Friday, February 28, 2014

Making it my own

Recently I have been thinking a lot about how I can take a technique and make it work for my quilts. Oh sure, I know there are those who try a method once and then move on to another style. It may be fun for them, but for me I want to know what it is I can do with it--what are the limits--how can I get it to say what I want it to say. I need to know it and play with it until it becomes  almost second nature to me.

Now those who have been following me know I have been resisting quilting on top of my work for years. Oh, sure I occasionally try it just to see what it will look like. And in the past, I have rejected it since it seems to confine the wonderful prints that I use in ways that I don't like.

But I have known even when I made winter light with my new straight lines, that there was something missing. How though to add it without feeling like I was just adding it to be in with the in crowd if you know what I mean.

winter light--quilt--Ann Brauer

This was even more true for dreaming the rainbow. Now I love this quilt. And I am pleased to say it has a happy home. There were others at the show who also loved the many fabrics that I used to create the white on white canvas. But still it seemed to need more and indeed I had dreamed of adding quilting to the white part but just did not visualize it.

dreaming the rainbow--quilt--Ann Brauer

Until that is--the Baltimore show. I was kitty-corner from Erin Wilson's work. Her new quilts have a minimalist quilting stitch that works so perfectly for their design. Not what I was looking for but it got my mind to thinking. You can check out her web site here: As did Lisa Call's quilts which are now using the quilting stitch as a brush stroke--exquisite.  Her website is No I did not take pictures. I did not want to get too close to their technique. Just wanted to absorb the essence and see if that gave me clues to the question whether I can add machine quilting on top of my quilts and have it add to the quilt not just seem extraneous.

And then I decided I just had to try. I dug out a table runner I had started a couple years ago when I was trying to learn my straight lines and decided I could play with that. If I wrecked it, I would not be unhappy. Not bad, is it? And not as agonizing as I thought it might be. I love the substance it gives, don't you?

table runner--12x39"--Ann Brauer

detail of table runner--Ann Brauer

Time to try another. What happens if I switch the black lines to green? Will it still work? Will practice make the quilting straighter?  How do you get to Carnegie Hall? I choose a few fabrics and cut them out. Make a design that worked the first time. Sometimes I have to make things several times just to figure them out.

table runner--green stripes--Ann Brauer

Yes, that works too. Maybe not as well as the first one--but not bad. So now my mind starts to race. What else can I do? What fabrics can I use? I think of a design. Colors I want to try and cut it out.

Hmm. May not have been the best choice. What happens when I quilt it?

mauve--table runner--Ann Brauer

Slightly better. Certainly there are possibilities here--though some of the fabrics had too much design and the red should have been more consistent. Sometimes I just reach too far. Live and learn.  Isn't this part of making a technique your own? One more try. I have been dreaming of yellows. So again, what happens if...

A little too bold and ordinary without the quilting, isn't it? But still I am curious.

table runner--gold--Ann Brauer

Yes, it does seem to be making more of a statement. The lines are getting straighter. The fabric selection is getting better. Now to finish it and then re-examine the process. Will it work where I want it do? Probably make a couple more as I think about a larger piece. See what happens. I know I will take a couple of them to the Paradise City Arts Festival. Get a reaction. For more info on the Paradise Show: You can even get $2 off your admission if you go to this site.

What do you think? Are the table runners too simple? Can I use this for a larger quilt? And what hints do you have for making a technique yours?

Thursday, February 13, 2014

How long does it take?

Now one of the questions I know I will get asked all the time at the Baltimore Craft Show--yes, it is next week-end and my Booth is 4209--is "How long did it take to make that quilt?"

Such a good question. After all, the questioner may be genuinely interested or at least they want to talk. Why, after all, do people come to Craft Shows? Sure, some of them want to see what a particular artist is doing. Or they may have an empty wall--a gift to give--a special occasion. Or they may just be tired of winter. Aren't we all? But many I believe come because it is fun to talk with the artists--what were they thinking when they made the piece? What is their process? Just that glimpse of our lives. And quite frankly it is an honor to try to answer their inquiries.

But this question is always such a hard one answer. Sure there is the basic reply--how long did it take to sew the quilt? Yes, the construction is a factor. After all, quilts do not just sew themselves even though I wish they did--sigh. And there is lots of finish work that people don't even think about. It took me a couple hours just to baste the Velcro onto the back of my most recent quilt for hanging. Boring.

rainbow quilt--40x40 inches--copyright Ann Brauer

Time to clean up the loose threads. Even time to pack it into the back of my van so I can take time to have its image taken by my wonderful photographer on Friday. Thanks John Polak for rescheduling.

