Friday, December 27, 2013

the light returns

Maybe it is because I always leave work at the same time most days but suddenly it is still almost light when I reach my car. Yes, there is only a difference of seven or eight minutes. And snow on the ground does help. But the seasons are changing. The light is clarifying. For those who don't know, the afternoon sun does start setting later long before the days get noticeably longer. Something about our orbit around the sun. I don't really care about the reason though, I just know I love having the afternoons lengthen.

And what that means for me is that Baltimore is less than two months away. You know--the Baltimore Fine Craft Show February 21-23 at the Convention Center. Yikes, it is early this year.  It is time to switch from holiday orders. That daily requirement of making my most popular items--the blue placemats. The potholders. The eyeglass cases that I know will sell. Time to start making new quilts. The ones that push me and my limits. That will hopefully stand out against the 600 other exhibitors in Baltimore. For more information:

Yet for me there is just this bit of fear and hesitation. What if I am no longer creative? Sure, I can make a tea cozy and plan five more tea cozies. That is easy. But what if I just can't create anything new and exciting and beautiful.

Now I know that if I get going the quilts will come. So I tell myself not to think too much. To just start. Make a quilt that I haven't been thinking about that much. What about the next in the desert sun series? Love those colors.

desert sun--32x48"--Ann Brauer

Start with the grey. I know that. See if that gives me the momentum. Sometimes that first block is the hardest, isn't it?

So lonely it looks by itself. Is it too blue? Too green? Do the greys work together?  I must finish that row.

Then make the green. No, I am not going to study the quilt to get the green "right". I want this quilt to have its own personality. Let the quilt choose its destiny.

Doesn't that look wonderful and fresh? Which I confess is just how I feel right now. So eager to go to work and just see what happens. Last night I even envisioned another quilt. One not even based on quilts I have previously done. Maybe I can get in the groove again. Hmm. Wonder what will happen? Does this ever happen to you? How do you get going again?

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

the custom placemats

Okay--I support myself making quilts. Hence I do take custom orders. Pretty cut and dried isn't it? Just make what the customer wants and know that it is sold. What more could I ask for? And some orders are like that--ten gold placemats. A lot of sewing but basically I know what they will look like. Sure there are some artistic considerations. After all, there is always at least one fabric that I don't have which means that I have to rethink the entire color palette. One fabric does change that much. Always. But still it is just a matter of getting them done.

But then there are the other orders. The ones that I am curious about. Can I really make it? What will it look like? You know, the order that is actually something I have been thinking about. However, I will get paid to play.

So of course I had to say yes when the customer asked me if I could make 4 placemats just like this  runner with the very skinny strips. 

table runner--blues and purples--12x40"--Ann Brauer

Yes, the colors are wonderful, aren't they? But was it doable? Would I drive myself crazy in the process? Well, there was only one way to find out. Of course I said yes.

I started sewing. Oh these seams are long.  I had to select the magenta fabrics again. As I said, if I am out of one fabric I have to rethink them all. And the placemats are just slightly wider than the runner. It is the little things that matter.

So I keep sewing. Is there too much magenta?

Does the black contain it? I sew and sew. Stop and find more of the blue and purple fabrics and keep sewing. At least I know what I will make at the studio the next day. Gradually though it takes hold. Unfortunately I forget and don't snap images of the process. Just want to get it done. Thank goodness the new motor is faster.

Finally I finish.  Can't wait to see what they will actually look like.

Placemats--Ann Brauer

Cut them to size.  Hand sew the bindings. Finish them. And think.

Are they glorious? Yes. Don't they almost glow with the colors?

Is the back fantastic? You betcha.

Placemats--back--Ann Brauer

Did it take too long for a regular item? Alas. Yes. For now. Maybe there is a way to make it a bit faster. I am not sure.

But would I--could I--do it again if asked. Ayup!!! After all there are so many possibilities. So many colors that I want to work again. Now to see if I can get an order or two to play with this idea. Maybe in this color way--wouldn't that be great?

Or maybe this one?

Do you ever take a custom order just to see what will happen? How does it work out? Any tips?

