Monday, December 28, 2009

Dreaming of Quilt Blocks

For a long time, I didn't dream . . . because the quality of my sleep was so poor that I never made it to REM sleep. Lately, I've been dreaming–and remembering my dreams–every night. It's a surprising new and different experience for me, and even when the dreams are unpleasant, I always wake up thinking it's a sign of a good sleep.

A few days ago, I dreamed this block. My plan for the Block Lotto this year is for more liberated, free-style blocks, so I had to try some variations of my dream block so I could decide whether of not to share it with the Block Lotto group.

Here's my virtual design wall, as of this afternoon.

Sophie's Tic-Tac-Toe Block #4 Sophie's Tic-Tac-Toe Block #6 Sophie's Tic-Tac-Toe Block #8
Sophie's Tic-Tac-Toe Block #7 Block made with 2.5 Inch strips Sophie's Tic-Tac-Toe Block #5
Tic-Tac-Toe Block Tic-Tac-Toe Block made with 1 inch strip Tic-Tac-Toe Block made with 2 inch strip

If you want to play free-style Tic-Tac-Toe, I have put together some directions, here.

If you'd like to make some of these for a chance to win a set, come join us on the Block Lotto Blog. (You might want to go have a peek, anyway, because 85 blocks have already been made and posted and the diversity of bright fabrics and individual interpretation of this block are amazing.)

Saturday, December 26, 2009

Let's Play Tic-Tac-Toe

Tic-Tac-Toe Block Although I'm sure I've seen it used in quilts, my source for this block is my dreams. A couple days ago, it appeared in my dreams and woke up thinking this could be a gentle entry into the more liberated style of blocks we'll be making for the Block Lotto in 2010.

I think this Tic-Tac-Toe block could be the basis of a great kid's quilt–can't you see some x's and o's quilting into those "squares"? But I can also see if used in a more adult modern quilt.

Fabrics & Cutting

For an 8.5 inch (8 inches, finished size) block, you'll need a 9-to-10 inch square of background fabric and a width of fabric (WOF), cut selvedge-to-selvedge 1-to-2.5 inches wide. In this example, I started with the 10 inch square and 1.5 inch strip on the left. If you are using FQs, just cut two 20-ish inch wdiths, like the photo on the right.

Fabric Using FQs

Making the Block

(Remember you can click any of the photos for a larger image and closer look.)

Step 1
1. Begin with the background square. Make two straight cuts from top to bottom edges. While your lines need to be straight, they can be as slanted as you like. You may want to keep them at least 2 inches from the corners and no closer than 1 inch to each other.

Step 2
2. Insert the bright strip into each of your cuts, sew it along both edges to the background to "re-assemble" the square and press the seams toward the strips.

Step 3
3. Rotate the block 90 degrees and repeat the process. Make two straight edge-to-edge cuts from top to bottom.

Step 4
4. Insert strips and press seams toward the bright strips. Don't worry if they don't reach edge-to-edge, because you'll be squaring-up and trimming the block to final size. Do pay attention lining up the background pieces so that your first strips end up being aligned.

5. Square and trim the block to 8.5 inches. If you started with a 10 inch background square, like I did, you'll have a lot of wiggle room to make an artistic cut . . . just make sure that you end up with 9 background "squares" in your Tic-Tac-Toe grid (and that the smallest will not disappear in a seam allowance when it's sewn into a quilt.

Step 5

Design Considerations

If you make a block with wider strips, you need to be careful that as the block-in-progress grows wider and taller, that, when you trim it to size (in this case 8.5 inches square), that you end up with a complete tic-tac-toe grid with 9 background spaces. In the example below, I started with a 10 inch square of background and 2.5 inch bright strips.

Fat Strips Extra Step
As I was adding my fat strips (2.5 inches), I realized that my block had become too wide, so I removed some background from the center before adding the final seam.

Fat Strips Step 2
After removing part of the center, I measured (using a large square ruler) to make sure that, after it was trimmed to 8.5 inches square, I would end up with 9 background squares (and a complete tic-tac-toe grid), then I stitched it together and continued.

Fat Strips Step 3
I also measured when deciding where to make the second pair of slices to make sure to end up with a complete tic-tac-toe block when it was trimmed to size.

As you can see, if you fat strips, your block will end up consisting of more featured bright fabric and less background.

Fat Strips Step 4

Another design consideration is the angle of the cuts you make. The greater the angle, the more likely it will be that your "lines" would exactly match up, like in this block.

Sophie's Tic-Tac-Toe Block #6

It isn't a mistake, it's just what happens. Line up the strips as well as possible and don't worry if they aren't perfect.