But then I decided I had to try to make just that one more wall hanging--or is it a table runner--for the Baltimore Show. I loved the central rainbow in this quilt and thought it would look fabulous as a quilt to draw people into my booth. Yes, that is always a consideration, isn't it? And hopefully it will impress people.

Now I had previously made other long wall hangings so I did know what I needed to do to start the piece. These were experiments that I had done in 2012. They took a lot of time of course.

rainbow river--12x80"--Ann Brauer
I already had chosen many of the colors from the quilt I just finished--does that count in the new wall hanging?  Indeed I had used the colors in my quilt--rainbows of the dawn. Does that thought process count?

rainbows of the dawn--45x45"--copyright Ann Brauer

Or going back to rainbows of summer. You can see the theme here can't you?

rainbows of summer--99x99"--copyright Ann Brauer

I just had to stop by the fabric store the other day to get a few more pieces of orange--always a hard color to find.  Yes, many of my orange fabrics were actually gifted to me by my sister after I lost my studio in 2011. I think of her as I use them. But that is another story and still I need more.

Yes, this wall hanging should have a bit more blue with just a hint of green than the finished quilt, shouldn't it? So I get those fabrics out. Search for just the right dark teals and greens. Then I cut lots of strips of fabric to begin. My sewing table looks a mess. How will I find the color I want? Time here too. And let's not even discuss the process of putting the fabric away when I am finished. Not my favorite activity.

So I start. The first few rows are the hardest. After all I have to sketch out how the colors are going to transition. And there is always the question--will it work? Am I taking on too much? I pin it up on my design board and study it. More time.

rainbow runner--copyright Ann Brauer

You can see how long it is on my design board. I had to stand on my chair just to pin it up. Well, I want to get it done so I add more and study again.

rainbow river--copyright Ann Brauer

Yes, the colors are progressing. Sure seems like it takes forever to sew this. And of course I have to iron after every seam. Cut more fabric. Do I need a larger choice of reds? What about the purples? Always I am searching for more. Then I try to figure out the borders. I want something to make it more than just a color study. In case you haven't noticed I am into blacks and greys.

Of course the day is getting late. There is not really enough light for a good image so this is just a sneak preview. And that is where it sits. Waiting for the snow to end so I can make it into the studio and finish the sewing. Then it will be on to the bindings and the Velcro. Cleaning up the quilt.

rainbow river--copyright Ann Brauer

But what is the answer to the question that started this blog? How long? Does it go back to my early color progressions of 30 years ago? And what influenced me to begin making quilts in the first place?
Do you get that same question? How do you answer it? How should I answer it?

And will I see at least some of you at the Baltimore show? For tickets and more information: and using this code BWI2014GUEST. I am Booth 4209.

Saturday, February 8, 2014

Where did this come from?

Tick. Tock. Tick. Tock.

Yes, Baltimore is getting closer and closer. February 21-23 to be precise.

I awake in the morning planning the next quilt I have to make. How will it look in my booth? Is it like anything else I have? I sketch out the idea. Know it will be great. Know that unless there are too many snow storms I should be able to get it done. Finish just a few things first to clear the desk.

And then it occurs to me. What if I make something else instead? One with seemingly random blocks of color. Hmm. That would be fun. I don't know for sure what this will look like. That intrigues me.

Tick. Tock. Tick. Tock.

Well it is a concept I have played with for years. The first one was when I had just met my DH. I didn't have my studio then and instead was working in a downstairs room. Yes, I had two kittens. What fun they thought it would be to climb the design wall and knock all the carefully arranged "random" blocks off the board. Oh I was not happy. Random is so much harder than it looks. Last I heard that quilt is living in Colorado.

Then there was words for the dawn

words for the dawn--45x45"--Ann Brauer
Yes, I love this quilt. Twenty five different colors of the dawn. But this time I wanted a quilt that would have solid blocks of color. Well, not solid solid. But with the thin micro strips that I have been using a lot. I love the control they give me. The substance they give the quilt. And I want new colors. Pinks and black have been intriguing me. I think of a fabric that I did not buy--aren't those the fabrics that continue to haunt you? It sat in the fabric store but I wasn't sure if I would use it. Aren't those the ones that stick with you?

OK. There is no time to think. After all Baltimore is coming soon. Tick. Tock. Why waste the time planning? Worrying if it is the right quilt to make? It is a quilt I have been dreaming about for more than 20 years, isn't it?

So I pin fabrics up onto the wall. This is how I often sketch out a quilt.

An interesting arrangement. I think in the end it will be hung horizontally but I don't have to worry about that now do I?

Tick. Tock.

Instead I start piecing. Make what I know. Hope the rest will come to me as I sew. After all there are lots and lots of seams to sew.

 Not bad. I keep going.

Yes, this is getting interesting. Add another block.

