Neutral Palettes: Sophisticated and Sensational!

Black adds drama to a neutral palette.

When I examine my fabric stash, it amazes me to see how many neutrals I’ve accumulated. For someone who’s usually drawn to and inspired by bright colors, it’s odd that neutrals take up more than their fair share of space, and when I do my annual sort through the “too-much-ever to-use-in-a lifetime” stash to make room for the new, I rarely give them up.

The versatile neutrals are especially wonderful for masculine quilts and, depending on the pattern selected, the results can range from traditional to contemporary. Here’s a quilt I made using the Urban Chic pattern for my niece and her husband as a wedding gift. The décor in their home is ultra modern, so I used lots of black, taupe, and cream fabrics with geometric prints.

Neutral palette using Urban Chic pattern.

Mother Nature provides a bounty of neutral inspiration, from stones to beach grass. One of my favorites is high-desert landscape (soft gray-greens and creams)–very yummy!

If you’re interested in a book on neutrals, try Alex Anderson’s Neutral Essentials from C&T Publishing. It’s full of information and includes seven projects using the neutral palette. C&T has generously donated a copy for today’s giveaway!

My blogging sister Darra has a charming little quilt featured in the book. It’s so cute, and very Darra with the buttons and rickrack.

Look for the project instructions in "Neutral Essentials"

Here’s a detail of another neutral quilt I made which favors more of the brown, tan, and gray hues. It was for my favorite nephew Joel and his wife:

Another of my favorites!

Several years ago, I attended Empty Spools Seminars at Asilomar, CA, where I took Sylvia Einstein’s Dancing Rings workshop. The pieced-rings design is based on the classical Double Wedding Ring pattern. Sylvia is a phenomenal teacher and it was an inspiring, creative four days; however, I had chosen a neutral palette for my quilt and everyone else in the room was using brilliant, bright colors. I felt like a dandelion in a field of poppies. Once I got it out of the classroom, however, and away from the “colors,” it turned out to be another of my favorite quilts.

My dancing rings "dandelion"

If you haven’t tried working with the neutral palette, you’ve missed something special. Don’t forget to add glorious grays and beautiful blacks. Grays used to be difficult to find, but in the last couple of years they’ve been popping up in lots of fabric lines. Gray adds a modern sophistication to the traditional creams, tans, and browns.

To be entered in the giveaway for Neutral Essentials, post a comment telling me how you might like to explore neutrals. Or, if you’ve used them, let me know what you’ve created. The winner will be randomly chosen from comments received before midnight Friday, February 10th, and announced in my next post, Tuesday, February 14th.

Happy sewing!

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38 Responses to Neutral Palettes: Sophisticated and Sensational!

  1. Maggie Scraper says:

    I love your use of neutrals and have started to collect these beautiful fabrics for a quilt of my own.

    I think I may have been at Asilomar during the same session time as you were in the dancing rings workshop. I was not in your class but I recall all those brightly colored ring quilts from the walk about on the last evening. Are you scheduled to be teaching at Asilomar? I need to look up your website in order to find out where you are teaching. Interested in coming to Oklahoma to do a workshop?

    • Christie says:

      Hi Maggie,
      How interesting that you remember going by the dancing rings workshop at Asilomar. It’s been a number of years ago and I had a wonderful time learning from the very talented Sylvia Einstein. Another memory of that week was having to shoo away a pesky raccoon that was hanging around the front door to my building!

      I am not scheduled to teach at Asilomar. My husband and I are knee deep packing boxes in anticipation to our move from the San Francisco Bay Area to Portland, OR. Who would have thought two people could accumulate so much stuff over the years.

      If I find myself heading to Oklahoma I’ll get in touch with you regarding a workshop. Keep collecting the neutrals and I hope you enjoy working with them as much as I have. Thank you for your kind words.


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  4. Tamie Powell says:

    Love the looks of the neutrals quilt and would love to create one of them! I have been looking for something for our room and this would be perfect! Pretty, sophisticated, but not girly, love it!

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  6. NAncy kettler says:

    Love your work. Is there a pattern for the one you made nephew Joel? Thank you

    • Christie says:

      Hi Nancy,
      I’m still having a great time creating quilts using the neutral palette. The latest was a new version of my “Cherry Marmalade” pattern using Moda’s “Little Black Dress” line. It’s one of my favorites. There isn’t a pattern currently available for the quilt I made for my nephew Joel. However, Louisa Smith’s “Strips and Curves” basic set of templates is extremely close. I don’t think you would be able to tell the difference.

  7. I have only bright fabric in my stash. If I ever need neutrals I by only enough for the project. I know I would love to challenge myself outside my comfort zone

  8. I absolutely love the one youi made for you nephew. Do you know the name of the pattern, or where I could find it?

  9. Kristin M says:

    I have seen a number of wedding quilts made with a neutral palette as they fit into any new home. I think I need to make a quilt with the grays that have come out as I used to dislike gray because it felt so non-color, non- interesting. Now I have seen how it can perk up other colors.

  10. Ssgirl says:

    I’ve never worked exclusively with neutrals, loving color as much as I do. I think it would be fun to try using some of the great Japanese taupe fabrics to make a bag or portfolio as a starter project.

  11. Mousecat says:

    I haven’t worked with neutrals before and only worked with bright colours, but I may have to change my ways! I especially liked the quilt you made for your favourite nephew! Its awesome!!

  12. Patti O says:

    Several years ago, I made a quilt in neutral colors for my niece’s wedding present. We were at the Sister’s quilt show together and when looking at a display of old quilts, she mentioned that the double wedding ring was her favorite pattern. A little probing and I found out she liked neutral colors. It took several months of gathering light brown/beige fabrics; I was really pleased with the end result. Maybe it’s time to try another–a quilt in neutral colors, that is.

