Friday, September 28, 2012

the quilts of Ann Brauer--legends of the dawn

Dear all,

I know. I didn't send my monthly newsletter last month.  But  I am still here. Still working hard. Indeed the reason was that I have been working too hard. As many of you know, I have been doing lots of experimenting with piecing very skinny strips of fabric. As those who have seen my eyeglass cases or pillows, these strips produce wonderful intense colors and textures that I just want to run my fingers over. I have also included them as accents in some of my wall hangings.

But after I returned from the American Craft Exposition in Evanston, IL I realized that I wanted to make a large--as in LARGE--size quilt using these thin strips. 

Finally--after coming in early and leaving late, I got the quilt sewn together yesterday. It is too big to snap a picture of the whole quilt in the studio although many who have seen parts of it have loved it. To some it seems very essential and simple. Yet others have noted that in its simplicity it is also a demanding quilt. There is definitely a substance about the back that enchants me.  I have decided to name it--legends of the dawn.

OK--I do have to show it off. Yes, it does look different from many of my quilts. Here is the bottom part of the quilt draped over two ladders.

Above the red stripe is a study in grey.

What do you think? An interesting new direction or not?

 If you want to see the whole quilt I will be at the Paradise City Arts Festival October 6-8 at the Three County Fairgrounds in Northampton. For more info or discount tickets do check out their web site: If not at a show, I will be working in the studio most days. And in November I will be at the Providence Furniture Show at the Pawtucket Armory November 2-4 and the Washington Craft Show November 16-18. But more on those next month.

And for those who sew--did you see my article in the most recent issue of Machine Quilting Unlimited--where I tell how I make the more familiar quilt as you go wall hangings.

Well, this e-mail has gone on forever. Please forgive me.  I hope to see many of you this month or next.

Monday, September 24, 2012

What was I thinking?

I don't know about you--but when I am working on a large quilt--and yes, this one is BIG as you may remember--I can reach a point where it feels like I have been working forever and still am not even close to being done. I mean, I go to the studio every morning as early as I can and start to sew. I keep sewing and cutting and thinking until the day is done. Then I go home exhausted and still it seems like there is so much to do. Sigh.

I do have the new quilt about 70% pieced for those who are counting and yes, I do measure it far too frequently. I even have it so I can hang it as I see it will be. Like this.

It still needs one more row of dark black at the top. Then the bottom strips need to be joined. And two more rows of dark black at the bottom to anchor it. Long long seams. And of course I have to square it off, press it, clean it, bind it. Argh!!!

Each strip is painting with fabric. After all I don't get this wonderful rich grey just by sewing the same strips together. That would just be sewing and that definitely does not interest me. Instead the quilt is rich with so many different colors and fabrics. Just look at this assortment.

Still I worry. Is it too rich with color? Will the design work? It is so simple. Did I make the right choices? Should I have gone for a more complex design? Should I hang it the other way?

And yet, there is no way to change it now. I just have to keep sewing and trust that I made the right choices and that this was all worth it.  Was it wise of me to spend so much time working on this quilt when I do have so many wonderful craft shows just around the corner? What do you think? Does this ever happen to you? How do you get things done?

Thursday, September 20, 2012

THINKING B-I-G !!! the first steps

OK--every once in a while I just want to make a big quilt. You know, the quilt that makes everyone stop and look again. So beautiful, so all encompassing that people stop in the aisles and just go WOW. The quilt that defines the booth and makes it memorable among all the other great booths at the craft fair. After all, I have so many wonderful shows lined up for this autumn. The Paradise City Show in Northampton. The Providence Fine Furnishing Show in Pawtucket. The Washington Craft Show. What was I thinking? But I digress.

Now I have been working very very hard this summer getting ready. Designing and making these long rivers. Table runners or are they wall hangings? You may remember these. Eighty inches long.

Very thin strips of fabric. The colors much more intense in actuality than this photo shows. Somehow these could become part of a large quilt. Now when I make a large quilt, I want it to have more than one use. Sure, it can dominate a large wall. Or it can inspire a large quilt custom made for a particular space. Fine by me. But I also want it to cover a bed. Now, I know there are some quilt makers who shudder at this thought. How dare you put an art quilt on a bed? Isn't this reducing the value and implied importance of an art quilt?

Yet, think about it. Not everyone has a large wall but beds are basically a large space that can display art. Sure, if it is used, it will soften a bit and show the human touch. But on the other hand doesn't it allow the owner to really interact with the art on a daily basis?

Now if one is making an art quilt there are some considerations that are different from wall quilts. First and probably foremost, the construction must be substantial. I will be the first to admit that some art quilts just should not be placed on a bed. Second, there are some size considerations. For instance on a queen size bed, the top is 60 x 80 inches and then the cover frequently hangs down on three sides. Doesn't this need to be incorporated into the design?

Finally there is the look of the quilt. Sure, there are lots of wonderful classic and many new designs for bed quilts. But I want to make one that is distinctly mine. Modern. Wonderful colors. A quilt that I can see in a sophisticated home. Preferably with a designer bed. But fitting in to the idea of a bedroom as perhaps a restful place. A place of dreams and lingering.

So many things to consider. But sometimes you just have to start. So I sketch. Draw. Imagine in my head at five in the morning. And finally get the courage up and make the first long river. Wonderful colors. I pin it up on my design board and try out colors to co-ordinate with it.

