Sunday, November 18, 2018

Past Perfect: Barb Adams

Nosegay for Mother
Designed by Barb Adams
for Blackbird Designs

This month's Past Perfect featured artist is Barb Adams of Blackbird Designs,
here in a watercolor with her partner Alma Allen.

It's hard to separate Barb's work from Alma's they think so much alike.
But I have seen the label on this quilt and it said Barb was the designer.

Last year's Quilt Market in Houston

Barb & Alma are quite a force in the quilt world and have had great influence on a resurgence of interest and skills in applique design.

Gathered Harvest from their 2017 book Fresh Picked 
is folded on the quilt rack above.

They've published many books and patterns and designed many fabric collections with their signature style. They often design two versions of a quilt, each with her own choice of fabrics.

Country Rose
I bet this is Alma's choice. She loves scalloped edges.

Evening Bloom
And I bet this is Barb's choice. The color and fabric choice is often a little edgier.

From Weekend
They formed Blackbird Designs 18 years ago in 2000, publishing pattern books with quilts, rug hooking and embroidery designs.

Fresh From the Garden, 2000

Autumn Primitive

Winter Garden from
When the Cold Wind Blows


They always win best booth at Quilt Market (and deserve it)

They met in a quilt class that Alma taught. Both live near Kansas City, Barb in Missouri, Alma in Kansas. Their partnership is a classic example of a cottage industry. They design the quilts and draw the patterns, pick the fabrics and often create them, and have hired a team of stitchers to sew up their ideas.

Leona Adams (1925-2015)
For many years Barb's mom Leona was their chief stitcher.

I love their rather Gothic take on historical pattern--in the Secret Garden tradition.

Secret Garden for their Wild Orchid fabric collection

Wild Orchid print

Their gardens are rarely manicured, more likely to go to seed in untamed fashion
with vines sprouting tendrils going off in a new direction.

Quilting in the Garden

Print from Anna's Starry Night line.

A Little Flower
You can recognize their distinctive compositions: how they situate the image inside the block.
While most traditional pattern is symmetrical, theirs often are not.

Posies in the Valley

Some of their recent stuff....

Sweet Cherry Wine for Moda

The Raven with their trademark bird.

Their other major focus is cross stitch with tons of patterns and ideas for embroidery, where they are quite a success.


  1. I love all things Blackbird Designs and have for quite a while. Loved seeing pictures of them.

  2. They do have such beautiful designs. I like the asymmetrical look - it looks more natural.

  3. I've loved Blackbird Designs for decades -- I have every one of their books! I currently have Autumn Primitive in the works.

  4. Barb and Alma. Alma and Barb. As spectacularly talented, original and distinctive as their work, they're even nicer women. They are both inspirational in a thousand good ways.

    What is it about the water/air in the Kansas City/Missouri area that it has produced so many quilters and stitchers whose work changed the quilting landscape? :)

  5. Thank you for showcasing the Adams Family. Their designs that incorporate an enriching ground fabric that does not 'fight' with the appliqu├ęs is inspiring.

  6. Can someone please tell me what book the Autumn Primitive
    quilt is in. I love this pattern!

  7. Laura, it's in Garden Club, and actually in that book the quilt is called Autumn Parade :)

  8. Thank you Jeanne. I told myself I don't need anymore quilt patterns but it's really tempting.

  9. My first quilt, hand quilted, was Birdsong. I love Blackbirds sense of color, fabric and design. They are both very talented and I hope they continue designing for a long time. Love their cross stitch too. Thanks for this recognition.

  10. Love Barb and Alma quilts . I have been hunting for tneir pattern called Christmas memories. It was a 4 part in a booklet form . I would love love love if someone had that pattern I could buy . I have a picture of the booklets as well as the quilt if anyone can help me . Thanks. Kelly

  11. I would love to find a copy of The Raven book!! :)

  12. Would love to borrow or buy someone’s copy of the Posies in the Valley pattern.
    If interested please contact me. Thank you JAne