Saturday, April 30, 2011

Patchwork muffler

Remember when you were a kid and it was cold and your mother wrapped you up in a scarf to keep you warm? Sort of like this?

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

A little embroidery goes a long way

Copyright © Cheryl Coville 2011

We made the trek to our favourite local quilt shop yesterday and found the perfect background fabric for the Need New Socks? motif. To be honest, we don't really believe there's ever one perfect fabric. There are just many, many....too many!....choices. And each one will spin us off into a different direction. And for the record....ALL those directions are pretty cool. We got 2 more colours of that rayon embroidery thread, too. A fuschia and a coral. We are truly addicted to the stuff.

So, once we had the appliqué stitched to the background, we were able to trim away all the excess fabric (to keep it supple) and remove the freezer paper. Then, Grandma Coco embroidered the eyes by hand. The eyes are the windows to the soul and we haven't figured out how to automate this part of the process. However, we do think this guy's got soul.

Sunday, April 24, 2011

Happy Easter!

Copyright © Cheryl Coville 2011

So, what, you're asking, does a bicycle have to do with Easter? Good question.

The answer is that the theme for Illustration Friday this week is "bicycle" and while we were drawing that, the little girl on the back of the bike decided she needed bunnie ears and a basket of Easter eggs. There. Happy? The eggs are dark chocolate, of course.

We hope you're enjoying the Easter holiday in whatever way you like best. And if you're able to ride your bike today, so much the better.

Saturday, April 23, 2011

Flies and Dogs

As you all know, Grandma Coco has this on-going love affair with pre-printed panels. Everywhere we look we see more of them. We bought these beautiful dog portraits earlier this year from  Sew Sisters in Toronto. These dogs are called "Woof" and they're by Makower UK. The colours are warm and chocolatey and there's a tiny hint of gold. Gorgeous! but it's such a challenge to use them to their fullest potential.

Anna over at Ark Angel Creations is having a contest to celebrate the upcoming black fly season. Really, we're not sure "celebrating" is the correct word. However, she has a good sense of humour and so she's marking the season by inviting quilters to take the basic Shoo Fly block, and change it up. Winner takes all! 

We have exactly 25 doggie portraits left. (Of course, we can still buy more............)

Sunday, April 17, 2011

Illustration Friday: Journey

The best part of any journey ...
Copyright © Cheryl Coville 2011

... is coming home.

Friday, April 15, 2011

So, how's the knitting theme quilt coming along?

Glad you asked.

Grandma Coco has been stitchin' up a storm. Let's see....where did we leave off? Oh, yeah, the last time we checked in, the sweater gift tag was getting its outline stitching on the text. We learned an awful lot on that one (and we use the word 'awful' on purpose). Free motion embroidery is some tricky stuff (as Thelma once said). We've decided we prefer to keep our feed dogs up! It means we need to work on a slightly larger scale. Good to know. In the interest of full disclosure, some of the embroidery (the cat's face, for instance) was done by hand.

Copyright © Cheryl Coville 2011

Then, we set to work on the Need New Socks gift tag/band. (You probably saw that one coming, didn't you?) This one's about 12 inches x 18 inches. The text is larger and much easier to handle. Although we liked the Lite Steam-a-Seam 2 for fusing the pieces of the Sweater gift tag (much better than WonderUnder, in our opinion) it still gives a stiffness that we don't really like. And if you have to do much layering, that stiffness becomes a real problem. We tried trimming the fusible so it was only under the very edges, but that was a lot of work. For NNSocks, we used the old stand by freezer paper and a narrow zigzag with invisible thread. That works very well. This one will get some additional embroidery detail.

Copyright © Cheryl Coville 2011

And then we tried a different approach, just for the fun of it. This is the Froggie Rip-it! block. (For all you non-knitters, that's not a typo. The frog says "Ribbit, ribbit" which sounds to a knitter like "Rip it! Rip it!" and that's what you have to do when you make a knitting mistake. So, knitters talk about "frogging" a project or "sending it to the frog pond" if it has to be ripped back. Right, so we've got that out of the way!)