I am on a roll. Oh I love this feeling. Can I figure out how to recreate the dance of the butterflies? Hmm. I look through my fabrics.  Not colors or patterns that I tend to choose. Yes, I could drive into the fabric store and get that fabric that started the whole thing but that takes time. Instead I pull out those that might work and try it. Why not?

Yes, this could work. Not sure about the greens yet. Really feel clueless about the off white.  Should I redo the black. Is it too dark? How do I join it together? I have a couple of ideas. I think my usual method may be a bit cluncky. I will have to see.

I still don't know if it will work. Am I wasting time before Baltimore? Taking too much of a risk? Or is this exciting part of creation? What do you think? Does this happen to you?

And will I see at least some of you at the Baltimore show? For tickets and more information: and using this code BWI2014GUEST.

Monday, February 3, 2014

dreaming the river--the story of a quilt

It was five o'clock in the morning. I had no desire to be awake. But my kitten must have sensed a stirring and she wanted attention. And in case you don't remember she is cute--indeed it has been said she is cute all over. So I was awake. Well sort of. When my mind started designing the new quilt. I want a new wall hanging for the Baltimore Craft Show. Something light and modern. Something that will stand out from all the other work there. I know what I want my booth to look like. But can I do it?

Colors that I had just started working with. Bright green. So pure. Such a statement.

green purse--8x8 inches--Ann Brauer

Add a bit of grey. I am loving the look.

pillow--16x16 inches--Ann Brauer

Now if I could combine them. My mind plays with the idea. What would happen if?

Take the river design I have been playing with. Hmm this could be interesting. I visualize it in my mind.

Then I start.
dreaming the river--Ann Brauer

Not bad. Yes I pin it up on the design board and experiment. It is never as easy as it sounds in a blog, is it?

dreaming the river--Ann Brauer
Try to add the greys. Will it work?

dreaming the river--Ann Brauer

Not as dynamic as I thought. Well there is more to do. I must continue.

dreaming the river--Ann Brauer
 Now it is starting to pop, isn't it?

dreaming the river--Ann Brauer

Definitely shows a lightness. What do you think? I sew it together. Start finishing the binding.

dreaming the river--Ann Brauer

Is it too simple? Does it look too easy? I worry. And yet I want to make more. This morning I plan other colors.  Should they all have the grey as the background? A matched set perhaps. Will they sell? Should I make pillows to go with it? Or another wall hanging? Or do I need to work on another design all together?  What do you think? How does inspiration come to you?

And yes, I will be at the Baltimore Craft Show. Booth 4209. For tickets and using this code BWI2014GUEST. The pillow and purse are on my Etsy shop:

Sunday, February 2, 2014

the quilts of Ann Brauer--dreaming the rainbow

Amazing it is February already. Groundhog's Day to be precise. Will Phil see his shadow? Does it matter? After all last year or was it the year before, he did not see his shadow and still winter went on and on and on. Oh well, the days are getting longer. And the Baltimore Craft Show is February 21-23. ( For discounted tickets you can go to and using this code BWI2014GUEST. I am Booth 4209. Just saying)

Anyhow, I got inspired and have been working really hard. You see, I decided I had to make a joyous quilt. One that incorporated all the colors of the rainbow. A friend told me a story that if life hands you a lemon--and I know it is a cliche and I am paraphrasing her story--then paint a rainbow. And I think that is what I have been doing.

The quilt is almost done and it is too large for me to show finished--it is about 99x99 inches--until I get its formal image taken--but here is the sneak preview.

dreaming the rainbow--Ann Brauer--2014

And here is the quilt almost done. Yes, it is bright. Yes, at first glance the colors may seem a bit expected. But I think if you look at it closely there is the sparkle of the fabric and the unexpected choices I made while trying to make the quilt look more contemporary. Or at least I hope that is how people will see it. Alas I forgot to take a close-up. You will just have to see it. The back is also spectacular too with the quilting stitches.

dreaming the rainbow--Ann Brauer 2014

And this is the reason that I had to make a quilt about rainbows. Can you believe that soon--a month or two at most--this will be mine? Isn't it the most beautiful building in Shelburne Falls if not the entire West County area? Don't worry there will be a grand opening once I get settled in. I'll let everyone know. The second floor will be a two bedroom rental with amazing views. My studio at 6 Bridge Street will remain open until I move.

2 Conway Street--Ann Brauer

Please excuse me for going on so much this month. I do hope I will see some of you at the Baltimore Show. In March I will be at the Paradise City Arts Festival in Marlborough, MA and then I will do the Philadelphia Furniture Show in the beginning of April. But more of that later.

I now have more than 100 items in my Etsy shop at

Thanks for reading.