Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Butternut and Blue in the Civil War

Borderland Sampler by Jeanne Poore, Overland Park, Kansas 2005, 91" x 91"

The quilts above and below are from a book I did a few years ago
 called Borderland in Butternut and Blue.

Butternut & Blue by Ilyse Moore, Overland Park, Kansas 38" x 38".
 Ilyse redrafted the blocks to 12 inches and added her own border.

When I taught the class on which the book is based, we used navy blue and yellow ochre to symbolize the Confederacy and the Union in the Civil War.We tend to think of Civil War colors as "the blue and the gray," but many Southern soldiers had no access to official Confederate uniforms and wore their everyday clothing made of home-dyed butternut. 

Sketch of a Missouri guerilla fighter
from the Library of Congress collection.
Guerilla fighters were referred to as "Butternuts."

Click here to see my guest blog about butternut and blue at the Kansas City Star's Pickledish site.

I think the color combination symbolizes the North and the South so well I've done two books on the topic.

Borderland in Butternut and Blue features a sampler quilt with some stand-alone projects.

Buttermilk and Blue by Dorothy LeBoeuf, Rogers, Arkansas, 85" x 85",
a combination of two blocks from the Borderland book.

Butternut & Blue: Threads of the Civil War contains several pieced and appliqued designs.
It looks like none are available if you check the big online book sources (or they cost twice the original price) but a few quilt shops still have copies. Here's one online source:

And Quilters' Warehouse sells it. Click here:

I've also used the colors in my Moda collection Civil War Homefront that is in quilt shops now.

Swatches from Civil War Homefront in Sassafras Tan, Sorghum Brown and Ironclad Navy

These new reproduction prints would look great in any of the projects from either book. Below are two reproduction quilts by Karla Menaugh from the Butternut & Blue book.

Western Sun by Karla Menaugh 45" x 45"

Midnight Garden by Karla Menaugh 40" x 50"

I know it's confusing---all these Butternuts and Blues, but I like the way the words sound. And to make things even more confusing Terry Thompson and I did a fabric collection called Butternut and Blue for Moda several years ago, from which the two quilts above were made.


  1. I have always loved the big appliqued basket on the front of the Butternut and Blue book. I have several of your books and find them very resourceful. Thank you for your blog I always learn a lot from reading it and refer others to it.

  2. This is a great site for quilting and history.
    These quilts are a real treat to see

  3. I love those two colors together. I am going to have to redo a room, so I can have a blue room;)


  4. I purchased the book and a block of the month of the sampler, and I have made 4 of the blocks so far. I love the combination of the browns/butternut and blues. Mixing them together is wonderful.

  5. Barbara, your blog just keeps getting more and more beautiful and informative. Thanks again for all your hard work. I really do enjoy reading.

  6. The colours in the first tow quilts are lovely, but I love the way some of the blocks reach out to the next.
    Thank you for the mine of information you share.
    Judy B

  7. It is so many years later, I have no idea if this will be seen or not. When we moved recently, I looked inside a box that I thought contained some batting and I found my butternut and blue project sheet that came with the fabrics and all the fabric that I purchased to make the quilt on the front of the flyer. I am having a great time and am just as much in love with it now, some 17 years later, than I was when I purchased it. ( I think the purchase date was about 2001 or 2002. I just remember I was working at the fabric shop at the time.

    Thank you for a beautiful set of fabrics and a really cute pattern.

    karen Deviney