To see a comparison of using different sized strips, check out mine below. Here are a selection of blocks, side-by-side, made with strips that are, from top-to-bottom, left-to-right, 1 inch (green), 1.25 inch (gold), 1.5 inch (pink), 1.75 inch (red) 2 inches (yellow) 2.25 inches (blue) and 2.5 inches (red-orange).

Sophie's Tic-Tac-Toe Block #8 Sophie's Tic-Tac-Toe Block #7
Tic-Tac-Toe BlockSophie's Tic-Tac-Toe Block #5
Tic-Tac-Toe Block made with 2 inch strip Sophie's Tic-Tac-Toe Block #4
Block made with 2.5 Inch strips

Not Exactly a Christmas Carol ...

A Christmas tree, a Glee Mashup and a fun promotion of that TV show's arrival on Italian TV in a shopping mall in Rome.

The crowd seems to enjoy the flash mob experience . . . and doesn't seem to mind the interruption of their last minute Christmas shopping at all.

The Italian TV ad for Glee is here. I wonder how Italians will like a show that seems to be so quintessentially American, about the American High School experience?

Friday, December 25, 2009

Merry Christmas

As the song says, Have yourself a Merry little Christmas.

Santa Balloon

I hope that Santa Claus was very good to you . . . and that none of your gifts need to be returned or exchanged.

Thursday, December 24, 2009

It's Raining, It's SNOWING . . .

. . . It's a winter storm warning in Dallas.

There's an impressive storm headed this way with snow predicted to start falling in another hour or so in Dallas and, while I expect the snow will immediately melt, it's still going to look a little like Christmas around here for a while.

Like a little kid home from school on a snow day, I can't stop smiling about it and waiting to look out the windows and see some white fluffy snowflakes fall.

In spite of how much of my tumbleweed life has been spent in locations where there is no snow, somehow Christmas and Snow are firmly linked in my memory and my idea of the perfect Christmas.

Main Street ParkThis tree, in the new Main Street Park downtown, just doesn't say Christmas to me, how about you?

And even these three evergreens seem oddly out of place, surrounded as they are by such blue skies, skyscrapers and trees that still have all their green leaves.

I've been walking past all of these Christmas trees since before Thanksgiving and they still all look wrong to me . . . although the one one top of the Neiman Marcus Fashion Cafe never fails to make me smile.

Pegasus Plaza Akard Street NM Fashion Cafe

Despite the dropping temperature and wind gusts up to 44 MPH, when it starts snowing, you know I'm going to be out in it . . . quickly, before it melts ;-)

Monday, December 21, 2009

One Year Ago Today

Stuck on I-96It's funny how some anniversaries stick with us. Last Wednesday was the anniversary of my dad's death. Next week I'll pass the day that my husband walked out on our marriage more than 20 years ago. Both these dates dampen the joy of the holidays a little for me as much as I still love to celebrate all things Christmas.

And one year ago today, I left Michigan in a UHaul truck, towing my car on a trailer, with my two cats sitting in their carriers in the cab with me.

Breakdown on I-96Maybe that first difficult day on the road was a clue to what lay ahead. I didn't get an early start because I had to wait for a big storm to pass and the snow plow to come dig out the apartment complex and then, about as soon as I got to the highway, I was on stuck on the shoulder with a flat tire . . . and waiting three hours for UHaul to come fix their broken equipment.

I woke up this morning and realized it has been exactly a year since my big move began. I wondered If I'd known then that the year ahead would be so challenging, would I have still chosen to make the trip?

I'm not sure there's always a best choice and that often in life we are simply choosing between two paths, both potentially the right one. The potential in my choice to move to Dallas has yet to be identified or realized. Despite the challenges of this year, I hang onto my optimism.

After I arrived in Dallas, my immediate concerns were to find a good doctor, a place to live and a job. The cats and I lived in a Motel 6–because they are pet friendly and would allow two pets when none others would, no matter how small my cats–while I looked at apartments and started making contacts.

Motel Cats

The cats still often hang out together . . . until Grace Hopper tires of Johnny Be Good's aggressive attention. Today, as the sunshine streamed in through the French doors, they enjoyed some of that warmth together.

Johnny & Grace share a sunny spot

Grace has remained the petite, delicate little girl kitty . . . I think her big bruiser brother may be packing on some more weight. This blissful moment lasted until he wrapped his front paws around her neck, holding her in a kitty head lock, and began aggressively grooming her face.

Kitty Lumps She still escapes to high places . . . and in the past year, he has become confident enough to follow her wherever she goes. They've learned to stay off the fridge and the Kitchen cabinets which is a good thing and they still sometimes hide under the covers. I recently pulled out this flannel quilt to put back on the bed . . . I think it must be one of THEIR favorites and even though it may not be the logical thing to do on winter days like today when the sun warms my loft up to 80 degrees, I keep thinking about making another flannel bed quilt.
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