With the appliqué fabric right on top of the background fabric, we traced the outline of our frog. Then we stitched through both layers of fabric (with freezer paper stuck to the bottom for stability). We used a very short stitch. Next we trimmed the top fabric as close as we could to the the outside of the stitching line. Then we did a zig-zag, sorta satin stitch with rayon thread all over that raw edge. 

About 15 inches x 15 inches

It's easy. It's quick. And it's fun. Did we mention that we're calling this our Franken Quilt? It's kind of a surgical assemblage of all sorts of motifs and blocks in a very spontaneous approach. We hope it won't frighten the villagers!

We made some Wonky Stars that Elaine (from the Maple Leaf Quilt Guild) pointed us to, and overlapped them over a pieced strip that was partly stitch-and-flipped and partly over-laid spontaneous appliqué.

This piece will be the lower right hand corner of the quilt. We also have some orphan blocks that are good colours for this quilt. We haven't had this much fun in a long time.

Sunday, April 10, 2011

Illustration Friday: Bottled.... Sweet Memories

Copyright © Cheryl Coville 2011

Grandma Coco has a shelf in the pantry of her heart where she stores great memories. They’re all up there in big glass bottles and she can just pull one down any time she wants. Some of them are joyful…the kind you might like to relive time and again. And some of them are sad… but you would never want to forget those times either.

This week’s Illustration Friday topic, Bottled, rang a different bell for us because we’re in the very earliest days of spring here in the Kingdom of Coco. It’s the time of year when you can get a true promise-of-spring day followed by big, wet “sugar snow” the next.

Sugar snow is what my mother used to call the big, fat flakes that fall during the maple syrup season. And that’s what we’re in right now….Sugar Season.

We made a new friend this week and in her honour, we’re celebrating that season since her husband is “sugaring off” in the old-fashioned way that we remember from our childhood. Anna’s husband is collecting the sap in buckets and boiling it down over a wood fire. He’s only aiming for a small quantity of syrup but it will be all the better, no doubt, because of that.

When we were kids, although we lived in maple syrup territory, we usually had corn syrup on our pancakes.  Maybe the artificial stuff had yet to hit our supermarkets. Or maybe it just didn’t taste very good. Corn syrup was cheap and plentiful.

That is not to say that we didn’t have real maple syrup once in a while. Each year in early spring when the weather warmed up during the day so that the sap could run and then dropped below freezing during the night, my dad would take us on an excursion to find real maple syrup.

We’d drive up and down old country roads. Some years we’d just drive up to some old farmhouse and buy syrup from a farmer and sometimes we’d hit the mother lode and be driving by a sugar shack when it was in operation. That was way more interesting to us kids than just handing over money on a doorstep.

Either way, the syrup was always bottled in recycled liquor bottles. The Women’s Temperance League was still in full swing all over the countryside and yet there was never any shortage of empty liquor bottles for the syrup. (If you were wondering…. That’s the "bottled" connection that ricocheted around our brain.)

The government didn’t get involved in maple syrup production or sales way back then. They left it to the grownups who had been feeding themselves all their lives not to do anything stupid and poison each other. Amazingly, it worked out pretty well.
Copyright © Cheryl Coville 2011

So, my dad would buy a bottle of real honest-to-goodness maple syrup and off we’d go. Sunday morning, Dad would make French toast or Mom would make pancakes - they each had their specialty – and the crowning glory would be pure maple syrup. Kids were never allowed to pour the syrup. Mom and Dad were on to us. They made that bottle last as long as possible because there wouldn’t be any more until the next spring. We never felt deprived when we went back to plain old corn syrup. The maple syrup was a seasonal treat. No one expected it to be on our table year round.

