Rethinking Brown

My slight disdain for the colour brown began when I was a kid in art class…when mixing paints it was all to easy to mix too many colours and end up with a dirty brown colour….  and it happened to me all to frequently.

You do not have the same problem when making quilts, but I was still resistant to using brown at all.  In traditional quilting brown has long been considered a neutral colour, but Modern Quilters on the whole tend to be wary of it.

Strangely though I have quite a bit of brown in my stash…not as much as I have pink or navy blue, but more than I should have.  I have also had a few brown scraps given to me over the years and at the end of last year my brown scraps hit critical mass… there was only one thing to do…

Brown Improv quilt

Yep I made a scrappy improv quilt using my brown scraps and a touch of orange… and it was an interesting experience.

Heather Ross fabric

I forgot how many fabulous fabrics Heather Ross has done in brown… I used her seahorses, butterflies, octopus and plants in this quilt.

quilt detail

On of my other favorite designers, Lizzy House, also has done some lovely browns… with mice and cats and of course my all time fav – Pearl Bracelets.

quilt detail 2

And in between all that novelty goodness is a eclectic collection of prints including a handful of batiks.

modern brown improv quilt

It was kind of fun to challenge myself to work mainly in brown… it made me rethink the colour.    The result was I came up with a few more brown colour combinations I want to play with including…

brown and teal

A red based brown with teal….

brown yellow pink

Brown, yellow and pink…

brown and blue

And the classic brown and baby blue (not dissimilar to one of this years Pantone colours).

So you have been warned that there may be more brown appearing in this feed.  So is there a colour you have in your stash that you avoid?

Quilt Details:

Quilt block:  Modern Improv
Fabric:  Various scraps
Quilt Size:  48 x 48 inches

36 thoughts on “Rethinking Brown

  1. Your quilt is beautiful! I love how it turned out! I, too, avoided brown for years, but just last year began “embracing” it, as they say, and have learned to really like it. The only color I still have trouble with is purple. I like some shades– like lavender, but of purple I’m not a fan. 🙂

  2. This is terrific and a great use of brown. The orange sparks it just right. EVERY color is important and shouldn’t be ignored or avoided, though I’ll admit my own issues with grey. I’m inspired to use my scrap drawer more effectively now. Thanks for sharing.

  3. Your quilt looks lovely. The orange adds a nice pop. I just finished a brown & blue quilt for my nephew and I loved the way it turned out.

  4. I’m also not a brown fan, but those oranges really make your quilt ‘pop’ – and I must say, seeing those blues, yellows and pinks together is making me rethink again about it’s use. Maybe I’ve seen too many ‘civil war’ quilts which seem to mainly use cream and browns together. Anyway, love your quilt 🙂

  5. I was just talking about this recently! Brown, I was told was not modern and I needed to stay away. However, I disagree! Colors should be embraced and used. Each one can envoke a different mood. I am also breaking this rule and making some HSTs with brown! I tend to not use orange because I do not know how to use it well. I broke out of that this week and it is growing on me! I absolutely love your quilt! Beautiful fabrics!!

  6. I love your quilt, that colour combo is a favourite of mine. The colour I’m not keen on is pink. I have quite a lot of it, as it is my Mums favourite, so every time I make her something, I end up with more pink scraps!
    I had a good look at your blocks, what a fun way to work, one I am always thinking about, but find hard to be “improv”. I ought to just pull some colours out and make a start!

  7. Love the Jaffa colour scheme! I like brown as a colour to wear, especially in winter, but I confess to having a very static stash of brown fabrics, mainly acquired a couple of years ago when I was making the Tree of Life quilt for my brother. Also yellow, which is *not* a colour I like, although orange is a huge favourite. I like the mint/chocolate combination too, in preference to baby blue/brown.

  8. Your quilt is a great display of brown! I really like brown as I think it plays well with a lot of colors and I think it can be used as a neutral , not to be excluded in the modern quilt family:)

  9. I’ve added several browns to my stash, intended for sashing in scrappy quilts; I think it’s more cuddly looking instead of the usual black or white. I love your sample color combos, especially the browns with yellows and pinks–they look so vibrant yet soothing together.

  10. Cath,
    I’m just starting to “learn” improv. Would you be willing to explain how to start a block, process & finished size? I have a ton of brown scraps & would love to give this a go.
    Thanks.

  11. How funny I’ve never purposely purchased brown. Right before I opened your post, I purchased a stack of FQS called cappuccino! Not sure if it was because I liked them or I reeeaally want some dark chocolate right now!

  12. I now how that feeling is, but with purple. I find the brown hard to use, because it often ends up so retro-look. But i would go with a brown/ mintblue brown/pink mix anyday.
    Purple however…. hmmm
    I am trying sloooowly to work with purple to challenge myself

  13. I can tolerate browns but orange and yellow have no place in my quilts! As a Costume Designer, I stay away from yellows since under stagelights they turn all sorts of ugly! I do like your brown quilt.
    The trick is to find a brown with red undertones and not yellow!

  14. I like how the orange in your quilt brings the whole thing to life.
    I am still scarred after a hideous brown school uniform, but I will use brown when needed, even though it and purple do not feature heavily in my stash. As you show in your fabric pulls, there are some beautiful and classic brown-based prints. Brown can also be a lovely, warm colour. Mum painted our living room a chocolate colour when I was a child (it was the 70s), and even now I think it looked good.

  15. That is a beautiful brown quilt with a great collection of fabrics. I tend to be fickle about what colors I like and don’t like. Orange especially since it sometimes makes me think of the 80s.

  16. i just used brown as a background for my City Sampler Quilt. I was a really pretty shade that made my colors pop and my hubby hates grey so it was for the our bed I thought he might get a say. I used the color Mud in the Michael Miller solids. I loved it way more than I thought I would. Your quilt turned out wonderfully just like an autumn day!

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