  13. Kris Jacobson says:

    I loved your examples. Working with neutrals would be a real challenge for me. Your examples are making me want to give it a try.

  14. Hi Christie,
    I love neutrals! Last year i made a signature block quilt for a family retunion in brown, green, tan and gold. Then this fall I had a miniture class and decided to use some fabric I had purchased many years ago as precut 4 inch blocks. Never knew what to do with them. Used them (all shades of browns) with a cream background. I turned out to be one of my favorite quilts. I was the dandelion in that room but now I’m one of the pretiest little quilts from the class.

  15. Carol Barringer says:

    The quilt you made for your nephew Joel is my favorite, but all the quilts are just stunning! I would like to explore neutrals as the featured fabrics rather than just background. I am especially intrigued by grays! I am fairly confident when choosing colors for a quilt, but I’m lost when it comes to neutrals. I’d love to win Alex’s book.

  16. Boyoboy do I like your samples! Makes me itch to start one of my own… and glad to read that black is part of that palette; I think it adds a richness…

  17. Audrey K. says:

    I have only been quilting a few years and have been drawn to purple batiks and bright colors. But your neutral quilts are just amazing, both the patterns and the fabric choices. I especially love the dancing rings. You’ve inspired me to pay more attention to the neutral fabrics the next time I go shopping!

  18. Patricia Wester says:

    Your neutral quilts are really inspiring. I own a lot of beiges and blacks but haven’t ever made a quilt all of neutrals. I think I would like to try one when I finish what I’m working on–a quilt of wild and crazy color!

  19. Deb Anderson says:

    I would love to explore working with neutrals. I love the dimension that you can get with using neutrals. I love the simplicity and earthy natural feel of these quilts. I always think that you have to use color to get a effect …. not so looking at these quilts. I need to explore this option!. I would love to win this book !!.

  20. Jeanie Crosthwait says:

    I have been collecting neutrals for a little while after hearing Alex Anderson say there are not an abundance of them. I would love to have her book!

  21. Sally says:

    Stunning!….always stunning the way you put together a group of fabrics!…

  22. Jeanne G says:

    I currently am gathering up fabrics of neutrals because I so want a quilt. the lines are so clean and smart. it is a slow process to find many different fabrics but it is fun watching it evolve over time. Thank you for a very nice opportunity to win your giveaway

  23. Joanna says:

    I’ve not really explored neutrals in quilting, but I love the quilts you show in the blog today. Perhaps I need a little inspiration??

    Thanks, Joanna

  24. Linda Dubee says:

    Neutrals are so calming and healing. I find myself gazing outside to enjoy nature’s calming palette. I would love to learn how to apply the neutrals into a quilt so I can enjoy the calming effects inside my home.

  25. Sue says:

    Some years ago I took a “neutrals” class from Alex Anderson and thoroughly enjoyed it. She also said when you visit a quilt store and don’t find anything else (which has never happened to me — hah! hah!) to buy neutrals because you can always use them later for something! I just wish there were more gray fabrics to be found! Thank you again for a wonderful article! Always inspriring!

  26. Karen Duling says:

    I have always dreamed about making a quilt using neutrals, with maybe some ice cream sherbet colors tossed in the mix. Yummy! Alex’s book is just what I need to get started.

  27. StephCat says:

    definitely curious about the book! I’m doing my first quilt in black, greys & ivories.

  28. elaine says:

    thanks for the examples of neutral quilts. i was just thinking about making a “neutral” and wondered what colors to use and what colors to add to spice it up. i always forget about the grays. i love the dandelion! your samples are inspiring as usual. thanks!

  29. Kathie L says:

    I have not made a neutral quilt YET. Too many girls in the family that like bright colors. Maybe one centered on greys and tans would appeal to my husband, as long the the backing was red. Kathie L in Allentown

  30. Peggy O'Connor says:

    Your neutral quilts are great! I have been afraid to make a neutral quilt because I fear there will not be enough contrast. I would love to win Alex’s book.

  31. Pat says:

    I absolutely love neutrals – reminding me of rocky beaches, freshly tilled earth, all those elements of nature that surround us each day. Would love to explore this book and apply its principles to one of my next quilts. Thanks for the opportunity to enter.

  32. Jean says:

    I’ve been collecting neutrals for awhile now. I’ve made one quilt using all neutrals and for that one I purchased a line of fabrics. LOL

  33. Sandy Leaman says:

    Hi Christie,
    I just love the quilt you made for Joel & Jenny … can you please tell me if it is possible for me to buy this pattern on line anywhere.
    Please don’t enter me in the draw for Alex Anderson’s wonderful Neutrals book – I already own it.
    Thank you in advance.
    Sandy Leaman, Australia

    • Christie says:

      Hi Sandy,
      I’ve never seen this pattern online. I bought the templates many years ago and don’t recall where I purchased them (it was when I first started quilting and was in that initial buying frenzy!) The quilt is called Lava Lamp, but has no contact information on the package. When I search online for that name I get a very different pattern.

      • Sandy Leaman says:

        Hi Christie,
        Thanks very much for your reply …. I have actually seen another quilt made using the same block but in different layout (in Israel on a visit a couple of years ago). Looks as if I’ll have to get my brain into gear and draw it up and make my own templates. I do love it.
        Thank you again.
        Sandy L, in Australia

      • Carol Barringer says:

        Wow, Christie! What a brave purchase for a beginning quilter! I am very much not a beginner — but I avoid sewing curves. I can usually get what I want with applique. I’m not sure that would work for the Lava Lamp quilt. I love it enough that if a pattern were available, I might try it.

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