Sunday, February 27, 2011

Illustration Friday - Swarm

Copyright © Cheryl Coville 2011

When we finally made the move from wage-slave city dwellers to impoverished owners of the Kingdom of Coco,  Mr. Coco was able to fulfill a long-time dream. He got himself some bees and hives and one of those cute little beekeeper suits. He dibbled and he dabbled and he was thrilled to get a great crop of honey that first year. And then, Grandma Coco got stung. On the face. Her head swelled up like something out of a monster movie. It was scary.

About this same time, there was trouble brewing for the entire bee keeping community. The varroa mite was attacking honey bees and the future looked dim. Lots of people were losing their hives to the mite and there weren't too many options for treatment.

So, Mr. Coco sadly sold his bees. The fellow who bought them was an about-to-be-released prisoner at a nearby minimum security prison. He was in some program which allowed inmates to learn a trade in preparation for their release. Great idea! He came one day on a supervised excursion and carted the bees off. Now, you have to know bees. When Mr. Coco bought his bees, they were transported under cover of darkness because the bees were in their hive then and supposedly more docile. However, we guess that if you're on day leave from your prison, then a day-time run is the best you can hope for. Miraculously, we don't recall having too much drama the day of the move. What we do recall is that a while later we heard back that it wasn't so much the honey that the fellow was after. Turns out he had a green thumb and he was using the bees to guard a certain 'crop' he had planted at their base! Genius!

This IF drawing is dedicated to Karen who, along with her husband, keeps bees in Nova Scotia (imagine blueberry honey!) and who was, herself, stung this week. But not by a bee because a bee will only hurt you if he feels threatened. People, on the other hand...

Saturday, February 26, 2011

Saturday morning for grown-ups

Remember when you were a kid? Getting up and watching the Saturday morning cartoons? Grandma Coco does. She remembers George Jetson and The Underdog and Yogi Bear and Booboo.  And she remembers that her dad used to watch them, too. It's nice when your dad remembers how to be a kid.

Nowadays, cartoons don't really interest her so you'd think that she'd sleep in, right? Well, due to the outright cruelty of her TV provider (Starchoice de Sade Satellite......which may be Rogers, now that we think about it) Grandma Coco is prodded from her warm bed by the lure of Saturday morning crafting shows on PBS Detroit.... the only station that we know of that carries these "wimmin's" shows. So, at 5:30 AM....yes, you read that right....5:30 AM! on a Saturday!....we get our only chance to see Quilting Daily TV, followed by Fons & Porter`s Love of Quilting and then, usually (but not today, oh, no, not today), Sewing With Nancy. Today we got Martha's Sewing Studio. Some Saturdays we get Beads, Baubles and Jewels, but not today. Only 3 shows, back to back. There's something magical about seeing other humans doing stuff we like to do. Often, we learn things. So, week after week, we get up and tune in. And then we go back to bed!!

When we did decide to start our day, we turned our attentions to something different....fabric postcards!!! We're suddenly quite interested in fusing fabric and machine embroidery. We blame that on Cheryl Lynch and ¡Quilt Fiesta! although there seem to be other, equally infectious influences going on. Fons & Porter did an episode where they trimmed the Wonder-Under so the appliqué was a little more supple so we're keen to try that. As well, we figured that a little postcard might be just the place to try out our nonexistent  fledgling machine embroidery skills.

Here's our first effort:

We had hoped to send it to a very good cause. We heard through our friend and fellow member of The Maple Leaf Quilt (online) Guild, Sue at, about an International Fabric Postcard Exhibition in Ireland. There will also be a sale that will benefit the Marie Keating Foundation which is a Breast Cancer Charity in Ireland. When Grandma Coco went back to check, she found out there was a theme (which you can read on Sue's post). We suppose dogs are part of nature but otherwise, our card doesn't really fit. No matter, we tried again with flowers and we think this one's the one. We added French knots for Monika  :)  who is feeling the cold right now, poor thing.

..... off to Ireland in memory of our mother, Grace

Maybe you've got time to make a postcard for such a worthy cause. The due date is the end of May 2011.

Thursday, February 24, 2011

A Book to Give Away!

Last week, the mailman braved the ice and snow to bring Grandma Coco a big puffy envelope.  Ooohhh, we love puffy envelopes! Inside there was a shiny new book hot off the presses from That Patchwork Place.

¡Quilt Fiesta! – Surprising Designs From Mexican Tiles by Cheryl Lynch is just the thing for a mid-winter picker-upper. It’s a little bit travelogue, a little bit history and a whole lot of great quilting.

Cheryl Lynch went on vacation to La Puebla, Mexico and was inspired by the tiles that the local artisans have been making there for the past 400 years. And no wonder she was inspired! Those tiles were just begging to be translated into quilts. And that’s just what Cheryl’s done.

