Sunday, January 3, 2016

I spent New Year's getting Insanely Thin and Stripping

This New Year's, I made calorie-free Vegan Rainbow Bacon!

It all started four days ago, when I decided to reread old issues of Quilting Arts magazine for fun. I came across an article by Ann Brauer in the December 2012/January 2013 issue. Ann's quilts are museum pieces and I've long admired them.  One type, which she sells on her Etsy site, involves long, thin strips. Check out, for example, one of her beautiful bags, here.

The QA article explains how she does it. I was astonished to read that her strips are crazy-thin! They're cut at 3/4" and  finish at 1/4"! I only make strips that skinny by accident! Plus she sews with utter precision and consistency. Each quarter-inch is dead-straight.

It sounded like the perfect New Year's activity. If I can't be vanishingly thin, at least my strips can be! So I threw a party, in this sense:
I cut several batches of 3/4" strips, one batch from batiks, one from solids, and a third from prints. (Here are some of the solids).
(I had yellow-and-purple on my mind because the Lakers' garish Rose Parade float got stuck in my head.)

The QA article includes Ann's step-by-step directions and tips, which are not mine to divulge. In a nutshell, it involves stitching the strips directly onto a batting and backing. Here's the extent of my precision.
 Ha! I wasn't even drinking. This is how I always sew when I'm trying to go straight. 
Now you know why I can't be permitted to make garments. 
I deeply regret the orange. Let's pretend I was drinking alcohol-positive eggnog. I wish. 

(For Ann's complete how-to, a link to buy the QA issue is at the bottom of this post.) 

Ann's technique is an excellent way to start on New Year's fitness resolutions. Every strip, or every two strips at most, you MUST run (because you're so eager to see how it looks) from the sewing machine to the ironing board, and back. That means you'll be standing up and sitting down, and zipping back and forth, getting almost as much exercise as dangerously young Star Wars actors

My rainbow bacon slab is made from solids, and measures 31" x 6". It has 27 strips, i.e. approximately 14 round trips between the iron and the sewing machine. 
The same piece also works as a basket (need a base),

 or a double basket:
They remind me of  coil pots. Or the washout canyons of Utah.
 Here's a wave experiment I did before finishing the top and bottom edges.

Next, the piece I made mostly from batiks:
It measures 18" x 9" and includes 37 strips packed into those 9"! 
What photos can't convey is how wonderfully bumpy-textural and hefty these pieces feel, much more than a regular quilt. I think it's because they're 5 layers. There's the back, batting, front, as in a regular quilt; plus there's the seam allowance of the strip you're attaching; the seam allowance of the strip underneath it. Those two seam allowances back everything.

This gives them gravity. Like a dog with a new toy, I have been literally carrying them around the house for two days (but not in my mouth), placing them upright on coffee tables. drizzling them down to the floor like waterfalls, arranging them like screens and sculptures and ocean waves, bending, folding, stroking and petting. I don't want to be separated from them, even for meals. 

So what does Ann Brauer do with her pieces? Along with hanging them as art, she also makes them into placemats - no mealtime separation anxiety - as well as pillows - so you can sleep with them - plus purses, cellphone cases, tea cozies, and more.  

I also tested the batik piece as a tray....
 Or a purse,
Or a basket that could conceivably hold this 9" pinecone. 
I made another batik strip set that I turned into a little box (3 1/2" on a side).  
I do have one tip for stitching a foundation-sewn project like this: Before you add each new strip, cut away all dangling threads from the previous strips, and check the back. These long, thick pieces act like a magnet for all the scraps, lint, threads, and small pets in a three-foot radius of your sewing machine. It picks them up, silently carries them along, without you feeling them because the sandwich is so thick. Then you (well, I) stitch them securely in place to the back. I am not showing you the results, because the whole point of this blog is to pretend that I am a competent quilter. OK, I'll show you. 
Yup, I managed to stitch four long rows before detecting that the thread ends from previous rows, plus a massive, foldy scrap, had adhered to reverse side. If I were a surgeon, I would have just lost my license for accidentally stitching my forceps to someone's kidney.

Want to make your own?
  • Learn about Ann's technique by ordering a digital edition ($8 cheap!) of the Quilting Arts issue here. No financial affiliation.
  • An article she wrote about how she makes more uneven strips is here
  • From Ann's blog, here's how she joins sections:
  • More of her stunning pillows and purses:
  • A nice article about Ann and her work is online, here.
By sheer coincidence, I learned that one of Ann's quilts is on the cover this month of Art Quilting Studio magazine (the Winter 2016 issue). The article is about a different series of her quilts, which involve curved piecing with uneven widths, Since uneven is more in my aptitude range, I immediately ordered a copy, here.  No financial affiliation. It's my first purchase of 2016!  I can't wait!


  1. Oh, I love the orange! It makes the whole thing sparkle. Some complimentary orange goes a long way! And, having seen Ann's quilts in person, I have to say that they are spectacular. As are yours! So, Happy New Year!

  2. You are a very funny, competent quilter that started my day with a huge guffaw. Keep on blogging!

  3. Looks like fun - we'll just pretend that scrap is a design feature! Happy New Year!

    1. I actually got rid of the scrap, and never mind that the stitches holding it on are now loopy...perhaps they'll adjust eventually....Thanks for stopping by!

  4. These look great. I actually love the orange. It gives a little serendipitous jolt of colour.

    1. Thank you, Mitzi. I was hoping someone would say that! Much appreciated.

  5. Cathy, I LOVE these! How inspiring to see your process. I'm going to have to give this a try in March.

    1. We can do it together when you come! I'll start cutting more strips. It's very addictive!

  6. I came over from Ann's blog. I thoroughly enjoyed your adventure through making your pieces. Yes, it is very difficult to achieve straight strip piecing through the batting and backing. I think we have all managed to sew on an extra piece on the back and it isn't a pleasant surprise. I will probably try the uneven widths.

    1. Wanda, I'm glad you enjoyed the adventure. The more strips I sewed, the more uneven my strips became. I'm blaming my DNA.

  7. Hi, Cathy. I also came over from Ann's blog and have been following her for several years. The uneven stitches really make it much more interesting and your first attempt at making one of Ann's creations turned out beautifully! I have been wanting to try this myself for a long time and thanks to you, I am going to give it a try. Thanks ! !

  8. This post made me laugh out loud and want to sew up some "skinny strips" in equal parts! Great blog!!

  9. I enjoyed your delightful post, Cathy. You have done some beautiful work using Ann's techniques!

    1. Martha, you are so kind, thank you for your nice comment!

  10. Gorgeous! And I love your writing too. Only problem is I now feel compelled to save even the skinniest scraps!


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