Charismatic Taupe

“The viewer’s eye will customarily go to the area of your quilt with the greatest contrast.”
from Irene Barry in QNM Dec/Jan 2009

This relatively simple pattern is enriched by the variety of shades and shadows of gray and brown, but they all turn to sterling when thrown together!

This relatively simple pattern is enriched by the variety of shades and shadows of gray and brown, but they all turn to sterling when thrown together!

All the new and interesting avenues for creating with fabric are what I love about quilting! Of course, I must add that sharing this passion with other quilters also enriches my life. Creating with taupe–those charismatic grays, browns, and charcoals and all the undertones found in the subtle rainbow–has become a passion in the last several months. First came Silver Taupe (seen below), then Eggplant Taupe (seen above), then Gold Leaf and finally Copper Rose Taupe. In the last three months I’ve “educated my eye” and reorganized my fabrics pulling some of the best taupes from my late 1800s reproductions.
Discovering Taupe
The word taupe comes from the French name for the European mole, Taupe d’Europe, admired for its sleek and multi-hued fur explained the Quilter’s Newsletter magazine article by Wendy Hill ( in July/August 2007. I discovered her article last fall in my ongoing fascination with earlier issues of QNM.

Find her article–it will expand your understanding of taupe and all the possibilities of brown, tan and gray. She pointed out that taupe and its undertones “make it both warm and cool, resulting in a rich, complex color.” The pictures of her taupe stash, organized by color families helped me realize I already had lots of options in my own stash! I started with the simple X pattern she named “Isotaupe” provided with the article. My design became “Silver Taupe seen next:


In Silver Taupe, the drama is provided by the shifting of light center Xs on dark blocks contrasting with the dark center Xs on light blocks and then some fadeout blocks tossed into the mix. It all makes our eye work to discern a pattern. I added pieced setting triangles to give it a dimensional feel. The border is cut from a spectacular Daiwabo fabric I bought several years ago at Sager Creek Quilts ( I’d been waiting for just the right project to use it in–this was it! Because the 42″ width was not wide enough to cover the length of the border I was forced to come up with another option. My quilting friend Therese Ramsey had given me a rich gray with a delicate floral print when she learned of my new taupe fascination. I cut that special fabric into blocks, adding fabrics from my stash and used it all in making the corner blocks unique.

Eggplant Taupe
Eggplant Taupe (seen above) was the second quilt in this series. I used another pattern with simple piecing allowing me to focus on the community of fabrics I pulled together. I used a variety of sashing fabrics to keep the eye moving in a diagonal pattern in this very “blocky” quilt composed of squares and rectangles. I chose to include fabrics with pink or purple undertones and used a purple “Grunge” fabric from Moda for the small squares that punctuate the surface. I could not resist the impulse to make two of those squares a vibrant turquoise just for fun! Eggplant Taupe will be one of the featured quilts in my new program called “Diagonal Designs Make Dynamic Quilts” once I do the quilting. The pattern was “Cricket on the Radio” by Elizabeth Bren in the July/August 2012 QNM and had no border.

Gold Leaf Taupe

Gold accented fabrics are not recommended for taupe projects in some of the books and articles I’ve seen. When I started working with the next simple piecing pattern I came across, I was not liking what I saw on the design wall. My selections all seemed boring. I went through my stash and tripped on this dark floral with gold accents–it seemed perfect to me! The pattern had recently come to me from the free table at our guild. It was a pastel concoction called Cotton Candy Dots by Amilie Scott Designs. I used a rich black “Grunge” fabric, again a gift from Therese, for the pieced squares. The center of the squares feature light colored polished cottons from Loneta Blevins and a few cotton sateen fabrics from my stash. Both add a sheen to the center spots of those black squares.

Many of the same fabrics appear in all four of these quilts. Each is influenced by the surroundings and the proportions I’ve used. The gold leaf floral was used as the center of each of the rectangular blocks. All the border fabrics were drawn from my stash and add “personality” to the whole. Of course, my quilting and my binding choices will contribute other additions.


Copper Rose
Those of you who remember my 2008 show “Quilts in Full Bloom” at ACO will remember my fascination with orange and all its relatives especially copper and terra cotta tones. My quilt “Copper Rose” was designed to feature a vintage print by Ginny Beyer which you can easily see in the middle border. It appears in multiple spots throughput the quilt. I drew on fabrics which featured copper or rose tones in addition to the taupe. I knew that the light squares in the pattern would demand the viewer’s attention, so I carefully selected a fabric for that leading role. I found one with a delicate floral designed by Elly Sienkiewicz of Baltimore Album fame. I even included two pieces of a reproduction William Morris designed fabric from the late 1800s.

Use your imagination. Mixing in fabrics that have subdued tones from nature is my best advice. Avoid those with florescent dayglow colors. I use a door peephole tool from the hardware store as a value finder to keep me on track with the lights and darks. “Graceful Cascade” from Maywood Studio” was the free pattern I used after finding it at my local quilt shop, Lonesome Pine Quilts (

Exploring my own stash and finding new combinations for favorite fabrics has been central to this adventure for me. Sharing my excitement has strengthened my ties to my quilting community as it has sparked my own creativity. What better way to start the new year! Please leave me a comment–I’d like to know what you’re thinking.

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2 Responses to Charismatic Taupe

  1. Lila says:

    Great information. I had no idea that taupe was mole fur colors, LOL!
    Your quilts are beautiful, and VERY rich! I look forward to seeing them in person!

  2. Shawna says:

    I love that copper rose color scheme!

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