Black and White Quilts

Black and white quilts are an enduringly popular genre of patchwork.  The simple, graphic quality of light and dark distils a quilt down to its most basic element – pattern.  The pattern itself can be traditional, modern, stylised or complicated, but it must be clear and distinct for the beauty of black and white to shine through.

We’ve collected a few links to black and white quilt patterns that we think make the most of these qualities.  And we want to share our top tips for making a black and white quilt, so we’ll sprinkle some of these throughout the list.


Rachel, from Sew Today, Clean Tomorrow, has created a free PDF quilt pattern that is bold, simple and modern.

Tip number one:  Buy enough fabric.
Black is black and white is white, right?  Anyone who has ever picked paint colours will tell you that’s not true!  Just like there are a hundred different paint whites, there are a corresponding number of fabric whites.  If you are planning to use just one white fabric or one black fabric, buy plenty plus a bit more.  There is nothing more obvious than the last half row of a black and white chevron quilt made with a different black fabric.


Vanessa from The Crafty Gemini, did a black and white block quilt along.  This link is to block number five and it’s a great example of how black and white fabrics can read as light or dark depending how they are patterned and how they are used.

Tip number two:  Go scrappy.  If you are worried about the problems highlighted in tip number one, then use lots of different fabrics.  There are heaps of white on white fabrics available, plenty of black on blacks and equally as many white and black patterned fabrics.  Many successful black and white quilts have been constructed from a collection of black and white fat quarters.


Leslie, from Seasoned Homemaker, used black and white fabrics and appliqué to create a funky and spooky wall hanging.  She has provided instructions and a printable template so you can create your own creepy crawly quilt.

Tip number three:  If you are using fabrics that are black and white patterned, your red tonal viewer is your best friend.  The whole point of a black and white quilt is the graphic quality of the quilt pattern, but it is easy to be lose sight of this when you are dealing with lots of pattern on the fabrics but no colour.  Use your red tonal viewer (a piece of red cellophane will do) to decigde whether each piece of black and white fabric reads as a dark or light.  Then you can make your quilt blocks accordingly and you will have a graphic quilt made from graphic fabrics, and not a mess that has blended to grey.


This is not a pattern but in her black and white quilt, Kim Brunner has really shown what black and white fabrics can achieve.

Tip number four:  Your design wall is your second best friend.
Quilts are usually viewed from a distance.  Used as a bed cover; thrown over the end of a bed or the back of a couch; hung up on a wall; this is the distance the pattern needs to be decipherable from.  So when you are making your quilt, you need to be able to get back from it and check whether the pattern is working.  A design wall will help you gain the perspective you need to make a knockout of a quilt rather than a ho-hum quilt.

And finally, tip number five: Convert your favourite block patterns to grayscale or photocopy them in black and white and you’ll soon find which blocks are powerful in monotone.  Before you know it you’ll be creating your own black and white quilts that pack a powerful punch!



Charlotte has been quilting for more than 10 years, making both traditional quilts and art quilts and loving both processes. She teaches and writes about quilting to help introduce more people to this awesome craft. She lives in Northland on a boat with her husband, two children, a dog, a cat and two sewing machines – fabric and stitch are her escape! You can also find Charlotte's writings on her blog The Slightly Mad Quilt Lady

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