Things were different in Mr. Coco’s household. His father helped out at a sugar shack. As he got older, Mr. Coco helped out, too. They didn’t take money for their labour. They got paid in syrup! So they had lots. One of the most astonishing things we ever witnessed was the first time we saw Mr. Coco’s mother pour syrup on her pancakes. She poured a river of syrup….no, an ocean! And Mother Coco was about as thrifty a housewife as you could ever imagine. It was amazing.

Nowadays, you can buy real maple syrup in any grocery store and we always have some on hand. It doesn’t taste the same. There’s no smoky flavour, for starters, and it doesn’t have that really satisfying taste that comes from seasonal deprivation.

But it’s still good.

Friday, April 8, 2011

Socks make great gifts

Everyone who ever slips her foot into a handknit sock for the first time is amazed at how comfortable they are. Socks that are made to fit and knit from proper yarn are unbeatable. Of course, wool is the fiber of choice with about 20 - 25% nylon or something similar for durability. They are warm but they breathe and they don't make your feet feel clammy the way synthetic yarns do. And when those socks are knit for you with love....well, Grandma Coco thinks you can feel the love in every stitch.

Our Dad still talks about the socks that our mother made for him years ago. Every so often, when his supply of socks ran low, she would buy some Kroy sock yarn and start knitting. She darned the worn socks, too, which is something that really isn't worth doing for a store bought sock.

On the other side of the needle, socks are a relatively quick knit. A ball or 2 of even the best quality yarn is still pretty inexpensive and there's enough variety in the patterning of socks to keep the most jaded knitter happy.

All in all, socks make great gifts. But what makes a gift a gift? Why a gift card, of course! Grandma Coco's been so busy lately she hasn't had time to offer any goodies. Today, she's got a .PDF file for you that you can download and print at home to make your own gift cards. They wrap around your handknit socks and have a space for laundering instructions.

Copyright © Cheryl Coville 2011

This is a .PDF file. When you print, you have to remember to set Page Scaling to "NONE" and don't tick  "auto rotate and center". Weird things happen when you tick that option. Click HERE to download the file.

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Aren't babies cute?

We've been waiting patiently for the birth of our new great-niece and we are happy to announce that she she has arrived!! She is beautiful. And perfect. Her parents are thrilled and both sets of grandparents are pretty happy, too. Of course babies need quilts ... or is it that quilters need to make quilts for babies? And what's not to love about a baby quilt? They'll small and sweet, too.

Barnyard Roundup

You know we've had kind of a love affair going on with those pre-printed panels. But they're sometimes hard to incorporate into a quilt.

This is also the baby quilt we mentioned when we were gathering intel about machine quilting. We think it turned out pretty well. We took the "less is more" approach and left it puffy and sproing-y. We hope our little princess will enjoy sleeping under it.

Friday, April 1, 2011

Practice makes if-not-perfect then, at least, not-so-bad

We're still practicing. Each day, we have to loosen up and slide into it again. It's a little bit, 2 steps forward and 1 step back. We've begun to realize that the imperfections lend a little character. All need not be perfect. In fact, we like the organic look. Here's a photo from 2 days ago. No work was accomplished yesterday so this morning's session was more like 2 steps forward, 2 steps back but that was short-lived and we were soon back on track.

We purchased the magic machine needle yesterday that promises to allow us to embroider with the blue thread. We thought we'd finish the black outlining of the text before we test that out. Stay tuned.

Copyright © Cheryl Coville 2011
 And now, a flash from the Nosey Nelly News .............

If you've ever thought that there might be gender biases at play in the world of art and literature, you'll find a kindred spirit over on Heather's blog. She's taking part in a blog tour for a new book that's being published by Tundra books. Apparently, Nathaniel know, the fellow who wrote The Scarlet Letter... once complained to his publisher about the annoying habit of women "scribbling".  We guess he thought that writing was a man's game. Canadian writer, Marthe Jocelyn has written a book entitled Scribbling Women which tells the stories of eleven such women. Heather has undertaken an amazing project of her own. You can read about it on her blog and you can even take part if you'd like to. She's organizing a virtual quilting bee, in a sense. Check her out. It's going to be fun to watch her progress on this quilt.