Thursday, March 12, 2015


"Neutralicious" One Patch Quilt, c. 1970, North Carolina, 63" x 92"
What do you get when you combine neutrals with deliciously colored fabrics? A "neutralicious" quilt, of course! When I opened up the box from an eBay seller in Hickory, North Carolina, that's exactly what I said, "Neutralicious!" And it is. In a period when we are more accustomed to seeing white or gray used as a neutral, we often forget about beige, the quintessential, earthy neutral.

The quilt is 63" x 92", machine pieced and hand quilted in the ditch, with hand zigzag / feather-stitching done in a beige yarn over the seams. There is a nice mix of fabrics, including polyester double knit and cotton jersey. The backing is brought to the front for binding, which is an inch wide, and machine stitched down. Back fabric is one of those "sweet little calicoes" - otherwise known as a small-scale floral print - in a coordinating, earthy tone.

it may not be the sweetest color, but it's still a "sweet little calico"
At QuiltCon, curator Carolyn Ducey of the International Quilt Study Center & Museum and I came to the conclusion that the "sweet little" should be part of the description of 70s calicoes. One morning during the tour I referred to a small scale floral print as a "sweet little calico". Later, when I ran into Carolyn strolling through my special exhibit, we got to talking about one of the quilts. It was actually the orange and blue irregular nine-patch in Roderick Kiracofe's book "Unconventional & Unexpected: American Quilts Below the Radar, 1950-2000".

this quilt has "sweet little calicoes" in it
I mentioned the comment in the book from Amelia Peck, curator at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York, when she mentioned her nostalgic feelings for one of the fabrics in the quilt. Carolyn pointed to another fabric and called it a "sweet little calico". I'm sure I must have snorted, because we called these small-scale floral prints the same thing-- with the "sweet little". So, we'll be calling them "sweet little calicoes" from now on!

There's something modern about this rendition of the one-patch design. Neutral beige patches alternated with colorful patches give the quilt a dazzling sense of movement, but it's so simple! If you swapped out the materials and used today's methods of construction and polished finishing, it would be a modern quilt of today, instead of an anachronistically modern quilt of yesterday. I'm simply enthralled with this "neutralicious" quilt.


  1. not sure i'm as enthused with the tan neutrals. i'd definitely love to see some grey/white quilt combos though!

    1. Quilters are always looking for good neutrals. I could see a "low-volume" interpretation with whites and very pale beiges working with the pops of color in a modern quilt, and the modern quilt would be thin, crisp, made of cotton with a sleek finish.

  2. Let's all hope that "Sweet little calicos" and "Neutralicious" are successfully integrated into the quilt circuit vernacular!

  3. I like the brown.. I picture it in a log cabin. But what's really impressive to me is that stitching.

  4. I really like the simplicity and solids of that neutral quilt.