Hmmm. What do you think? A story to be continued? Do you ever make bed quilts? Do you think art quilts should be made for the bed? How do you start? And perhaps most importantly--will I get it done in time for these shows?

Monday, September 17, 2012

return to the mountain

Sometimes it is the small details that make the quilt. For those who may remember, I have been working in the next of my series--the promise of mountains. How complex the colors are. How many decisions I have had to make to get just the right effect. But then, just when I think it is done, I question whether I have the color of the mountains right in this particular quilt.

Are the oranges that I initially planned too rich, too warm? Too expected, if you know what I mean.

I look at it. Pause. Take a step or two back. Look again. Check it out up close. Maybe the problem is these two oranges. Maybe they need a bit more pizazz. Hmm.

Well sometimes, the best solution is no solution. One of the problems is that quilts do look different when the blocks are sewn together. OK. I don't have to make any rash decisions. Just start joining the blocks at the top. Work on other projects as I ponder and absorb what I have done. Try to project what could be.

At five the next morning I wonder if maybe I should not be using orange. Maybe that is the problem.
What if I try gold?

 No, that will not hold up when it is pieced in. Interesting though. What about a brighter purple? Would that echo the line of purple?

Again perhaps not enough zip there. Too landscapey--is that a word? Will it just look like a bump in the line when I piece it? What about green?

I do like it. But would the mountains be green in the light? Doesn't the quilt look more autumnal than a green mountain? OK--maybe I am thinking about this too much. Maybe I should just go for it. After all, isn't your first hunch often the right one. And I do want to finish this quilt since I am doing the Paradise City Arts Festival October 6-8. It would sure look nice in my booth wouldn't it? For more info:

Yes, that does seem to glow doesn't it? A bit of a story. The warmth in the sky. Amazing how different the quilt looks when it is sewn together, isn't it? What do you think?  A good choice? Does this ever happen to you? How do you decide the little details?

Thursday, September 13, 2012

take two

OK--I love this quilt. Part of my promise of mountains series. I find the colors haunting. And I love the  energy of the black and white stripes floating above the mountains.

 Indeed I had always seen this as part of a series. I knew I had to make a quilt based on this fabric.

 Isn't it wonderful? Such a lush combination of colors. But maybe I did not want to work with these muted colors in the summer when I think of bright reds and greens, pure blues. Or maybe I couldn't quite see the design of the next quilt. After all, I did not want to duplicate what I had previously done but wanted to push the design. Or maybe--and there is some truth to this also--I feared it would be hard to capture the same complexity of colors that I used in the first quilt. After all, just look at all the colors I had to use to create the overall effect.

In any case, I had not started this quilt until a customer of mine was searching for another quilt. Yes, the colors were just perfect. But the black and white block stopped them. And indeed in the particular space, it was not right.  Sure I could just remake the quilt without the black and white block--but that would not create the series that I envisioned.

And so I woke up early one morning and planned the new quilt. Plums and gentle burned orange. Muted greys and dusty greens. So lush it seemed in my mind. I forced myself to start. First the gentle plums. That was the color I was sure of. A bit of warmth but still toned down. Not too dark but still an anchor for the quilt. Nice, isn't it?

 Then the gentle yellows and oranges. How hard this is. I certainly wanted the colors to glow--but still they had to be soft and muted. A bit dusty. How few fabrics I had that worked. How careful I had to be in the color combinations.

 Yes, this seemed to be close. Now the entire row. It does create a color, doesn't it?

OK, now if I can just continue. Moving upward in the colors and keeping it warm but muted. Then one more row on the bottom. Perhaps a dusty green with just a hint of life to it. And the mountains--perhaps more rust orange this time. The sun has caught them at twilight.  Hmmm. I love it when I can't wait to get back to the studio and work with these colors, don't you? Won't the two quilts look good together? Maybe I should think of a third quilt in this series. Do you work in series? How do you plan them?

Friday, September 7, 2012

it's in the details

OK--I have been so busy trying to finish this quilt that I haven't posted as frequently as I would like. As you may remember I have been making a version of prairie sky for a lovely woman. Yes, it has been on my design board for a long time. I want to finish it. The customer wants her quilt.

Finally I get it pieced. Stand back and look at it. Yes, the customer wants green on the bottom. I had considered teal but she likes the green. No problem. It does punch up the colors more.

But should I do more. Does the green make the colors too yellow? She wants oranges, not pinks. But she does want a glow of dawn.  Should I punch it up a bit? Or is this too obvious?

Don't know. What do you think? I'll leave it up on the design board as I sew the blocks together. How long that takes. Only 23 separate tasks.  Well, that is one of the games I play with myself. Seven rows of blocks to sew together. Six seams to join the rows. Four binding sides. And Velcro on top and bottom--that is two rows of sewing on the top or bottom.

Silly isn't it? But I like to feel I am making progress. Give myself a goal for each day. You see I can't do that much hand sewing every day and this is my least favorite part of making a quilt. But I will get it done. And then the design board will be free and I can start another project. Maybe in colors of the autumn. Mmm.

And you--do you think the orange sunrise is too striking? Too obvious? And how do you get tasks done when they seem to drag? Any hints?