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

the quilts of Ann Brauer--winter light

Dear all,

Can you believe how dark it now is in the afternoon? It is definitely getting to be that time to hunker down by the fire (or in my case the sewing machine--and I do love the new motor by the way) and wait for the sun to return. Now certainly there are wonders to be seen in the night sky--Orion is rising higher and higher in the sky. The Milky Way flows across the sky. Sadly the Comet Ison flew too close to the sun. Although coming home from a wonderful Thanksgiving dinner after just learning the news, I did see a wonderful shooting star streak across the horizon and the Pleideas were high in the sky. Yes, I made this quilt--moon rising--in anticipation of the season.
moon rising--32x48"--quilt--Ann Brauer
Enough already. I am busy getting ready for CraftBoston this week-end. Always I look forward to this show--there is so much delightful work that I often find just that little something for my wonderful step children or even myself. This year it is at the Hynes Auditorium in Boston and promises to be larger than ever. For hours and more information do check out their web site: I am Booth 505.

Maybe it is the season, but I got inspired to make a few tea cozies this year so I could linger by the fire sipping my cup of... Of course they will be at my studio where I am working most days--unless I am at CraftBoston or the weather threatens. For those who can't make it to Shelburne Falls, I have listed several of them on my Etsy site or contact me for specific colors and designs. And do let me know what you think of them.

tea cozies--quilt--Ann Brauer

Well enough for now. I do hope I will get to see several of you either at CraftBoston or in Shelburne Falls. For the rest, have a great holiday season. Enjoy the return of the sun--it will happen soon. And do look at the night sky every once in a while.

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

the motor transplant--a love story

Now usually--as faithful readers of my blog will know--I write about dilemmas. Artistic questions--how do I design the quilt for the particular space, what is the color grey?  Or maybe I am going to a craft show. How do I arrange the display? You know the questions. Maybe by now you even know the answers.

This time though it is slightly different. Sure I am working on a big quilt for a customer which I want to get finished.

Yes, I am even getting ready for a show--CraftBoston this December 6-8 at the Hynes Auditorium in Boston.  For more info: There is even Moonlight Magic in Shelburne Falls this Friday. Parades. Candles. Music. I will be open until at least nine.

No this time I am writing a love story about my sewing machine. Now it is a Singer 281-3. A very standard industrial sewing machine. Apparently they made the same design from the 40's through the 80's. A few variations. Just enough so that those who really know sewing machines can date them.  Not me though. If I am told that my machine was made in the 60s I will believe them. After all I have had it since 1983. Bought it in West Springfield shortly after I decided to become a serious quilt maker. When the Kenmore I had purchased in high school for $20 finally gave up the ghost (or maybe it didn't since it was a metal machine but that is another story.)

And this machine has served me well. When I first got it, I was living by myself in a little house in the woods. Yes, I loaded it into my car and somehow or other managed to get it up the steps and into the house by myself. Oh I was so eager to try it out. But it sure was heavy even though it does come apart. You can remove the head easily though even that is heavy. I know. A couple of times I have had to take it down to West Springfield to get it fixed. There is an oil pan that comes off also.

It survived moving to my DH's house. Upstairs. Downstairs. It loved being in my darling studio in Shelburne Falls where I could sit and watch the Deerfield River flow by and the colors of the season move up and down Mount Massamont. 

And yes, it survived floating. Still has a few water spots on the throat plate where the water lapped at its edge. But one new starter switch and a flushed system later and the machine was good to go. Thanks Dick and Diane.

And yes, the machine survived ME. Sure I changed the oil every once in a while. Cleaned out the motor when I remembered. Even got a few new belts--the ones from the auto shop work just fine. Thank you.

Now of course there were a few things I didn't particularly like about it. I had it set at the slow speed of about 2000 stitches per minute. Fast enough usually but I sometimes wondered if I should switch pulleys and go at 3000. Never did though. And it was noisy. Turn it on and there is the sound of the motor. Always. I think it bothered my neighbors. The walls in my current studio are thin. Sorry.

But still I was not prepared to hear that ominous whirr in the motor Monday. The high pitch squeal that had never been there. The refusal of the engine to stop spinning long after I had shut off the power. Like the clutch in the clutch engine was gone. This could not be good. Argh!!! Had I tortured it to death by not cleaning the lint often enough? Was it the lasting effects of Irene? Who knew?

