Quilting with brown fabrics: It’s All About Brown

Contributor: Tricia Patterson
Managing Editor Quiltmaker, McCall’s Quilting and Quick Quilts

its all about brown riley blake confetti brownie 300x225 Quilting with brown fabrics: It’s All About Brown

Confetti Cottons, Brownie from Riley Blake Designs

What do you think about brown?
Is brown too boring for you?
Why not brown?
How do you feel about background brown?


its all about brown anissa granny squares 225x300 Quilting with brown fabrics: It’s All About Brown

Show and Tell Granny Squares. Maker: Anissa Arnold

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.

its all about brown anissa 9 patch challenge 276x300 Quilting with brown fabrics: It’s All About Brown

The Coffee Quilt. Nine Patch Challenge. Maker: Anissa Arnold

its all about brown anissa capital quilt show 269x300 Quilting with brown fabrics: It’s All About Brown

Colorado Capital Quilt Show Entry. Maker: Anissa Arnold

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?

its all about brown stack of brown 300x239 Quilting with brown fabrics: It’s All About Brown

Why use brown?

Why use brown? Here’s what I thought were the reasons for not using brown, even for a background.

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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!

its all about brown riley blake confetti brownie 150x150 Quilting with brown fabrics: It’s All About Brown

its all about brown brown quilt color 150x150 Quilting with brown fabrics: It’s All About Brown its all about brown brown quilt center 150x150 Quilting with brown fabrics: It’s All About Brown

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.

its all about brown autumn almanac 199x300 Quilting with brown fabrics: It’s All About Brown

Autumn Almanac. Designer: Scott Murkin.Quilts From Quiltmaker’s 100 Blocks Spring’ 13.

its all about brown dawn and dusk 201x300 Quilting with brown fabrics: It’s All About Brown

Dawn and Dusk. Designer: Judy Laquldara. From
Quiltmaker Jan/Feb ’13.

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.
Email: editor@quiltmaker.com

Wishing You Joyful Quilting!
tricia patterson signoff Quilting with brown fabrics: It’s All About Brown

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8 Responses to Quilting with brown fabrics: It’s All About Brown

  1. Pingback: It’s All About Brown: Part 2 | Quilty Pleasures Blog

  2. Kathleen Kingsbury says:

    I used brown as the background for my very first sampler quilt that I learned to piece blocks on. I think it turned out great for a first, and I even received a compliment from someone for my use of brown. Didn’t even know it was unusual to do.

  3. LisaS says:

    I love using all shades of brown. I haven’t used it as a quilt background yet, but I might have to now.

  4. Pat says:

    Brown is one of my favorite quilt colors. I’ve made a lot of quilts using brown. I sent an email with photos. (Forgive if I sent too many.)

  5. Sheena B says:

    In 2009 I completed a quilt for my brother and his spouse using shades of brown. You can see it here! http://kanatanewfpapercrafts.blogspot.ca/2009/11/quiltzilla.html

    I also recall making a dinosaur bedding ensemble for a friend’s son – and it had a lot of brown in the fabrics?

  6. Ruth Gawlikoski says:

    I made Lori Baker’s Ooh Rah quilt in shades of brown and beige with reddish orange cornerstones for my son and it was gorgeous. I think if you have a somewhat open mind no color is off limits. I am not really a blue fan but some of my quilts were blue and wonderful also.

  7. Pat in WNY says:

    I love using browns in quilts! Here’s a link to one I completed several years ago. Looking forward to seeing how you develop your own brown quilt.

  8. Sherry VF says:

    Like most of your coworkers, I generally avoid brown in my quilts. However, a member of my Modern Quilt Guild recently moved to AZ; so, we decided to make her a sewing machine cover. She works a lot in browns (from an old stash). I found a brown print in my stash that had bright aqua and avocado-ish green as well. I gave members of the guild a 6″ square of the brown print and asked that they make any block of their choice that was 5 1/2″. They could use as much or as little of the brown as they like and could add other fabrics. The final machine cover was adorable. Considering that most modern quilters avoid brown like the plague, it had a very modern vibe to it.
    I wasn’t able to copy the images into this comment box but I did provide the links for the front and back of the machine cover.


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