Maybe someday you'll come up with a project to salvage them.
sounds like a totally wasted day!! I seem to be one of those rare people who do not own a Kaffe book, I do not have any of his fabric and have never cared for his books or his fabric. I don't know why but every time I have picked up one of his books in a shop to look at I will leaf through it and put it back - nothing jumps out at me that I care for.
I unlike you can not design with the computer I am not savvy enough for that - I am not a computer person for design I can't figure out how it works - but I can get my scraps out and lay them out and see how I like them
Thanks for your truthful take on this workshop - it was great to hear I think!!
I took a similar class from Kaffe a few years ago, kind of using the same principles. Big squares offset with tiny triangles that were supposed to receed. I learned a lot, but I also wasn't great at following directions. Primarily they wanted the fabric to be fussy cut to feature the flowers (ok, that's valid), but I could only get 4-6 squares out of half yard. Usually by cutting in the middle of the fabric. I would have had to buy triple the amount of fabric to get a decent sized quilt. That wasn't going to fly with me, so I cut everything square with the edge. It mostly worked.
This class was an opportunity to work with a "big name" quilter, learn his techniques, and get tips on using large prints. If I'm learning a technique, then I'll buy some fabric, but I'm not going to spend oodles of money. I learned that after my first big quilt show where I took 6-8 classes. You can invest a lot of money in supplies and come home with 6-8 unfinished projects, some of which you may or may not even like.
That being said, it was a fun class, and I did like the quilt when I got it done. It is one of the class projects that got finished. It lives in the guest room right now.
Sorry for the bad experience. I am not a fan of Kaffe Quilts, but I do like his color sense for knitting. May you someday salvage your treasured fabrics!
You are not the only one frustrated with his classes...Evidently arthritic folks had to sit on the floor without a wall design wall and cut fabric on a low table...That being said, the duo were so much fun in the lecture the night before...I am part of the ancient group who still cut up fabric to audition it...Not sure I have the computer skill set of auditioning it online.
Good for you.
Thanks for your frank discussion of your experience. I love his fabrics and have made a quilt for my own bed, but I’m not going out to buy more each year. To me the important part of quilting comes out of your own head and heart. I think copying someone else’s pattern is not creative to me. It seems that you feel the same way. I took one class on Mariners compass in the 1980s, but none since then. Your gold triangles are the best, such a nice contrast. The more you learn about color and values the more creative you can be.
I'm sorry you had such a frustrating and totally unproductive day, but I enjoyed reading your honest thoughts about this workshop. I like that you are able to totally design your quilt in EQ8 - I'm not nearly that savvy with the program yet. I haven't figured out how to import fabrics to scale, mostly because I haven't practiced it yet. :) Your desire to make the stars glow instead of the hexies is another example of the way you think outside the box and I love that!
I'm glad you didn't go the teachers' way. Everyone learns more in a class when a student stretches the boundaries.
Why should a quilt be all Kaffe if it might look gorgeous in Horner??
I'm happy you changed things up on EQ when you got home.
Thanks, Anette. Kaffe had nothing against me working with someone else’s fabrics, but he wanted me to stick to variations within a single color family, like purples/plums, and I kept wanting to mix in other colors. And then the shop had not brought over enough fabrics that would work well with my weird hexagons, since the workshop was held in a hotel rather than at the smaller classroom back at the store. No harm, no foul! :-)
Love your honest thoughts on the workshop, I LOVE Kaffe fabric but in small amounts and mixed with many other fabrics, I mostly use hand dyed solid looking fabric, to bring out the beautiful Kaffe sparkle.
I listened to him speak at Houston and knew he wouldn't be a good match for my style. I went to an exhibit in Philly of his quilts and after a few minutes couldn't look at them, so busy.
Yes, you're right, when choosing to learn from someone you have to know something of their goals for class... I only take art quilter's technical skills kind of classes... or really none any more.
Doing what others are doing is not enhancing my process, and having someone pull my fabrics off the wall??? no thanks
as a teacher myself, I might ask if the person was happy, then lead them to find a solution with suggestions, but would never touch their work unless asked. respect.
Now, your yellow/gold solution is brilliant! It glows and I love it really. The lesson is to fussy cut hexies, and use lots of fabrics in a contrasting supportive color around them... that and no more classes with Kaffe.
I had a similar situation with a couple of big name teachers, leading me to be very selective.
I couldn't agree more, Nicky. I wasn't very interested in KF fabrics until I started cutting them up small and mixing them in with "tamer" fabrics to add a little zing, like in my pineapple log cabin quilt (that I would REALLY LOVE to get quilted this year!). You can see that one here; I snuck in a few KF prints in each block and then went with a large scale KF floral print for the borders: http://cheekycognoscenti.blogspot.com/2019/03/miscellaneous-musings-on-borders.html
I love KF fabrics, well most of them because they are rich and vibrant. But this workshop seems to be an excuse for pushing their fabrics and their design and their style down everyone's throat. No thank you!!! If I am interested I will buy a book.
You go girl and don't let anyone tell you how to do your business.
