Sunday, March 27, 2011

More fun with our machine

So, we decided to back slowly away from our machine yesterday after the shredding thread episode. Karen and Monika both suggested a different needle. (Sweet of them not to mention the obvious....operator error.) A new needle will be procured later this week.

Today, we loaded our machine up with black rayon on top and fine black bobbin thread for below. We spoke sweetly to him (whatever his name is....he ought to have a name, right?) and started to outline the lettering on our quilt. Now, the text is a big part of our design and our plan is to fuse the words in word-shaped blocks and then define the letters with black outlining. Sounds simple, right?

Yesterday, we were machine embroidering up a storm with the feed dogs up. Things went well until the aforementioned shredding began. Today, we started the same way but we were dismayed to find we were constantly having to stop and pivot. (We hear laughter. Guess you all saw that coming.)

We've read about machine embroidery with the feed dogs down. Seems exotic but Grandma Coco wanted to give it a go. Today's the day. Now, the really clever among us would have taken a few days to practice, we suppose. Not us. It's do or die. We keep reminding ourselves this is a fun piece. It's just for fun. Fun!

Feed dogs down!! Off we go. Not being completely foolhardy, we decided if we just did a letter here and there around the piece, our poor beginning letters would ....oh, we don't know....BLEND IN with the others? as we get better at it? That's the new plan. (Ever notice how plans conceived on the fly tend to have flaws?)

No matter....Fun is the byword and "fun" is what we're gonna have. Or else. You be the judge. How'd we do?

Mom used to say "That mistake will never be seen by someone gallopping by on a horse" (or something similar. Maybe there was something about a blind man in there, too. We forget.). Good enough for us, we say! Besides, we used Monika's secret weapon .  (Thanks, Monika!) We're sure we're only going to get better from here on in. After all, we surely can't get worse.

Saturday, March 26, 2011

Fusible fun with a side order of frustration

We've been busy little beavers of late. And this week has been full of interesting projects. We've been lucky to carve out some playtime though. There's always time to play.

The sweater gift tag has grown in scope to become an entire quilt. It'll be a knitting themed quilt and we have sketches planned for several other segments but it's going to be pretty spontaneous and we're going to practise our machine skills on it....ah, once we have some machine skills to practice, that is. :)

Copyright © Cheryl Coville 2011

Here's part of the sweater gift tag with all the pieces fused in place. We're using Lite Steam-a-Seam 2 because we were told it's less stiff in the final product. We like the way the pieces are slightly tacky until you iron them in place. Once they're ironed, they're stuck for good. However, before you commit them with the hot iron, it's very handy to be able to move them around. And when you do decide to iron them, they can safely move to the ironing board without shifting. Seems like a great product so far.

Here we've started to machine embroider around the appliqué pieces using that lovely green rayon thread we blogged about a while ago. (We went right out and bought some other colours. They'll show up later, no doubt.) We have some 70 weight stuff in the bobbin.

Everything was going along just dandily until we changed threads for the lady's apron. We had just the right colour of poycotton sewing thread (40 weight?) and that thread is fraying and skipping stitches. (This is the frustration part.) Now, if it weren't a 45 minute drive to Taylor Sewing Centre, we'd just run right over and buy more rayon thread. For now, we're going to try a larger needle. If anyone's got a suggestion, please just leave it in the comments. This is all new to us.

Oh, and in a secondary appeal....anyone know how to get that blue marking pen know....the (supposedly) water soluble stuff?....out of a quilt top? We put a quilt away for a you think a 5-year time-out for bad behaviour is excessive?....and when we retrieved it, you guessed it. Those blue marks just laughed at the water. They giggled and dug in harder. Any suggestions?

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Illustration Friday - Cultivate

Copyright © Cheryl Coville 2011

Cultivate makes us think of seeds and flowers
and tonight at 7:23:21 EST Spring Arrives!!

Copyright © Cheryl Coville 2011

Grandma Coco's got another scoop for you.  The Quilt Pattern Magazine is running a contest for anyone who belongs to a quilt guild. The prize is a free subscription to the magazine.
Get the low-down here: 
Good Luck!!

Sunday, March 13, 2011

Illustration Friday - Stir

Copyright © Cheryl Coville 2011

Grandma Coco is not what you’d call a ‘linear thinker’.  Her mind is more like one of those old-time pin ball machines where the ball bounces wildly in all directions, lights flashing and bells sounding. She gets to the same place, in the end, but it’s quite the ride.

Often one thought reminds us of something else which takes us somewhere else entirely. This is the case with this week’s Illustration Friday topic…. ‘stir’.  These drawings are often streams of consciousness themselves….doodles that start out with one character and flow into something else entirely. For some reason, these ladies showed up to stir up a little something and they prompted a memory of reading about ‘Stir-up Sunday’ years and years ago.

We had to google the term to confirm our memory but yes, it’s true. Stir-up Sunday is the last Sunday before Advent (in the Anglican church). It, too, is the result of a pin ball cascade of ideas. No wonder it stuck in Grandma Coco’s mind.

