Contributor: Tricia Patterson
Managing Editor Quiltmaker, McCall’s Quilting and Quick Quilts
What do you think about brown?
Is brown too boring for you?
Why not brown?
How do you feel about background brown?
Perhaps you don’t know what to do with brown, or perhaps you find the color brown a big turn-off. I know we don’t receive many quilts at Quiltmaker with brown fabric in them, even for a background color. There are lots of quilts with white, cream, blue and black, and in the last year we’ve seen quite a few with gray and navy blue—but, not brown. In fact, many of the quilters at our office don’t even feel they could like brown in a quilt at all.
I had not really considered the use of brown until we interviewed Anissa Arnold for an Associate Editor position at Quiltmaker. We always ask candidates to bring in a sampling of quilts they’ve made. (We want to make sure everyone on staff who writes our patterns is a real quilter.) Anissa brought in a heavy load of her quilts. All of the finished ones she showed us, and a start of village themed quilt in the making, included the color brown. And, they were wonderful and rich in color. I admired the way the colors of the other fabrics in the quilts seem to pop right out from the brown backgrounds, and yet at the same time, they seemed to blend in more with the background. (Checking with Anissa later, I learned this is one of the very reasons she choses to work with brown for her backgrounds. She also feels the richness and earthiness of the brown fabric tones down the brighter colors to provide a nice contrast, and at the same time, promotes other colors in the quilt to stand on their own.) I was so in awe of Anissa’s quilts that I started thinking about all the possibilities for making my own brown quilt—a classic example of how we quilters inspire one another.
With my challenge to make a quilt with brown came the idea to start a series about the use of brown. I think the idea took hold because so many quilters don’t like to use brown in their quilts. I thought it would be fun to share my journey with brown. So, let’s get started.
Why use Brown?
Why use brown? Here’s what I thought were the reasons for not using brown, even for a background.
- Brown doesn’t provide drama like black does. The colors of other fabrics, light, dark, bright or soft, dance on top of a black background.
- Brown doesn’t soothe the soul like blue does. So many quilters love blue. We took a survey in our office recently and almost everyone preferred blue over any other color in their quilts. It’s common knowledge that blue and green provide a sense of calm.
- Brown just doesn’t seem to add color to a quilt like other colors do. Most often, we don’t feel that brown is a good companion with any of the colors we might choose for a quilt.
I’ve challenged myself to prove all of these reasons for not choosing brown. Anissa talked about how she began seeing bright colors pop into her fabric stash several years ago and has started using these with her brown quilts. I have found an interest in the bright geometrics and prints on the market today. I latched onto her idea of pairing them with brown. I realize I’m probably a copycat, but I was told a long time ago that imitation is the sincerest form of flattery (to quote Charles Caleb Colton, year unknown). And, isn’t quilting also all about sharing and trying?? I’ve come up with an idea for a quilt that I will share with you as I discover brown for quilting.
What is the right brown?
I began planning for my quilt by asking this question. There are so many of shades of brown, with patterned designs and just plain brown. Because I want to use some bright colors I finally found the right deep brown solid fabric I was looking for with Riley Blake Designs’ Confetti Cotton Brownie. This brown should provide the striking effect I’m looking for in contrast to the bright fabrics. I’ve started my pattern design and pulled out all the fabrics I’d like to try in this quilt. I’m ready to begin!
Here are a couple more brown quilt ideas I found in our archives. Check them out to see if they inspire you to get a brown quilt started.
I’d also like to learn more about how you all are using brown. Leave a comment and/or send me a photo with your brown story. I’d love to share them with our readers.
Wishing You Joyful Quilting!