Getting Ready for the Edmonton Festival of Quilts

Part 11: Quilts and Colour and the Newfoundland & Labrador block

When it comes to quilting, playing with the colour palette is one of the most delightful aspects. But even with all the fabrics available today it still is sometimes a challenge to  get it just right. It must have been a challenge 150 years ago!

Nature very early on provided the local dye stuff needed to produce colour in the new world. Violet and purples came from oak and maple, browns from walnut bark and husks, and dark red from sumac berries. Getting deep colour that is colourfast was a real challenge.

Here are some of my experiments using local plants in the Edmonton area. I loved how they turned out. The only problem is giving them up for use in the prefect project!


Early shades of brown and black tended to decay cloth and green was not colourfast before 1815. In 1829 “madder dyeing” or Turkish red, which was originally brought to Europe from India, was produced in America. It became popular due to its colourfastness and in combination with white it is seen in many early quilts. Two colour quilts were especially popular in the last half of the 1800s and 1st half of the 1900’s .

Stencilling was very rarely used as the paint pigments at the time hardened and were not easily washable.

In 1856 WilliamPerkins accidently discovered a colour process that produced an extensive palette of colourfast dyestuff . Finally the production of a great assortment of well-priced colourful calico became available. By the 1870’s there was so much variety, scrap quilts that tried to not use a fabric twice were popular. Quilters had the added fun of trading fabric amongst other quilters to accomplish this.

Appliques of white background with red, green, yellow and orange were popular mainly in urban areas with more affluence, and leisure. They often looked to London and Paris for the latest styles for inspiration. Only in rural areas did patchwork quilting continue to fulfil its popular and practical function.

Since cleaning quilts was arduous work there were also seasonal colour considerations with black favoured for winter and lighter colours in summer.

So what will be my colour choices for my provincial blocks?? In theory it was pretty easy to decided. Clearly they would mainly reflect the red and white of our Canadian flag and early quilting tradition. Seemed pretty simple, however my stash was of little use…. not traditional enough.  I was looking for traditional turkey or barn reds and my few reds were much to vibrant. To my surprise it was a challenge to find a good value assortment of traditional reds. But perseverance has paid off and after almost a year I am  fairly pleased with an assortment of lights, darks and mid tones for my project. Thankfully I will not be straying too far from reds and white!!!

Newfoundland and Labrador Quilt Block

NFLD lighthouse.jpgThis summer I had the pleasure of exploring southeastern Newfoundland.  This province was the last province to join Canada back in 1949.

I loved colourful and vibrant capital of St John’s. As we headed south the scenery changed to wide open wind swept moorland that reminded me in many ways of Nunavut with very few people. caribou and seabirds along steep cliffs.  I stood at Cape Spear, the furthest east spot in North America, and I thought how the beams shinning from the lighthouses along this coast might be the 1st sign for settlers that they had finally reached the new world. I could not find a traditional lighthouse pieced block for a Newfoundland and Labrador block design but by playing with the colours and design in EQ   I have adjusted the ocean wave block to remind me of light beams coming from a lighthouse.


ocean waves (1st landfall)


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s