Sue Reich's new book World War II Quilts shows a news clipping from January 14, 1934 about an applique quilt that Quilters Hall of Fame Honoree Ruth E. Finley designed, made and gave to Eleanor Roosevelt. This quilt has a black background with a medallion appliqued center.
I was contacted by several quilt history friends about "black background applique quilts" and was reminded that Patricia Campbell's quilt JACOBEAN ARBOR appeared on the cover of American Quilter Summer 1990, Vol. VI, No. 2.
Pat is known for her beautiful applique quilts though she does not make them all with black backgrounds by any stretch of the imagination. However, JACOBEAN ARBOR which did have a black background certainly did catch a lot of people's attention in 1990.
Also, A Treasury of Mennonite Quilts by Rachel & Kenneth Pellman has a Whig Rose applique quilt on p. 61 that is on a dark navy blue background. It is dated ca1870.
Affairs of the Heart by Aie Rossmann was published in 2004 and is a quilt with 36 appliquéd blocks on a black background. See a review of her book here.
I found another quilter who enjoys dark background applique—Kathy Delaney.
I asked her what had inspired her to do dark background applique. I am going to insert some images of her quilts that she sent me to illustrate her work in her response:
Delaney wrote: The Prairie Flower Journal and Red Hot Women of Design are patterns by Barbara Brackman and appear in a couple of her books - Prairie Flowers and Women of Design (Prairie Flower Journal even graces the cover of her book). Imperial Garden is my first appliqué - the pattern from Emily Senuta I mentioned earlier - and Pots de Fleurs is my original design and the subject of my latest book (#7) Pots de Fleurs: A Garden of Appliqué Techniques.
I decided to go thru all my back issues of Quilters Newsletter to see when the first one appears in their pages.
I'll keep you posted.
PS: I have always been partial to applique. Betty Ekern Suiter may not be known specifically for her black background applique, but her applique work is exquisit nevertheless. Check it out here.
July 2011 Update: Here is another link to another gorgeous contemporary black background quilt.
After discovering a website selling Uzbek textiles in August 2010, I wrote a bit about their similarity to American quilts. But it was the black background textiles that rang a bell.
Check my current update concerning this type of quilt in the USA.