Katharine Cobey 1938 – 2020

photo credit: Christine Maachi

Fiber artist, Maine Crafts Association lifetime member and 2009 recipient of the MCA Master Craft Artist Award, Katharine Cobey of Cushing, Maine passed away December 5, 2020.

Cards may be sent to the family in care of Bill Edgar, 5815 Melvern Drive, Bethesda, MD  20817

In Memory: Katharine Cobey

by Christine Maachi, Maine Fiberarts

Friend, mentor, artist and crafts devotee, Katharine Cobey of Cushing, Maine passed away December 5 with son William by her side.

Katharine has been a major figure in my life, and her presence, encouragement, wisdom, and knitting insights will be sorely missed. The first time I met Katharine, we were at the Union Fairgrounds. She was standing at a Great Wheel mesmerizing a crowd with her long draw spinning. Halfway across her booth, I stood riveted before an expanse of large, coffee-table-sized art books she had brought—in particular, COSTUME PATTERNS AND DESIGN (Max Tilke; Rizzoli Books). From 30 feet away, our eyes met, and she bellowed, “Forget patterns! Study shape.”

I did go on to study “shape” and with it, knitting, spinning and Katharine’s inventive mind for the next 25 years. I traveled to her studio at the edge of Muscongus Bay witnessing wild fibers, bold designs and knitted sculpture. She helped found Maine Fiberarts, with husband David, as inaugural Board directors. We created beautiful displays at Maine Arts Festival, gathering up skeins of handspun yarns installed in the tent’s ceiling, for donating, afterwards, to the knitters of Bosnia.

She installed her 30-foot handspun boat at Portland Museum of Art as part of our Maine Fabric and Fiber Arts Festival. She listed her studio on our Tour Maps, taught us brioche, and encouraged us to make work with meaning. We traveled to Penland and Haystack together; took a huge display of work—“Maine Values, Maine Wool”—to Maryland Sheep and Wool; and installed a complete fiber studio at Common Ground Fair. We had her work shown at The Farnsworth, Houston Center for Contemporary Craft, and Maine Fiberarts. We argued, laughed, discussed craft and creativity, and swam in the Bay together. She wrote the book DIAGONAL KNITTING and influenced artists worldwide.

Knitting for over 50 years, her fiber work embraced sculpture and clothing, meaning and techniques, students and teachers. Her work has been exhibited nationally in museums, galleries and shows and is included in the book KNITTING IN AMERICA. Due to an important gift, part of her amazing library on cultures, knitting, design, feminism, and clothing will be housed at Maine Fiberarts.