In England, especially, Stir-up Sunday (which occurs about 5 weeks before Christmas Day) is the traditional day for making the Christmas pudding. It came to be because of the prayer-of-the-day which starts out: “Stir up, we beseech thee, O Lord, the wills of thy faithful people …”.

Traditionally, the whole family returns home from church and is supposed to take a turn stirring the pudding and adding a good wish. Adding a good wish as you accomplish homely tasks is a cool idea. We do that when we knit or quilt for people we love. That, we understand.  However, there are other traditions surrounding Christmas pudding making that are even more deeply rooted in the Christian tradition. For instance, there are supposed to be 13 ingredients, to represent Jesus and the 12 disciples. And what about this one?  That the pudding needs to be stirred from East to West to honour the Three Wise Men who visited the Baby Jesus. Fascinating, no?

So, we got out our recipe box to look up our Christmas pudding recipe because, yes, we do have one. It came to us from Mr. Coco’s mother and goes by the rather uninspired name of “Economical Plum Pudding”. (For Mr. Coco’s mother, thrift was a virtue.) However, this pudding is also the best Christmas pudding we’ve ever tasted so, even though we’re a long way from Stir-up Sunday, here’s the recipe:

1 cup flour
1 cup sugar (1/2 cup is really all you need)
1 tsp. Cinnamon
1 tsp. Nutmeg
¾ tsp. Salt
1 tsp. Soda
Sift all these dry ingredients together and add:
1 cup grated apples
1 cup grated carrots
1 cup raisins
1 cup currants
Stir to mix thoroughly and add ½ cup vegetable oil or melted shortening. Fill a buttered mold (like a coffee can). Cover tightly and steam for 4 hours.

Serve this pudding with a sauce….brandy or lemon or custard, depending, we guess, on whether you're a teetotaller (as both our grandmothers were) or a lost cause.

You will notice there are only 11 ingredients in Mr. Coco’s mother’s recipe. It’s still good. As far as we know, she never worried about the directionality of her stirring. It will still be good. And one last thing…..You don’t have to wait for Stir-up Sunday (or Christmas) to enjoy a steamed pudding.

Saturday, March 12, 2011


Here’s a photo of Grandma Coco when she was a little girl having afternoon tea with her grandmother….Nelly. We only have a couple of pictures of our grandmother. She seemed old and not very approachable to us way back then but she had had a hard life. Born in 1889, she delivered her first child (our mother) during the devastating flu outbreak of 1918 and was left a widow at only 49 years of age. She had a dairy farm to manage and 2 young girls to raise and by all accounts, she just carried on. We did the math and figure she’s in her early 70’s in this photo. Not long after this photo was taken, she began her long, sad dance with Alzheimer’s. Or maybe she’d already begun. You see she isn’t wearing her wedding ring? One of the things I do remember about her is the constant losing (and finding) of that wedding band. She lived well into her 90’s ... a pathetic, shrieking parody of a woman lost to a terrible disease. Those are our genes.

Grandma Coco inherited Nelly’s treadle sewing machine. We've always intended to get it up and running but more as a conversation piece than as a useable sewing machine. It seemed like a big job. A big job that just might need an expert to tackle it. So it lived at the back of our sewing room closet for….oh, maybe the last 20 years or so.

And then, 2 things happened at pretty much the same time. Two random events, miles apart. And wham! Something great shifted in the cosmos and the light shone through. Grandma Coco ‘met’ 2 people online. (And they say the internet is full of weirdos and scary guys! Nah!)

Grandma Coco met Jeane from Saskatchewan of Samantha’s House who told her she used (actually USED!) her antique treadle sewing machine to do free motion quilting. And she met Terri  from New Hampshire of Purple Moose Designs who not only uses a treadle machine but is really keen (and persuasive!) about everybody resurrecting and using their own old treadle sewing machines.

We dug our treadle out of the closet and set out to see what we had. Terri directed us to some online sites and we were able to find out from the dating service at that our machine is a Singer Improved Family Machine and was manufactured on November 26, 1884.

It’s a very cool machine. Everything glides effortlessly. There’s no rust. Nothing’s seized up. We’ve begun the process of cleaning and oiling it.

The machine had been removed from the table and at first we thought the belt was broken but it’s not! It has what we think is called a Coffin lid with a lock but we haven’t got a key. We also don’t have any extra feet but we do have 5 very unusual bobbins and 1 original needle which is pretty much identical to a modern Schmetz needle (thank goodness!). The machine has a fiddle base (not rectangular) and has very faint yellow and orange decorative flowers painted on it.

If the machine was manufactured in 1884 and our grandmother was born in 1889, is it possible her mother bought the machine in order to sew for her new family? Or did my grandmother get it second-hand? Or maybe from her husband’s family? We don’t know. All we know is that we are thrilled to feel the connection with a woman we really never got to know. We are calling our machine Nelly in her honour.

