QUILTS & FABRIC: PAST & PRESENT By Quilt Historian Barbara Brackman Above: Moda's Baltimore Blues

Friday, May 8, 2015

Haint Blue

A few weeks ago I learned a new color name from the
discussion among my Stars in a Time Warp starmakers.

Mule Hill said Indigo and Haint were her favorite blues.

Terry asked: Is that Haint a pale sky blue? Like the colors under porch roofs in Key West?

MH: I prefer the Carolina medium haint but yes, porch roofs, doors and window trim. Keeps evil out. I sew with it a lot. Happy Color.

T: I agree! And I actually made my husband paint the ceiling of the porch on the front of our house that blue---it keeps the mud daubers from making nests!!

Haint, I assume, is a Southern word for a haunt or a ghost.

Well, now I know what haint blue is. In Kansas we call it "You know the color on the front porch ceiling." Haint blue might be easier to say.

I'm not from Kansas but when I went to college here fifty years ago I had good guides to the popular culture. They were mostly from Southern Kansas but their knowledge of the proper colors to paint a house held true in the abolitionist town of Lawrence.

The siding was white. The window screens and screen doors
had two options, shiny black or screen door green, a hunter green.
The green was dark with a little bit of blue in it.

We also called it John Deere green.

The porch floors were gray

And the porch ceiling was "porch-ceiling blue."

When I asked why everybody painted the porch ceilings blue ( a color usually not repeated anywhere else in the building's color scheme) I was told it keeps the flies off the ceiling. Probably because they think it's the sky and they won't land there.

I liked the color, the tradition and the promise of no flies. I painted the porch ceilings blue.

If you look around the internet for exactly what color "haint blue" is you will find a wide variety of opinions...

from turquoise to blue gray.

In Kansas it's a true blue---maybe like the swatch with the x in this snapshot from the Huffington Post. But it's clearer, not so gray.

Alice's Scrapbag
I've been using it a lot lately and like Mule Hill says,
it goes well with indigo

Union Blues

I also did a Google Book Search for "haint blue"and the earliest I could find the term in print was 1998. So it's a Southern folk term that only recently has been written down.

Now everybody is using it.

And you've got to admit it's a better description than "under the porch ceiling blue."

Does it confuse mud daubers and flies? Read this:



Laura said...

My husband's grandfather lived in the 300 year old farmhouse he was born in. I remember him talking about 'haints' but had no idea it was a color.

Mary Says Sew! said...

Our family farm house (late 19th C.) in northeastern Maryland had a blue porch ceiling. I always thought of it as robin's egg blue, and had never heard of haint. The house had wide white siding and dark green shutters, and was like many I've seen in western Maryland and southern Pennsylvania of German heritage.

Denniele said...

I have never heard of haint but I do love the color. Being from a rural farming community I am very familiar with John Deere Green!

Rosa said...

Great post.Lovely color!

Robin said...

I enjoyed your post so much today. I love hearing about the history of everyday things. So many people think it doesn't matter but when you hear the whole story - it makes things come alive. I wish I had a porch so I could paint the ceiling "Haint Blue" We do have a little club house in the backyard and I ought to paint the ceiling so the paper wasps will find another place to build their nests. It would be a good experiment.

goldenstitches said...

Love this; I live in an 1890's Queen Anne with the ceiling of the front porch painted a similar light blue. I insisted my husband use the blue which he thought idiosyncratic of me. Why? Because my grandmother's house was that way and to me it's a traditional old house look. Never heard of the Haint theory. There's too much traffic these days to sit out there much, so can't speak to insect repelling qualities either. But old houses need their idiosyncrasies IMHO.

Becky in VA said...

Such an interesting post. I grew up in Kansas where porch ceilings were painted blue - like looking up at the sky.

Just curious about the color of porch ceilings on the west coast. . .

A Nudge said...

Your posts are always so interesting. Thanks!

Anonymous said...

My husband has a 1965 Land Rover pickup in that clear green hue. I've been referring to it as "Waste Management Green" because it matches all the garbage cans and dumpsters around here. He will be so pleased that I can now call it John Deere Green.

Julie Vernon said...

Living most of my lifein South Florida around the older homes, the ceilings of many older porches were always "THAT" blue. WHY? Because birds and insects wouldn't nest in the cervices around the ceilings...because the sky and that same blue make it look like they are out in the open.

Anyway, that is what I have been told.... PRETTY shades

Wendy P said...

You can find the word Haint in To Kill A Mockingbird. I have lived in the South for 11 years (but I was also born here) and there are some natives here who don't know that word!

I do love that color of blue, superstitions or not.