But first, she reminds us that perfection is highly overrated. She says it’s better to finish a job than to abandon it because we can’t make it perfectly. How true. The Mexican tile painters don’t aim for perfection. What’s important to them is “the joy of creation”.  “Enjoy the process”, says Cheryl Lynch.  That’s something Grandma Coco is trying to learn.
You see, Grandma Coco has always enjoyed doing things in a methodical and meticulous manner. She’s kind of a control freak. But Mr. Coco…well, he isn’t really a detail-oriented person. Close enough and pretty near are good enough for him. And you know, most of the time, in the end, his projects turn out just fine. As much as she loves her Mr. Coco, sometimes this just makes her crazy.

So, when Cheryl Lynch says you can make beautiful quilts like the ones in her book without worrying about perfection, Grandma Coco wanted to know how.  What she’s discovered is one of the things that sets this book apart … Cheryl Lynch offers actual techniques and tricks that bridge the gap between Mr. Coco’s slap-dash-ness and Grandma Coco’s OCD (Obsessively, Compulsively Disordered) approach. Cheryl Lynch has a background in science (she was a graduate student in chemistry at MIT when she made her first quilt) and maybe that’s why she has developed some seriously clever techniques to insure perfect-looking results. Grandma Coco has observed that people who use their left brains a lot, don’t leave things to chance.  So, when Cheryl Lynch encourages us to forget about perfection, we can do that because in her book she’s given us the tools to stack the deck in our favour.

The designs in this book are based on fusing fabric and on foundation piecing. You all know that Grandma Coco has been a bit of a technophobe in the past and that she is trying now as an old(-ish) dog to learn new tricks. Fusing fabric blocks was just the kick-start she needed. She decided to tackle the Black Bean Mole quilt.

There are 4 things that Cheryl says are good to have to accomplish the quilts in ¡Quilt Fiesta! :
  1. An open-toe presser foot………Check.
  2. Blanket stitch option……………Nope.
  3. Needle-down option…………… Nope.
  4. Knee-lift………………………... Nope.

Oh, well. There are always work-arounds. Cheryl says you can use a narrow zig-zag in place of the blanket stitch so that’s what we tried. And, you know what? It worked just fine. There are 2 versions of the Black Bean Mole quilt shown in the book….a luscious brown and rust one and a summery blue and white one. Such different looks from the same pattern! We decided to try blues and celery green. 

Grandma Coco's version of the Black Bean Mole quilt from ¡Quilt Fiesta!
We've only made 4 blocks so far but here, by the magic of photo manipulation, is what a larger quilt might look like. Pretty, right? 

If Grandma Coco can do this with her bottom-of-the-line 40-year-old Singer, then, really, anyone can do it.

We changed the corner beans to hearts because Cheryl said we could. Well, OK, not us personally. But she wrote a whole chapter on design and switching things up. Grandma Coco has trouble colouring inside the lines. She’s really not too keen on books that are merely recipes….you know, follow these steps and you’ll get this. Exactly. She likes books that give you the basics but then go on to offer options and ideas to set you free to explore your own vision. This is her kind of book.

¡Quilt Fiesta! offers patterns for 10 projects, including quilts, place mats and a bed runner. Each project was inspired by an actual tile (which is pictured) so you can see how the design evolved. All in all, Grandma Coco gives this book an enthusiastic 2 thumbs up!

And the best news is this: We have one copy signed by Cheryl Lynch herself to give away! And you don’t have to live in the Kingdom of Coco to win. We’ll mail it anywhere in the world, so don’t be shy. Leave a comment here on this blog post to have a chance to win it (…but don’t comment anonymously because then Grandma Coco won’t be able to contact you to say you’ve won and that would just be a shame). You have until March 1st . ¡Buena suerte!

Grandma Coco’s Designs is pleased to be part of the blog tour for this book.
Be sure to visit tomorrow for the next stop on the tour and another chance to win a copy of  ¡Quilt Fiesta!  

And, of course, to learn more about Cheryl Lynch, and see the actual ¡Quilt Fiesta! quilts hanging at her official book launch, you’ll want to visit her blog:

This contest is now closed and a winner has been announced.

Monday, February 21, 2011

Excitement in Blogland

Copyright © Cheryl Coville 2011

Similar scenes played out all over the Kingdom this morning as quilters woke to the news. Grandma Coco pleads with her subjects to remain calm and go here for full details.

Friday, February 18, 2011

Grandma Coco’s Fallen In With a B-a-a-a-d Crowd

See this?

Rayon thread.


That’s quilters' crack. See how it shines and sparkles. It’s still got its wrapper on. Fresh from our connection.

And who got Grandma Coco hooked on the stuff?

Who said, “Go on, Grandma Coco, just a few stitches.

What could it hurt?”????

Monika. That’s who. 