If you recognize this model of Singer or have any additional information you could share, please email us.

Friday, March 11, 2011

Recognize this?

The sweater gift tag image in its new incarnation....or at least the beginning of it. About 30 inches x 30 inches. The chocolate brown heart is stitched down with that lovely green rayon thread. Grandma Coco's experimenting with Lite Steam-a-Seam fusible web. So far, so good!

Grandma Coco has all kinds of projects going on right now. Not long now to wait until some of them can be revealed. How cryptic!! How mysterious!

Here's another teaser:

Her name is Nelly.

Sunday, March 6, 2011

If this is Sunday, it must be Friday

Illustration Friday, that is! This week's theme is "Warning"
Copyright © Cheryl Coville 2011

Though the years, too, were speeding by 
she still hoped to get away 
with just a warning.

Saturday, March 5, 2011

Odd Ball Mittens

Is it surprising that we're still in a mitten state of mind? We've been thinking about mittens all winter. We like to make mittens for Afghans for Afghans and, being frugal, we like to use up every little bit of wool. In truth some of the sweetest little mittens are hodge-podges of many different leftover yarns but sometimes those old stripes get a little monotonous. The Odd Ball Mitten is just what the doctor ordered.

This mitten pattern is great for using up those odd balls of leftover yarn to make beautiful mittens without resorting to plain, old stripes.  However, these mittens are not just odd. They are special. And they are special (as in, my mother says I’m “special”) for another reason. They are created in a very unique way. They are modular mittens. Simple, really….just different. Best of all? No grafting. No Kitchener stitch. No, really!!
Rounded mitten tip

The modular approach results in a lovely curving mitten tip that surrounds the palm and when you use 2 different colours for the palm and the edging, you’ll end up with a beautiful decorative detail where the 2 colours meet. But why stop at 2 colours? These are great for using up leftovers. All the palm/back-of-hand inserts can be different. The edging can be a different yarn and then the cuffs can be striped. Or, you can make them all from one ball of yarn. It’s your choice.
Adult Size with Cabled Edging for a dressy look

The pattern includes 2 sizes....Adult and Child. It includes several variations so you won't get bored....garter stitch palms, seed stitch palms, stockinette edging and a cabled edging.


Odd Ball Mittens are made from worsted weight wool like Cascade 220, or Patons Classic Wool or Elann Highland Wool or you can even use up leftover sock yarn by knitting with 2 strands at a time.

Because we know it's a long drive for most of you to come to us in the Kingdom of Coco, we've opened a Ravelry store. Through one  click of the "Buy Now" button in the side bar, you can be transported to our store....Beam me up, Scottie!..... where you can buy the pattern with Paypal and then get immediate download of the .PDF at any hour of the day or night.

We hope you're not yet tired of mittens because we're not! But that, as they say, is a story for another day.

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

¡Quilt Fiesta! winner and some surprising findings

Copyright © Cheryl Coville 2011

Don't you hate that artificial suspense they put you through on some of those TV shows? We sure do. So, here in the Kingdom of Coco, we're cutting right to the chase......We're pleased to announce the winner of  ¡Quilt Fiesta! – Surprising Designs From Mexican Tiles signed by the author, Cheryl Lynch herself is
Marcia W 
We've already emailed Marcia so as soon as we have her mailing info we'll be sending her the book. It's not too late to win a book. Head on over to Cheryl's blog to find out which blogs are still offering a chance to win a copy.

We were thrilled to have so many visitors to the Kingdom this week. So many new friends. We were happy to find that a substantial number are humble quilters who toil away on old and trusty machines. We must form a club or maybe a support group.

March is definitely coming in like a lamb this morning. Full sun and around the freezing point. Not like yesterday. We had freezing rain and ice and more rain and then some snow for good measure. Usually we fill some containers with drinking water when ice is in the forecast because our water pump runs on electricity but yesterday we got caught napping. Literally. The power went off around 5 am and didn't come back on until noon.

We were toasty and warm with our woodstove for heat and Grandma Coco had a number of projects she could work on that didn't require electricity but Mr. Coco had other ideas. He decided it was the perfect day to sort through some of Grandma Coco's stash of non-quilting fabrics. They've sort of clogged up the closet for a while now. So we dragged the boxes out to the living room where it was warm and set to it.

What a treasure trove! A veritable archeological dig! Old curtains. Upholstery fabrics. Old dressmaking fabrics...some from our grandmother (the original Grandma Coco). Felt. Hems cut off ready-made cotton skirts from the '80's! Metres of polyester that nobody sews with anymore. Burlap - in 3 colours! Silks. Satins. He was right. There was a ton of stuff that we didn't need to store.

....or DID we? Grandma Coco suddenly heard a little voice. A voice she tried to resist. But it was too insistent and too seductive. And what it whispered was this:
Fabric Postcards! 
Clearly Grandma Coco is a weak woman and she has persuasive friends. Monika and Sue and Elaine and Heather and lots more Maple Leaf Quilt Guild members, look what you've done.