But there was no time for an analysis. Could I get it working again quickly?  I did not want to move the entire machine down to West Springfield to get it fixed. Ugh!!! I had far too much work to do. And it is HEAVY!!! Could I get a new motor and install it myself?  Time for some quick internet research. How lucky we are to have such a resource. Yes motors were available. Yes, they can be installed.  A quick decision. Contact my friends in West Springfield. Now they now sell a different engine. But yes, it could be delivered the next day. And yes, the holes are the same. Time to see if I can get my DH to help. What a sweetheart.

I removed the oil. We took off the head. And the oil pan.  My DH removed the bolts.

Removed the cords. Of course it was unplugged.

 Put on the new engine.  It is so tiny. Almost light weight by comparison.

The instructions were impossible. Translated Chinese is not my forte. A few diagrams that I really could not figure out. A few replacement parts that were beyond me. Adjusted the treadle. Realized that the included belt did not work but the old belt was just fine. How lucky I am that my DH is so good with such things. There he is adjusting the new motor.

And then to learn to use the new motor. This one is variable speed. I can dial fast or slow. That is the little blue dial you see there. This could actually be fun. Yes, I confess I made some potholders at my normal speed. Just to get the hang of it. And then I had to take it out for a full throttle test run. 3500. Unbelievably fast.  And unlike my old machine it does not run until I press the foot treadle. It is so quiet. How long will it take me to get used to this. But it works. Sweet. How great it feels to have a working machine again. How lost I felt without it.

For those in the area, I  hope you will drop by some time soon to see the new engine. Maybe even during Moonlight Magic. If I am not busy maybe I will run it for you. Full speed ahead. Just so you can see. And if you are not and have an industrial, do realize that the new--or well not 30 year old motors--are adjustable. But probably you knew that already. After all, I make quilts and only learn as much about sewing machines as I have to.

So what problems have you solved recently? What sewing machine do you use? And why do machines always challenge you when you were most busy?

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

getting it done--another take on custom orders

Now some custom orders I do require that I rethink my color way or stretch the concept of my quilts to fit the space. As I wrote recently, these are challenging but I always feel like I gain so much in doing it.

Others though, like the one I am currently working on, are more subtle. An existing quilt is just perfect only it is the wrong size. The wrong shape for the given space. If only I can just shrink and stretch the quilt to size. And I confess it can take me a bit of time to get started. After all, this should be simple, I think in my famous last words.

That is the case with my quilt--colors of the rain. This quilt was 45x45 inches. I had made it once. The customers loved it--but they need a piece that is 60 inches wide by 36 inches tall. Lovely quilt, isn't it?

colors of the rain--45x45"--quilt--Ann Brauer
 Lovely quilt. Nice soft colors. And I confess I contemplate the quilt. Wishing that I could just copy this piece and mark off another order as "Done." But I know deep in my experience that it does not work that way.

Now for those who have been following my blog will know, I am building a new studio. Yeah!!! But what you may not know is that for the last few weeks little work has been done on this project. Where or where is the plumber? I keep asking. Don't they know how much I long to move into my new space? And yes, it is a drag on my psyche no matter how much I try not to think about it.

So I decide that the best course will be to get this quilt done. After all, I don't want to be a similar drag on someone else's psyche. Especially not a good customer. So I tell myself to make what I know.

And I cut the strips for one of the grey rows.

Of course no matter how much I have thought it out previously, it will not be the same. Some fabrics are used up. And changing one fabric changes all the others.

And I sew a length of the grey. Lovely colors aren't they? Isn't the texture fabulous?

OK only three more rows to do. And gradually I work on it. A bit ever day. After all there is only so much grey I can work on in November. But finally all four are done. I hang them up and try to absorb their colors.

I play with the order. Move the tan away from the mauve. Amazing how subtle but true the color gradations are. Finally I get it right. Figure out the math of the quilt. And carefully cut the pieces. Laying out the framework of the piece. 

Yes, someone comes in to the studio and asks if these are samples. Okay. I explain that it is my design board. I need to fill in the blanks.

But still there is progress. And as for my studio, well let's not go there just yet--although I promise you will be the first to know when I hear. Meanwhile send me a good thought about plumbers. Actually seeing them. And keeping my patience in the process.