Thanks, Preeti! Although, in all fairness, they told us exactly what to expect in the class description... I signed up for the class FIRST, and THEN I read the class description the night before when I was packing up class supplies. Kaffe and Brandon personally selected three conference tables' worth of fabric bolts from the LQS to bring to the hotel for the workshop, and they picked lots of other fabrics besides their own. They weren't so much pushing their own fabric line, but almost every student in the class brought KF fabrics as their main prints that they wanted to work with, and I'm sure that's typical every time they do this class in a new city. So even if the coordinates Kaffe and Brandon brought were not from their own line, I think they were selecting them with their own bright and vivid prints in mind.
Also, in all fairness, what they were teaching about color probably would be a lot more exciting to a student who doesn't have a background in the design industry. Like I said, the other students were having a fantastic time in this workshop and left feeling excited about what they had cut out, ready to sew together.
Brutal honesty. How refreshing.
Oh dear -- I didn't mean to be BRUTAL! But I always aim for honest.
First off, I love your version with the cheddar stars, and think you should make it up. Second, I've been in a couple classes like that, when it all sounds well and good, but then goes south because the chosen fabric isn't playing nice. Or my way of creating is not the same as the instructor, causing lots of frustration. So, I feel the pain you went through, and hope that in time, a creative class comes along that meshes better with your style of quilting. At least look at this as a learning experience, though in an odd way!
Love this post - I love honesty, and your version with the yellow is my favorite of all the versions. I don't know how to use Electric Quilt, and at my age, I probably will not learn it, only because I have so many quilts on my list of "want to make this one" without going into designing with actual fabrics on the computer. Way cool though....and in defense of the class, you said it was well defined in the description, and fit most people's desires for the class.
Thanks for linking with Design Wall Mondays, I always enjoy reading your posts, Judy
In the photo of several quilts hanging up, there's one that's rather jarring to my eye and it's NOT yours! Looking at yours, maybe the striped octagons, especially the 3 in the center, need to be moved to triangle positions? Maybe someday, after you've let the disappointment dissolve...
Thanks for a reminder of the importance of really reading the class descriptions and considering what it is we really want from a class and teacher.
No way am I putting those striped hexagons in my quilt like that -- that was me cooperating with Kaffe's suggestion. There were some striped hexagons used in the original quilt in his book, but the woman who made that quilt for him cut her stripes into 6 triangles that were sewn together to form hexagons with the striped matched at seamlines, running parallel to the outer edges of the hexagons -- which I did think looks pretty cool. Scroll back to the top of my post, and look at the the quilt that was made in blues and purples with a striped outer border. See how she pieced her hexagons so the striped fabrics created a cool bullseye effect? Those 5 hexagons were pieced using the same fabric as her striped outer border. But Kaffe insisted that I should just cut plain hexagons out of my striped fabric, so I cut them out and put them on the wall to humor him and avoid "rocking the boat."
Oh I hear you, Rebecca! Went to a Kaffe/Brandon workshop years ago and had a similar experience. Cost a small fortune buying all those fabrics only to find they didn't get the tick of approval - though in my case, I loved my choices. (My fabrics were mostly Martha Negley, padded out with some Kaffe and Brandon designs.) For the majority of the workshop Kaffe sat in a corner knitting, occasionally strolling through offering advice or suggestions (or criticism) as he went. I loathed his suggestion for my quilt and promptly removed the fabric once his back was turned. At the end of the day we all walked through the workstations examining each participant's quilt and listening to his comments on why it was or was not a successful quilt. Most of the quilts were pretty much clones of each other and of the book quilt. Mine was different and received glowing praise (despite my disobeying his direction and having fabrics that were disapproved of). I ended up with a quilt I love but it was not the exciting experience I had anticipated. There had been the opportunity to sign up for another workshop on a different quilt the following day and boy was I glad that I had not put my name down for that second workshop.
This comment is belated, yet it is empathy filled. Time is precious and when expectations are high and not meet, there is frustration. Regarding group workshops and classes, I am a slow learner and most are not worth my while. Kaffe and Brandon were in my area a few years ago. His workshops filled up early and I had to be satisfied with his lecture which was interesting and beneficial. However, I picked up that his classes, personally, would have been expensive, time consuming and unsuccessful. The one thing that bothered me then and now is that during the talk, Kaffe spoke negatively of a popular quilt designer from the 1980s. It was unprofessional and an unkind comment that was unnecessary other than to elevate his line of fabric. With that being said, I appreciate the depth of color and vibrancy of his fabric line. It is my hope that you will grow from this frustrating experience. Thanks for sharing!
I'm late to the party, too. But I really like your moody version! That was a frustrating, expensive experience. We live and learn all our days. Your take-away is great--redo a few computer versions and call it a day.
Although I enjoyed his lecture, my experience in class mirrored yours. Lots of money, wasted fabric, and all of it is still sitting in a closet.
I like KF fabrics, but not his quilts. I have several of his books, but nothing appeals to me... So I totally understand your frustration. And I like your golden version more!
Hi Rebecca - it's really too bad that you didn't enjoy the class. I tend to not read the class descriptions well either...and I'm an instructor (lol). Your quilt is much more interesting - the others all look the same, and what's the point of that? I can see how frustrating it would be when you're so used to using your EQ to figure out your fabric selection. I just use my gut and most of the time it's on the ball - but then I don't cut out tons of pieces for most of my quilts! Take care.
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