27 May 2013

Black - a little or a lot?

The use of black in the western world is most commonly associated with mourning, the end, secrets, magic, power, violence, evil and elegance.

The use of black in the quilt world takes on various roles
, depending on the desired outcome. Regardless of whether black is a colour or not; large amounts of black, especially when combined with white, results in a graphic, contemporary design. The use of black as a predominant colour in a traditional pattern, except Amish quilts, is remote. However, the use of black as a background is quite stunning. Its use as an accent in a traditional quilt design is always influential to the outcome.

Maybe you'll be inspired to add a little dash, or a lot, to your quiltmaking once you see how agreeable and supportive this colour can be.

Modern Dresden Plate
So let's start with a traditional design that uses black to create a modern quilt with intrigue and, in this case, a wow factor. It's no secret that I love Dresdens, and this little cutie captured my eye. Cathy from Cabbage Quilts posted the story of how she made this for a friend who loves pink at Lily's Quilts blog. Cathy says she chose, "... lots of yummy bright pinks" for the Dresden plate and attached it to a fabulous Jacobean style black-and-white background, "... and I added a punch-you-in-the-eye black-and-white centre!" she explains. Let's face it, pink and black go together VERY well.

Over at Cactus Needle blog I found this very unusual black Hawaiian quilt made by author and quilter Annette Mahon. What makes it unusual is that traditional Hawaiian quilts do not feature black due to superstitious reasons, and nor is it common to see a modern-made one in black. But wow, how good does this one look?

Black and white
Hawaiian Applique
Nedra from Cactus Needle took this photo, along with others, when Annette shared a show and tell about her Hawaiian quilts. In one of Annette's novels, Above the Rainbow, the quilt-shop owner makes a quilt called In the Black at the Pink Plumeria. Annette says, "After several quilt friends asked if I'd made the quilt described, I decided I should ... and this quilt was used as the basis for the cover design of St. Rose Goes Hawaiian." Pop over to Annette's website to see this pink and black quilt and others, find out about her book series, as well as a great list of links to find out more about Hawaiian quilts and quilting.

Black and White and Finished!

Kay Sorensen shares this contemporary quilt, and some detail photos,    over at her blog, Color + Quilts. I invited her to share her thoughts on her use of black in contemporary quiltmaking... "I often choose black when creating as it is the perfect color to set off almost any color. Used with white it creates the strongest graphic image." Kay designed this quilt by making some components and then playing with them on her design wall, adding and subtracting as necessary, "I let the quilt tell me what to do, how far to go and when to stop," she concludes.

Many Amish quilts use black backgrounds with muted colour geometric shapes. The interplay between the colours and the black, or dark, background of traditional Amish quilts remains an integral component of modern interpretations.

I found this Amish Steeplechase Quilt for sale over at Rocky Mountain Quilts. Made in circa 1940, it is the quintessential Amish quilt. Black is a dominant colour in the oldest Amish quilt styles, particularly in quilts made in Eastern Pennsylvania. Subtle and sophisticated, the deep black provides the perfect counterbalance for the subtle pop of the steeplechase design.

Pineapple Log Cabin
Log cabin quilts are one the most recognisable traditional patterns. Over at Generations Quilt Patterns you'll find design ideas and layouts, printable colouring pages and a free downloadable paper piecing pattern in two sizes. You will find this quilt with the Pineapple Log Cabin blocks set on point. The use black as the pieced backgrounds shows off the pattern and illustrates just how black can make other colours pop and zing.

24in x 24in
This is another example of the use of a Pineapple Log Cabin block. This time an amazing 23in x 23in miniature quilt that uses 6,300 pieces of fabrics, made by Geraldine Nall. Diana of Dutch Baby blog observes that this piece, "Using only the pineapple blocks pattern, was created with 140 tiny 1 1/2in - 2 1/2in squares. The result is a stunning, balanced interplay of black and white."

Geraldine, who has earned the title Queen of Miniatures, was the featured artist at the Loomis Quilt and Fiber Guild's quilt show, held early 2013. Click here for an article on Geraldine over at The Loomis News.

1847 Baltimore Bride's Quilt
Black backgrounds provide an amazing 'palette' for modern or primitive appliqué patterns. The blocks in this quilt are based upon an 1847 Baltimore Bride's Quilt made by Mary Ann West that has been adapted to suit wool appliqué by Jackie Bennett of Lakeview Primitives. The original cotton quilt had 25 blocks and was made in the turkey reds and greens of that period and now resides in the collection of Rita Wolochuk. Jackie selected 12 of the blocks and converted them to suit wool appliqué - of course, it would also work well in cottons, particularly as a raw-edge appliqué.

The, 1847 Baltimore Bride Quilt pattern is available from this blog click here to purchase. if you would like to purchase the pattern and wool fabrics as a BOM visit Lakeview Primitives for more information.

I think there is a whole other story in using black in a more subtle manner within quilt design, particularly in modern quilt design. I will explore that subject further and share it with you all at a latter date.

Meanwhile, I would love to see how you are incorporating black into your traditional and contemporary quilt designs. Visit Facebook.com/StitchOneQuiltToo and load images of your quilts, we would all love to see them!

x dls


  1. Nice job on your research on Black and White quilts. thanks for sharing with us!

  2. Ditto on Nedra's comment!!

  3. Thanks for the shout-out.

    Nice discussion on these quilts. Black is a powerful color. A little bit can anchor a quilt that might otherwise "float away".

    You might also be interested in Judy Coates Perez's unbelievable quilt here:


    This is, by far, the most popular photograph on my flickr account.