The last word on Japanese Taupes

The last word on Japanese Taupes
by Charlene Mills

If you attended last Monday’s meeting, you got quite an eyeful of these subtle, highly blendable fabrics from presenters Katie Migliano and Rosemary Malzahn of Bigsby’s Sewing Center. Here are some additional tips.
Taupes, as the name implies, are grayed down.  Seldom will you see a solid, single-hue Taupe; they usually involve overdyes, a complex color scheme or texture. The yarn-dye textures include medium-scale plaids, or smaller-scale checks and raised dots. All come in standard 45 WOF. Forget about finding an extra-wide Taupe for a quilt back, or precuts.
There are few online sources for Japanese Taupes ( comes to mind). Luckily Bigsby’s has the widest selection just about anywhere. I know this because I am a dedicated Web surfer and have yet to find a good site that offers a wider variety.
Top manufacturers and designers
Look for Daiwabo, Lecien, Kinkame.
Taupe prints are priced at or a tad above most other premium quilting cottons, The yarn-dyes are at a premium, upwards of $19. Forget about waiting for a sale or closeout; it just won’t happen.
Historical background
It is said that Taupes remind the Japanese of the fabrics their grandmothers and great-grandmothers wore for casual dress: sturdy cottons that could take the wear-and-tear of everyday life, with an ashy background to hide dirt, and prints that reflected the natural world. (In contrast, silk, the brighter the better, was the preferred fabric for anything formal.)
Today, Taupes – Japanese, European -- as nearly all quilting cottons, are produced in Asia, either Japan or Korea.
Adding Taupes to your quilting
If you tend toward s low-contrast and/or muted palette, no problem. Buy a few fat-quarter bundles, and add cuts here and there in your next quilt project. I suggest that you spring for a fat quarter bundle in your favorite neutral for starters. Or buy a yard of an ombre plaid or dot yarn-dye (see photo); they are truly unique in the quilting world and quite beautiful. Other suggestions:
• Make a tote or handbag using a Taupe as a featured fabric. Add accents from your current stash. I have used semi-bright solid silks for contrast in a Taupe tote, and I think wool appliqué could be used successfully with the yarn-dyes as the weights match. The subdued colors and fiber quality of Taupes provide a perfect base for sashiko (thick thread) embroidery or heavy machine quilting.
• If you find Taupes too wimpy, try this: Buy a yard of the brightest, warmest Taupe you can find – that will be a pale gold or old rose – and try a lap quilt using your deepest blacks or browns as the background. Also, Taupes play well with batiks, print textures (such as Kim Schaefer’s textured solids collection) and blenders.
• Make a small mini quilt or table runner using only Taupes. Try one of the more intricate Asian-inspired quilt blocks from a book on the subject. (My fave is Japanese Taupe Quilts by Susan Briscoe.)
• Japanese Taupe plaids or tattersalls make great men’s’ shirts and masculine quilts.

Let us know how you’ve successfully combined Taupes with brights and graphic or high-contrast modern prints. 

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