So how do you do it?  What tricks do you have?

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

chasing rainbows

Now as readers of my blog well know, I have a love-hate relationship with custom orders. On the one hand, I also worry if I am going to get the piece just right for the customer. After all, they are entrusting me to add a piece that meets their vision to their home. What a responsibility. I must examine the images of the room and try to absorb it before I create just the right quilt.

On the other hand, I find the finished quilt does stretch me in ways that I would not always venture. This is especially true of large quilts.

Of course the customer may want to know what the quilt looks like before I make it--this is only fair. Indeed it helps me refine my vision. But I am a self taught artist and while I may get the vision in my mind, frequently it is hard for me to convey the concept to the customer.

So sometimes I do what I do best--make a quilt. Think with the fabric. Make sure that my idea works.

This time, the order is for a large quilt similar to my quilt "rainbows of autumn."

rainbows of autumn--quilt--45x45"--Ann Brauer

But using the piecing techniques of "winter light". You may remember this quilt also. Large strips with colors that progress from light to dark. Of course this time, the inserts are not included.

winter light--99x99 inches--quilt--Ann Brauer

However the colors will be different. The teals and oranges of spring. Just a bit of fuschia. Some  browns and tans. Blues. I don't want a color progression but more the rolling colors of "rainbows of autumn". So I arrange and rearrange the fabrics.

And start to sew. Yes, this sample will be smaller--much smaller than the finished quilt so I can't use nearly as many fabric. But maybe it will give me an idea what it will look like and help me learn what the possibilities of this colorway are. What changes I need to make. Let me see.

Not bad. I am not sure about that yellow--is it too bright? And the one complex color running through may be more conceptual than actual. Hmmm.

A bit more of how it will look. Let me continue.

A little more rounded out with that brown on the bottom and a bit more blue on the top. It may be too orange. Where is the fuschia? And I do want the colors to roll just a bit more. But still a start.

Now it is getting to be fun. What a fun colorway. What do you think? Do you ever make small samples like this? What will the customer think?

To be continued.....

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

the quilts of Ann Brauer--boo!!

OK--after a wonderful and prolonged early fall we do have just a hint of that s*** word in the forecast.  I doubt if it will come to anything. This is October after all. But I am leaving for the Washington Craft Show tomorrow morning--yikes is it early this year, I just had to write before Halloween.

Yes, as those who have been following me on Facebook know, my new building is coming along. It has a roof and the awning over the ramp is now covered although I am still waiting for the floor to be installed. I guess patience is a virtue although perhaps not my best attribute.

Anyhow I will be at the Washington Craft Show this November 1-3 at the Walter Washington Convention Center. This has got to be one of the most beautiful and sophisticated shows I I do. So much amazing work that I am constantly in awe of. If you get a chance do come by and see it. Note that on Friday November 1 from 6-8 tickets are only $6. What a bargain. And for those who asked, I will bring a couple dozen potholders--just ask. Also lots of eyeglass cases, purses, potholders, etc. And a few absolutely wonderful quilts and wall hangings. I do hope to see some of you there.

Once I return from that show I will be at the studio working hard. Moonlight Magic is scheduled for November 29th I believe--the Friday after Thanksgiving from 4 until I go home. And of course you can check out the progress of my building if you are in town.

And for those who can't make it to DC or Shelburne Falls, I have been working on my Etsy site. Indeed the Quilt of the Month--after the storm--is posted there. You know the routine. There is one quilt. It goes to the first person who buys it. Shipping will be after I return from the Washington Show. This is an image of the quilt hanging in the studio. For the next ten days or until purchased, this quilt which had been listed for $820 is only $450 plus shipping. Here is my Etsy shop where you can purchase it:

Next month I will be at CraftBoston at the Hynes December 6-8. Otherwise I should be working in the studio--though do call first if you are coming from a distance.

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

wordless Wednesdays--the melancholy of autumn

A gentle sky. The leaves softly float to the ground. And still there are the subtle, almost wistful colors of autumn. So many variations. So much to absorb. The sadness of hydrangeas. The final glory of peonies. Hostas sinking back to earth. The longing of distant trees. So much to see. So few words. Let me begin.