Shop owners, we beg you….If you see this woman 

"Grandma Coco on Rayon" -  Copyright © Cheryl Coville 2011

….don’t sell her any more thread. She has a husband who loves her and a sweet calico kitty to feed. For the love of all things quilty, just say “No!”

On a brighter note…..
My Sweet Prairie (that would be Monika) today named Grandma Coco’s Designs as one of 3 Canadian blogs that make her smile. Thank you, Monika. And right back atcha!!

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Sweater Day

According to the WWF (World Wildlife Fund) today is Sweater Day when we’re encouraged to turn down our thermostats by 3 degrees and put on a sweater. Remember what Brenda Dayne says when she ends an episode of her podcast, Cast-on?  “If you’re cold, put on a sweater. That’s what they’re for.” And right she is. It’s so easy to just crank up the thermostat … but so environmentally irresponsible at the same time.

Some of my favourite sweaters can be found in books. Roch Carrier’s  The Hockey Sweater comes to mind. It’s an autobiographical account from his childhood. When he outgrew his old Canadiens hockey sweater his mother ordered him a new one from the Eaton’s catalogue but when it came it was a Toronto Maple Leafs sweater. Horrors! For me, the story always reads in Rock Carrier’s own voice because the first time I heard the story was when he read it on Morningside on the CBC radio. In the good old days. When Peter Gzowski was still alive. And not yet maligned.

The other book I cherish is one I found by chance in a second-hand book shop. It’s  another Canadian book…..Amos’s Sweater by Janet Lunn with illustrations by Kim LaFave.

The first line says it all “Amos was old and Amos was cold and Amos was tired of giving away all his wool.” (Amos is a sheep, of course.) I love, love, love the illustrations with all the sheep and the knitting. And I love the story with its undercurrent of concern for animal welfare AND a happy ending. Written in 1988, it won the Amelia Frances Howard-Gibbon Award for Illustration, the Canadian Booksellers’ Association’s Ruth Schwartz Award and the Governor General’s Award for Illustration. Amos’s Sweater would make an excellent gift for any child…even 23 years later.

In honour of the day, that persistent sweater drawing has morphed once more. Now it’s a gift tag. It's meant to accompany the gift of a sweater (hand knit, of course) and has a place on the back for laundering instructions.

You can download the .PDF, if you’d like, and print your own.

Happy Sweater Day!

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Happy Valentine's Day

What? That was yesterday??? Well, every day is Valentine's Day in the Kingdom of Coco. 

The Illustration Friday "sweater" drawing, influenced by the occasion, seems to have a life of its own...
Copyright © Cheryl Coville 2011

I almost think this could end up being a quilt but for now, Grandma Coco's experimenting with hand colouring prints.  What do you think? 

**************** Nosey Nelly News Flash *****************

Grandma Coco's chasing a story. Seems there's going to be a big giveaway here....something big! Stay tuned!

Saturday, February 12, 2011

Illustration Friday - Sweater

Copyright © Cheryl Coville 2011

If someone goes to the trouble of knitting you a sweater, you can be sure of 2 things.
1. That person loves you.
2. You darn well better wear it.  :)

Friday, February 11, 2011

Mittens on her mind

On a frosty morning just before Christmas Grandma Coco went walkabout in the charming village of Cocotown and picked up a bug. Everywhere she went, she saw …


Mittens!    Everywhere. Thus infected, her mind began to swirl with mitten ideas. Knitted mittens, quilted mittens. The fever raged. Mittens with puppies. Mittens with kittens. And then….oddly constructed mittens.  Oh, those were the worst….I mean, they turned out swell….beautiful, really! A smashing success but they’ve confounded some of the people who offered to test the patterns.

No matter. Grandma Coco suffers still. More ideas. More mittens to come. In the meantime, here are some of the mittens that GC’s nearest and dearest received this year for Christmas.

for Stephanie (who is working on a very special project for us right now and deserves some mitten love)

for Pam (who came so far to be with us this Christmas and who is always welcome in the Kingdom of Coco)

for someone who might like flowers (a lot!)
many's an epidemic!
All sizes....don't you love the sheepdog ones? They're for a toddler.
Like the Cosy Quilted Mittens, these are all knitting/quilting combined. I'm calling them Picture Mittens....'cuz they frame an image....a focus fabric or a pre-printed panel. Grandma Coco thinks they'd really suit an embroidered motif....yes! that's what we need ....embroidery!  or cross-stitch! So little time. So many mittens to make.

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Happy Groundhog Day

Grandma Coco has declared a Snow Day in the Kingdom of Coco and while the kids are happy, Maurice and Lulu have had to take the day off, too. When you only get one paying gig a year, a day off isn’t such a great thing. Fortunately for them, they’ve invested wisely. They’ll be fine until Mr. Coco’s beans start to sprout in the garden this summer. Their only regret is that they got up early for nothing.

Copyright © Cheryl Coville 2011