Thursday, July 22, 2010

More on Broderie Perse

Quilters are often surprised when they see Broderie Perse applique quilts up close. You can see that the blue-gray leaves are not cut close to the outline, but cut rather loosely into the white background.
Once you see that the cutting isn't quite as close as it looks in a photograph, you realize that the technique is not all that difficult.

Of course, SOME people like M.L.D, above, cut her florals and stems very closely in 1853. This makes it harder to cut, manage and sew.

The peacock's feet and perch are cut
freely from the white background.

The secret to making Broderie Perse relatively simple is to match the background color of both the chintz floral and the background fabric carefully.

That's easy when both backgrounds are white.

But it's not always easy to find matching backgrounds. See the blobby shape on the left which was a tan ground chintz. It just didn't work. If she was going to use a darker background she should have cut carefully around each rose as the quilter below did.

It looks like the backgrounds for her florals were brown so she had to snip close to the flower and do a lot more work.

Here's another antique quilt with leaves and flowers apparently cut from a dark background. The seamstress used a blanket or button-hole stitch to secure the applique, a relatively common technique.

The Sarah Morrell album quilt, which alternates pieced blocks and Broderie Perse blocks
Di Ford has done patterns for a reproduction from this mid-1840 quilt. Two bloggers from the Netherlands are posting their progress. Click on their blogs to see more of the process:


And see this Secret Sewing Sisterhood blog:

Traditional Broderie Perse is harder today because large-scale florals with white backgrounds are rare.
The lack of white background chintzes may be why the technique fell out of favor after the Civil War, when chintzes gained a "chintzy" reputation. But it is still possible to match backgrounds. Just forget white.

"Ohio Autumn" from my Moda collection Arnold's Attic

When planning to do Broderie Perse, pick out the large-scale floral, then find a color match for the background. Arnold's Attic has close color matches in small-scale prints for the shades in the large leaf print.

Occasionally designers do you a huge favor and give you a large-scale floral with a fancy background pattern PLUS yardage of the same fancy background pattern, as Kaye England did several years ago. Judy Severson made great use of Kaye's two prints---chintz print and matching background in this Broderie Perse quilt below.

See more about Judy's broderie perse quilts at a post I did earlier this year. Click here: http://barbarabrackman.blogspot.com/2010/01/judy-seversons-broderie-perse.html

One of the best ways to do contemporary Broderie Perse is to focus on black. Black-ground chintzes are easy to find today (although they were NEVER a traditional print style because blacks for cotton were not practical until about 1890.)

Roseanne Smith is making a Broderie Perse on black quilt. Here's a block with flowers cut out and arranged on a new background. She's ready to needleturn applique it.

Here's her leftovers. You can see she could cut general shapes because her blacks match so closely.

Here's one of her finished blocks.

This little quilt by Sujata Shah makes the most of matching blacks. That's just a strip of black-ground floral stitched above the vase. See Sujata's blog by clicking here: http://therootconnection.blogspot.com/

Logs and Leaves by Bobbi Finley
Bobby appliqued leaves cut from a dark ground print to her dark log cabin blocks.

If you've been doing Broderie Perse I'd love to see photos---in progress or finished.


  1. Very interesting posting! If you are near Lowell, MA, it's worth a visit to the New England Quilt Museum. The NEQM just opened an exhibit of Contemporary Broderie Perse running Jul 15 - Oct 17, 2010. The quilts are quite beautiful and the workmanship is spectacular. A few Broderie Perse items from the permanent collection are also on display. The contemporary BP quilts will travel to Paducah later this year. For details on the NEQM exhibit and upcoming related events, go to: http://www.nequiltmuseum.org/

  2. I love to applique, but have never tried Broderie Perse. It looks like it would be fun. Thanks for the explanation. Could you tell us how to prononounce it?

  3. Hi, what a wonderful post. Does Roseanne Smith have a blog? Here is a Broderie Perse center medallion I did with Jo's Bird Chintz fabric:
    I wanted it to really stick out so did not match background fabric.

  4. Thank you for all the info on Broderie Perse. I have tried it before many moons ago and I have the pattern ready to attempt the Sarah Morrell quilt. I am however having great difficulty in finding suitable fabrics for this technique. I expect one day I shall find something. Meanwhile I shall just keep enjoying what everyone else is doing.

  5. Answers:
    Broderie Perse is pronounced something like BRO-duh-ree Purse, at least that's the way it's pronounced in midwestern America.
    Roseanne does not have a blog. She'll laugh when she thinks about adding that to her schedule.
    Finding suitable fabrics. White ground chintzes are hard to find. Look at upholstery fabrics if you can't find them as quilt-weight prints.

  6. Another link to the show with a photo: http://www.nequiltmuseum.org/museum/current_exhibition.html

  7. I am working on the Morrell Quilt. See this blog post for a photo of my progress: http://yellowrosequilts.blogspot.com/2010/06/wednesday-kind-of-thursdayand-milestone.html
    There are many progress photos throughout my blog.
    Since that photo was taken I have made 3 more blocks. One of the main reasons I started the Morrell Quilt was to learn broderie perse.
    Thank you for all the broderie perse information on your blog.

  8. I'm also just starting the Morrell Quilt, after spending time searching for fabrics. I just prepped my first Broderie Perse block.
    Thank you Barbara for all your wonderful information here on the blog, as well as your website.

  9. I just completed a project which a friend told me was broderie perse. I googled it and found your column on the subject. I wish I'd seen this before I did my project! Anyway, here is my take on broderie perse... http://joyquilts.wordpress.com/2011/07/09/bluebirds-and-roses/