Black and White

This year’s Maritime Modern Quilt Guild Executive Challenge was to make a black and white quilt with a pop of colour. Here’s my response.64249993_10217065776011118_2352685631940853760_n

My first idea was to quilt the joke, “What’s black and white and red all over?” I had a fat quarter of Daily Prophet newspaper that would be prominent on the back. I needed an alphabet to make “black” and “white”, so I went on an internet hunt and arrived at Fons & Porter’s Quilting Quickly Alphabet quilt, for which there is even a video. I bought the back issue in which it appeared and went into production. 64642392_10217054849177954_7688071741368696832_nSee anything funny? Well, yes, those colours are reversed. After all, I was quilting a joke. There’s also a bit of an optical illusion when you look at the red background, especially in the “white”. For a second one morning, I wondered what I had made because the red came to the foreground, but a coffee set that to rights.

Then I added the ampersand in bias tape made with the biggest bias tape maker I could find. 64426588_10217054849417960_2581217345657634816_nNext came the rest of the background. 64451024_10217054849897972_7941266042062372864_nAs I wondered what technique to use for “What’s”, I realized I had met the challenge. I had a black and white quilt because it said “black and white”. No needle turned appliqué for me! No figuring out how to add “all over”! The top was finished. All I had to do was quilt it.

I pieced a back out of black and white fabrics from my stash and pondered the quilting. Here’s the back. My esteemed photographer, Gillian, pointed out that in this shot, the quilt looks like a nose. We then changed location. 64651039_10217065776931141_7380490613403156480_n

My original plan was to do some wild quilting with feathers and swirls and all manner of fun things in that huge negative space.

In February, I had been to Memphis for a few days before Quiltcon, and visited the fabulous National Civil Rights Museum that chronicled the civil rights struggles of blacks in America. It was located in the hotel where Martin Luther King, Jr. had been shot, and was incredibly moving.  As I worked on my quilt listening to the morning news this spring, I heard terrible reports of hatred and discrimination and intolerance. Suddenly, I no longer wanted my quilt to be an easy joke, but a statement. Suddenly, that “black” in white and “white” in black were significant. And then I knew what the quilting needed to be.

I sewed parallel lines over the entire background, mimicking ruled paper, and then I added excerpts from Dr. King’s “I have a dream” speech. Somehow, the words I needed to write flowed easily onto the fabric, and in no time, the quilting was done. The text is hard to capture in a picture; it is subtle, sewn, as it was, in 40wgt thread.


I have a dream that one day this nation will rise up and live out its creed:   We hold these truths to be…all men are created equal. …When we allow freedom ring, all God’s children… black men and white men… will be able to join hands and sing…Free at last.”

After it was shown at Guild, Gillian and I took the quilt on a road trip. I wanted to photograph it by a church, in honour of the Negro spiritual that Dr. King had quoted.  We found the charming Church of St. John the Baptist in the Annapolis Valley, and she took these terrific pictures while I held the quilt.


May we all live in the freedom that Dr. King imagined.

Linking up with Beth at Love, Laugh, Quilt and Beth Sellars at Cooking up Quilts.

22 thoughts on “Black and White

  1. I am moved by your story of how this quilt evolved from an intended joke to a deliberate tribute and social commentary. I, too, visited the National Civil Rights Museum in Memphis a number of years ago. The experience has lived in my heart ever since.


  2. This is really amazing! I love the switched black and white, and think it’s actually much stronger without the extra words pieced in. Love the quilting of Dr. King’s words! This is truly beautiful.


  3. What began as fabric ended up as a journey in social justice. I too hope that Dr. King’s dream comes to fruition some day. Thanks for sharing Ann


  4. What a wonderful quilt!! Thanks for telling us how it turned from a quick joke to a quilt with deep and lasting meaning!! Well done!!


  5. Thank you for making such a moving quilt. Without your background, the whole point could be missed. Congratulations on a completed quilt.


  6. Projects like this are just the best, when it starts out as one thing, kind of fun, and ends up packing a statement punch. What a great quilt, great finish and photos! Quiltmaking that takes us on a journey is the best!


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