Over the course of his 50-year career, textile designer Fassett has published dozens of books on knitting, needlepoint, and patchwork. This fall sees the publication of two new books, Quilts in Italy (Taunton; pub month, Sept.; Reviews, Sept. 5) and Bold Blooms: Quilts and Other Works Celebrating Flowers (Abrams; pub month, Sept.; Reviews, Sept. 5).
Quilts in Italy is your latest book in a series on travel-inspired quilts and fabric design. Do you quilt first and find a country next?
I always do reconnaissance on a site. It’s very tricky: we have to pick a place where we can photograph in a three-day window. It has to be a place with lots of possibilities for shooting and with lots of moods: for the pastel gray, a soft place; for the strong color moods, more exuberance. Next, we’re going to southern Ireland, where there are lovely streets of brightly colored houses within walking distance of each other—that’s a must! We do think a little on the site as we make the quilts. The book after Ireland will be set in Philadelphia to showcase antique American quilts.
You have another book coming out this fall, Bold Blooms, wherein flowers inspire your designs. Have you always had gardens?
I’ve always loved gardens. My mother, who had a lot to manage with five children, her own kindergarten, always had a nice if not thrilling garden—I remember her magenta-flowered bougainvillea in Big Sur. I love English gardens; the garden is the secret to the soul of England. The people are geniuses for creating and nurturing gardens. How could anyone who has ever gone to the Chelsea Flower Show deny that color is magic? Bold Blooms is a book I’ve dreamed of producing a long time. It took nearly four years to orchestrate it.
What appeals to you about books as a pathway for showcasing your crafts?
I’m such a Luddite. I don’t drive or type or have a mobile, and I’ve always loved to curl up with a book. I read voraciously, often returning to my decorative arts bookshelves, over and over. One of my favorite quilt books is Laura Fisher’s Quilts of Illusion (1990). I have a hideous little book with horrible pictures on awful paper, but even there, I can find a quilt of half-diamonds or a checkerboard to play off of. I try to have a nice chat with my readers in my books, so they’ll find color to be delightfully digestible—in harmony.
You mention in Bold Blooms that you juggle several projects at once, shifting from patchwork to needlepoint and back. How do you benefit from such a shift?
I might be blocked after placing pieces on my flannel wall, so I’ll sit down to knit. When I glance up from my work, I’ll catch the quilt unawares and solve its problem. Just the therapeutic rhythm of stitching or knitting soothes me.