What do you think? What colors do you long for?

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Third times the charm

Done. Finally done. Oh how I do love to hang a new quilt up so I can admire it.  What a feeling of relief and satisfaction that finally it works. Looks good, doesn't it?

Gentle ocean--quilt--32x48"--Ann Brauer

And yet, if you are like me, you don't even want to think about how long it takes to go from the concept to the finished quilt. This time I was really racing. After all, the Washington Craft Show is November 1-3 at the DC Convention Center. How soon that seems. How nervous I always get before this show. So much incredibly beautiful--dare I say it--breathtaking work there. I want to make sure I show my very best side. Here is the website if you are in the area:

So I start with the concept. The first few blocks are easy this time.

Maybe too easy.

A row or two a day. The quilt seems to be falling into place. Until I look at the finished sketch.

Yes, there is a problem. That bottom row. Isn't it too dark, too sultry for the quilt. Of course I go home for the day. Maybe over night it will resolve itself, right?

But no. It is still wrong. I make several blocks in softer browns. Is that the answer?

Does that help? Better. But still not really the answer, is it? Time to go home again. Think some more. Maybe the answer is right under my nose. Maybe the problem is the brown. What about green? Would that give the quilt the lightness I want? I pin up some fabric. Think. Ponder. Finish more eyeglass cases. Well, the only way out is to try.

Yes Yes Yes. Of course I still have to sew the quilt together. Ugh.  And I do need to resolve the color and size of the orange block. But that is another story. Or rather a variation of the story that I just told which I am sure you do not need to hear again. So now I get to begin the process again. Work on another quilt. And patiently try to explain how long it really takes to make a quilt.

Does this ever happen to you? What is your solution when it just doesn't look right? And will I get to see any of you at the Washington Craft Show or maybe CraftBoston in December or the studio?

Saturday, October 5, 2013

the quilts of Ann Brauer--autumn leaves

Yes, October is speeding by. The leaves out here are turning the most wonderful golds, rusts and really bright reds. My garden is awash in leeks, celeriac, parsley, peppers, tomatillas and tomatoes. Our three pumpkins--boo, Boo and BOO are sitting on the porch. And most importantly, we have a new kitten. Black with white paws and a white underbelly. She is absolutely darling as she chases her tail around and around the living room floor.

Meanwhile I have been busy in the studio finishing my fall orders, showing my quilts to the many tourists in town--this year they seem to be coming from Japan, Germany and Canada as well as many from the States. Amazing how the colors that surround me influence the quilts that I make. Don't  these placemats just glow with the colors of autumn?

Gold placemat--13x19"--Ann Brauer

Now onto the news. Next week-end I will be showing at the Paradise City Arts Festival in Northampton, MA October 12-14. For those who have been this is an event not to be missed with more than 260 top artists including fine crafts, jewelry, painting and of course the amazing sculpture garden. In addition several of Northampton's best restaurants will be serving food--I do spend more time eating there than perhaps I should. And there is great music in the food tent daily. I am Booth 924 in the Main Building right by the food tent--as I said the food is good. For more information and discounted tickets go to  And needless to say--the studio will be closed October 11-14 as I set up and show in Northampton.

Later in this month I will be driving to the Washington Craft Show at the Convention Center in Washington, DC. This year the show is early--November 1-3 but promises to be as spectacular as ever and should provide some escape from the drama that exists. But enough about that.  I will write more about this show later this month but for more info:

And hopefully next week I should see more progress on my building. It can take a while apparently to get the plumbers. Sigh.

Now for the Quilt of the Month. This month I chose "Red sky". It is a quilt I made in magentas and teals that captures the moment when the sun bursts above the horizon. The quilt itself is 32x48". Normally it is $800 but for the next ten days or until sold it is $400 plus tax and shipping. I did list it on my Etsy shop so if you are interested do check it out here or feel free to contact me with questions.

red sky--32x48"--quilt--Ann Brauer

If I am not at a show, I should be working in my studio though as you can tell from this letter, do contact me first if you are coming from a distance. And I do have some of my smaller items--eyeglass cases, pillows and purses posted on my Etsy shop if you want.

Hope you all enjoy the colors of the season.