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What’s Black and White and Red All Over?

April 10, 2010

Margie Davidson Quilt

A quilt by Margie Davidson, that’s what!  Some time ago, I had an opportunity to attend a lecture and trunk show on the use of Black and White in quilts, by Margie Davidson.  Margie is an artist and educator.  She teaches in Edmonton AB, and for quilt guilds across Canada.   She is also a CQA (Canadian Quilters Association) judge.

Margie took us on a visual journey exploring the use of black and white in quilting.  The colours we use in quilting, and indeed for anything in life, are firmly based on our culture.  When I think of white and black, I think of light and dark, good and evil, day and night.  That is what my western culture has taught me.

But every culture views these two colors differently.  For many, white represents good – it is the color of purity, as in a bride’s dress.  Black represents evil – think of black cats and witches and funerals.  In other cultures, these two colors (which Margie explains are not really colors at all, but the absence of color) represent something completely different.  In Asia, white is actually the color of death. Have you ever wondered about the tradition of sending white roses to a family in mourning?

Black and white evoke strong emotions and feelings for many of us – from joy and delight, to fear and sadness. Margie displayed a quilt she designed called “911: A Call for Hope and Healing” after the tragedy in New York.  This powerful quilt helped her express her feelings of sadness for this terrible disaster that affected millions of people around the globe in so many ways, and forever changed our lives.

Margie’s quilts took on a teaching role as she spoke of the design and creation of each of them.  While holding up specific quilts, Margie explained there are many shades of black as well as shades of white, depending on what colors are used to create the fabric.  Some blacks will have a brown tone, or a blue tone, or a red tone.  Whites can range from pure snow white to a rich, creamy color.  And each black or white fabric will show off another color – take red for example – as something completely different.  As an illustration, Margie showed the group two squares, one black and one white.  Each had a red circle appliqué. She used the same red fabric appliqué on both squares, but on each the red had a completely different look and feel to it.  The red on white was somewhat washed out, while the red on black was quite vivid.  Try this yourself at home!

Margie often mixes color with her black and white quilts, and showed many examples of her creations where color was used against a white or black background, or both.  Each quilt provided a new way to look at color and how it can be used in quilts when using black and white.  Quilts with dark colors seemed brighter when she used a white or beige background, and quilts with muted colors had a somber look against a black background.  Bright solid, primary colors appeared to shine when used on a black background, and really popped off the canvas of the quilt.  Pastel colors against a white quilt background were soft and gentle.

Margie’s presentation really opened my eyes as to how we use color in our quilts, how we are affected by color, and how we are drawn to certain colors depending on how they are seen in our own culture.  I now have some great new ideas on ways that I can incorporate black and white and color into future quilt projects.  Never again will I look at black and white fabrics the same way!

Happy Quilting! ~ Heather

2 Comments leave one →
  1. April 10, 2010 7:08 pm

    Thanks for sharing Margie’s expertise with us. A great post!!

  2. April 10, 2010 8:26 pm

    A very interesting and thought provoking post……..Thanks

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