Caroline Higgs – Series #1 – Black and white

Series: I Never Saw Another Butterfly no° 1

On a recent trip to Israel I visited the Holocaust Museum and browsing around the shop as we left I found a book of children’s drawings and poems from the Terezin Concentration camp with the title “I Never Saw Another Butterfly” which is the name of a poem in the book written by Pavel Friedmann dated June 4th 1942.

As I reflected upon what I had seen, and read, I threw out my original ideas for black and white realising that I wanted to use the butterfly from the poem as my series because I could see how the idea would develop. I have kept it simple by using a commercial white floral cotton fabric as a background upon which I machine quilted the outlines of nine butterflies, those which have disappeared, giving them some detail but not much. The two larger butterflies are fused, raw-edge appliquéd by machine with zig-zag stitch using a very fine  black thread.

The commercial black cotton fabric I have chosen to use has a type of wire fence motif which, for me, represents the fences around the concentration camps and the areas on the wings which would usually be coloured are empty and therefore the butterflies themselves are disappearing. The edges are bound with the same white fabric which was applied before the quilting and appliqué so that the binding was integral to the design, almost enclosing the image as though some of the butterflies are escaping. I was going to add more hand stitching but  I have left it very simple because I wanted to create something that was stark and cold.



black and white, white backgrounds, commercial fabric, machine quilting, fused raw-edge appliqué, bound edges

  1. Amazing interpretation, I am impressed with your treatment of a delicate subject, this quilt has meaning not only to you but for all the Jewish community. Bravo

  2. The story is heart breaking and by keeping your shapes and stitches simple you have captured the importance of the subject.
    Your black and white fabric for the butterflies is perfect.

  3. At first notice I thought this are just butterflies, but after reading your statement I see all the symbolism in your quilt. You picked the right black and white fabric. Great!

  4. I got goose bumps reading your description. The disappearing butterflies in the quilting are so effective and say it all, as is the fabric you used for the butterflies. It reminds me so much of the Children’s Memorial at Yad Vashem. Very impressive as is this quilt.

  5. Deep message in your quilt. I love the invisible butterflies in the quilting. Very effective use of white on white. Beautiful work!

  6. joanbrailsford

    A very poignant subject which you have handled beautifully I like the simplicity of the butterfly shapes in the background, and the choice of the understated black print fabric for the large butterflies is perfect. Well done.

  7. Very touching! Just shows you why a description is important. I like the quilting as well. Understated yet spot on!

  8. The meaning of your work is very touching. You managed with simplicity combined with the strength of black and white to give us the idea of this terrible historical moment. You managed the relationship between black and white very well. The idea of working white on white is interesting.Bravo!

  9. What a deep and thought provoking quilt. Well thought out and effective.
    Well done Caroline.

  10. Reading you description and looking at the details of your work you describe, the story and meaning behind it, makes me speechless. You absolutely did all the right things to express your feelings by this terrible history and translate it in black and white.

  11. English quilter

    An outstanding rendition of a very sad topic. The artwork and writings of the children held in Terezin are extraordinary, and you have done a wonderful job of capturing the simplicity of their works and the emotions we feel on examining them, with the hollow areas in the butterflies.

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