Beautiful browns – really?


If you peeked into the fabric stash of a typical modern quilter I strongly suspect the colour least represented would be brown. If there is a colour that tends to divide quilters into modern or traditional it is these earthy colours like browns, olives, tans and so on.   They are typically associated with more traditional quilts. They are certainly not colours that get me excited at all. I remember on my ‘Get to know your sewing machine’  course when I purchased my Pfaff 4.2 we were given a practice piece of fabric to sew on. I was disappointed to find I’d been given a particularly  drab piece of brown fabric. It was only a practice piece  what did it matter? But there’s something about sewing on what you think  is ugly. And there lies the rub, as I was looking at my unwanted  brown fabric the lady next to me leaned across and said would I mind swapping as she loved that colour. With great relief, obviously well disguised,  I handed it over!  It was a valuable lesson in what is someone’s idea of ugly is someone else’s idea of beautiful.

Having declared my lack of appreciation for all things brown I have played with brown in quilts. Last year there was a competition run by Adrienne of On the Windy Side  featuring quilts using the Pantone colour of the year which was marsala, a sort of warm reddish brown. It caused a bit of a flutter as a lot of modern quilters didn’t want to join in because of the colour, or lack of. But I liked the idea of the challenge and entered this one. I used the curved wonky cross from a stunning quilt by Heather Hasthorpe.  It has rather grown on me.


And then I’ve used  some browns in my glitter blocks just to introduce some deeper colours and a bit of depth. But they are either whimsical ( I love the bears!) or a rather nice rich brown.


But I needed more browns for a project and found myself in my local quilt shop on a brown fabric hunt.  The purpose? A Christmas themed cushion to feature a robin. I really wanted a brown batik, their multi toned nature make them perfect for animal/bird appliqué but no luck.  But I came away with the fabrics at the top. There’s an interesting print from Tim Holtz’s range Eclectic Elements, a brown grunge, a nameless batik and another nameless grey brown strip.  Not the most exciting of purchases but I guess it’s how you use them…. and this is what happened….  And suddenly the browns above seem right if not beautiful !



I used my favourite raw edge appliqué technique set out in Lara Buccella’s book Crafted Appliqué New Possibilities. I can’t recommend  this technique over using fusible enough. It’s so much neater and best of all you can reposition the pieces so you can easily move them around even after they’ve been stuck down. Put it on your Christmas present list!!

Having drawn and cut out plastic templates for the robin I couldn’t decide whether to go down the trad route or make a more modern version. As I’d prepped and chosen a range of fabrics from my scraps as well as the purchases above it was no trouble to do two. A quick poll poll amongst the family has them split but I love the more modern version but love the depth of the batik fabric – I think in these type of art quilts they do bring a realism rather than prints or solids. I did try a solid red for the red breast initially  but it was not as good as the print.

What next? Well they will get quilted (and get some legs!) so the appliqué pieces get stitched down and then at least one will become a cushion – this is my one monthly goal for Heidi at Red Letter Quilts. And also linking to Molli Sparkles 200th Sunday Stash here.

4 thoughts on “Beautiful browns – really?

  1. I really like your selection of brown fabrics! I rarely use brown in my bright quilts for children, but am drawn to it for more subtle pieces I use every day in my home. And of course it’s perfect for your robins on their branches!


  2. I go hot and cold on the neutrals. In my RTW wardrobe my suits are navy, dark brown and dark forest green, or grey. When I make jackets I go for yellow, bright purple, pink, more pink, red, and I really enjoy making clothes in colourful cloth. But I reach for the neutrals more often, if I tell the truth.


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