How to be brave with quilt colors: moving beyond neutral (+ giveaway!)

Cape Lookout quilt
“Cape Lookout”

What inspires you? For popular “Quilt Dad” John Q. Adams, inspiration strikes with one step outside. He’s stitched the sunrise, mimicked the flight of a flock of birds, and captured nature’s many wonders in his new book, Beyond Neutral. His designs purposefully sidestep neutrals in favor of the intense colors that nature’s elements offer—not only in blocks, but in backgrounds too. And after you see more of John’s quilts below, we promise you’ll feel your own daring, color-happy spirit start to stir.

Today John is here to encourage you to have fun using quilt-color combinations from your own point of view. Simply look out your window to begin!


John and his adorable kids!Greetings, Martingale readers! My name is John Adams and I’m happy to be guest blogging at Stitch This! today. I’m also so excited to celebrate the upcoming release of my first book with Martingale, Beyond Neutral: Quilts Inspired by Nature’s Elements. The book contains 16 of my original quilt patterns, all made with some of my very favorite fabric combinations and beautifully photographed in the picturesque outdoors of the Pacific Northwest. Today, I’d love to share a little bit more about myself and the inspiration for Beyond Neutral.

First, about me: I am a father of three, originally from Brooklyn, NYC, but now living in the Raleigh-Durham area of North Carolina. I live with my nine-year-old twin girls, my eight-year-old son, and a crazy German Shorthaired Pointer named Bristol. Though I often wish it could be, quilting and pattern writing is not my full-time job; by day, I lead branding and brand-marketing efforts for a global software company. I am a completely self-taught quilter (thanks, blogs and Internet!) and have been sewing for about seven years now. I blog at Quilt Dad and have always remained active in the online modern quilting community. Prior to writing Beyond Neutral, I released another title (Pretty Little Patchwork: Holidays) and have contributed to several other compilations, including Modern Quilts from the Blogging Universe and both Fat Quarterly books (Shape Workshop for Quilters and Quilt Colour Workshop).

Glacier Bay quilt
“Glacier Bay”

Of all of the books, though, I am most excited about Beyond Neutral. It is my first book of quilt patterns all of my own design. The book was inspired by my love of nature, and my observation that my quilt designs and fabric selection almost always tend to have a natural and organic feel to them. Here are a few things about Beyond Neutral that I’d love for you to know:

  • The title, Beyond Neutral, refers to the fact that none of the quilts in the book use white or black as the neutral (or background) color. Over the years, I’ve heard many quilters express their fear or discomfort in using anything other than these traditional neutral shades. What I hope to show is that colors drawn from nature—greens, browns, reds, blues, and grays—can all act as effective neutrals in your quilt projects.
  • Taking its cue from these “natural neutrals,” the book is broken into five chapters:

Wind and Sky: quilts that use lighter shades of blue as the neutral
Earth: quilts that use browns as the neutral
Water: quilts that use deeper shades of blue as the neutral
Leaves and Grass: quilts that use greens as the neutral
Lava, Coral, and Stone: quilts that use grays and various shades of red as the neutral

Fox River quilt
“Fox River”

  • Something I’ve never revealed before today is that all of the quilts in the book, in honor of the natural inspiration, are named after U.S. national parks! I found that many of these parks had absolutely beautiful and evocative names—such as “Glimmerglass,” “Pinnacles,” “Glacier Bay,” “Fallen Timbers,” and “Canyonlands”—and I had a blast matching up park names with quilt designs that matched them in tone and feeling.
  • I pride myself on making sure that all of my quilt patterns are beginner friendly without being basic. I’ve found that my designs are approachable and are built upon quilting and piecing fundamentals, but the finished product doesn’t look at all “beginner.” This is to ensure that the patterns can be enjoyed by all, from the quilter just learning how to put a quilt together to the advanced stitcher who wants to customize the pattern to her own liking. I also enjoy how the overall look of each pattern can change based on the quilter’s fabric selections, and I simply cannot wait to see your versions of my patterns. (See all 16 of them here.)

Glimmerglass quilt
“Glimmerglass”

I’ve been waiting for the book to be released for what seems like forever, so now it’s time to celebrate! And I am hereby inviting you to celebrate with me. I’m teaching at Camp Stitchalot in Pleasant Lake, Michigan, and at Q-First in Quilting in Lexington, Kentucky, both in June. I am available for workshops and guild activities, and I hope to meet you soon!


Beyond NeutralJohn, thanks for sharing your new book with us today!

Which elements in nature inspire you to quilt? Share your thoughts in the comments and you could win a copy of the Beyond Neutral eBook! We’ll choose a random winner one week from today and let you know by email if you win.

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Thanks to all who entered the drawing! The winner is OHSue, who says:

“I like horizons, that fading from earth to sky, sometimes blue skies, sometimes gray and dark, sometimes bright with the sun. Something about that natural progression of colors is my favorite.”

OHSue, we’ll email you about your prize. Congratulations!


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