Hello all you wonderful historical romance readers! This is just a last reminder that I will be drawing a name tomorrow for the Big-Bucket-O-Prizes Giveaway.
I’ll notify the winner first and then post their FIRST name and state on the website once I’ve received their permission to do so.
There is no purchase necessary, all you have to do is sign up for my newsletter. One entry will qualify you for all subsequent giveaways, so you’ll never have to worry about being left-out if you don’t hear about a giveaway.
If you have concerns about your inbox being bombarded, I should probably confess I haven’t actually sent out a newsletter yet…. So, I probably won’t be pestering you often.
And I’ll make this promise right now: If/when I send out a newsletter, it will always include either a giveaway, a snippet, or some other no-purchase-necessary goody.
A full list of prizes, along with photos, is on the Giveaways! page
Good luck and happy reading!!
I have always loved the look of quill pens and have often wondered what it was like to write with one. When you see the beautiful documents and letters people wrote with quills it is awe inspiring:
If you read historical romance (and why wouldn’t you?!) you may have noticed that people often faff around with quills. It seems to have been an excellent way to get up to a little flirting: the heroine mashes or splits the end of her quill and then requires some hunky hero to trim the quill with his pen knife. Yeah, you know what I’m talking about….
People back then liked to paint other people with quills, too.
Anyhow, I’ve always saved the large feathers my turkey Wiccus likes to molt almost every year. I’ve also collected a few goose feathers over the past few years, although they don’t seem to have an all-over molt like chickens and turkeys.
Here is a picture of Wiccus in all his feathered glory:
Some of the feathers had become pretty dirty so I gave them a good scrubbing. Feathers are durable and get wet all the time. Birds usually preen them with natural oils to make them water-resistant so some of these feathers were remarkably clean. Those that had been left out in the sun and elements were harder to wash. You can give them a vigorous scrubbing with a brush in warm, soapy water if necessary.
Once they’ve dried they’ll be all nice and fluffy again!
After reading various “how-to” instructions (the website https://www.instructables.com/ is one great source) I decided to try my hand at cutting my own quill.
Now, before everyone at home rushes out to try this (as I know you all WILL) please be warned that cutting a quill is dangerous, tricky business. I’ve seen how durable a bird’s plumage is, so I don’t know why I was so surprised a feather would be so damned hard to cut–but they are!
But before I proceed I need to make a confession. Cutting and shaping feathers was not only dangerous, it was damned near impossible. So, I ended up cheating a little. You can read about that and see pictures below.
For those of you who are purists here is what you will need:
- A feather. (Please don’t buy a feather from a hobby store as most of them have been taken from birds in inhumane conditions rather than voluntarily donated. Take a look on Craigslist as people often just save them and give them away. I have bags of feathers and I’m always glad to share!)
- a cutting board (I used an old plastic board that I keep on hand for cutting non-food items)
- a thin tipped marker
- a VERY sharp Xacto knife (this is important! The feathers are hard enough to cut as it is)
- safety glasses- you scoff, but an Xacto tip snapped off and I was glad I was wearing glasses. Glad.
And here is what you’ll need if you want to be a cheater, like ME!
- metal nibs
- embroidery floss/thread
HINT: if you soak the end of the feather in water overnight it will be a little easier to cut, but still difficult.
Anyhow, first you want to cut the end of the feather:
See how I’ve cut it straight. This is a tricky process as it is really easy to split the feather if you apply too much pressure. A split tip is a big deal if you are going to be a purist and hand carve your nib but not so important if you are a CHEATER. Like me…
Once you’ve cut the end off you can always clean the fluff from the center of the feather if you like.
Hold the quill the way you will want to hold it to write. Now, the truth is that actual quill pens were mostly stripped of their barbs (the fluffy part that makes the feather so pretty). Apparently they did this so the pen was easier to handle. I leave the barbs on my quills although I will trim them up if the feather has been damaged.
Anyhow, you want to make sure you hold the pen in the position you will use to write before you draw your marks.
There is no shortcut to carving. You basically draw the lines of the nib onto the feather: Start shaping with your Xacto knife. I recommend cutting less and then slowly whittling toward the line. Here is a picture of the shape you want to end up with:
Once you’ve shaped the nib you will use the Xacto to make a split in the writing tip. Here is a picture of the nib. You can’t see the split because I’m not skilled at taking pictures…. Anyhow, you just use the tip of the Xacto to make the cut. It’s probably the easiest of the cuts since you can do it by pressing the nib onto the cutting board.
Here are some cool little pots of different colored ink I ordered from Dick Blick’s :
Okay, no laughing–here is a sample of my writing with my nifty new quill pen:
I have to confess that took a while. If writing a book with a quill was the only way to get the job done I’m not sure I could do it…
Okay, if you’ve stuck around until this point I can now show you the cheater’s way.
You can order yourself some of these little guys:
Again, I ordered mine from Dick Blick, which definitely had the biggest selection and best price. The only reason I ordered 2 is because I’m making 50 of these little guys as giveaways and have feathers that really vary in diameter. You can’t tell from the picture, but the top nib is a lot narrower than the lower one.
So, you’re going to cut the tip off, just like you did above, but this time you will make a slit in the quill. Make it long enough to accommodate the base of the nib. You can use scissors on this because it doesn’t matter if the cut is really clean.
Clearly you’re going to have to do something to secure the nib in the feather. Here is a use for all that embroidery thread you have just lying around! Okay, so maybe you’ll have to to out and buy some.
I recommend the sparkly kind, although it is a bit harder to use because it keeps fraying.
For demonstration purposes I’m going to use some regular, non-sparkly, blue.
See how I’ve laid the thread with the tail end away from the nib? This is a good idea because it will leave the area nearest the nib smooth. Start wrapping the thread around the nib end and work down the feather. Make sure to leave enough of the tail end to tie with the strand you are using to wrap. See below how I’ve tied the knot and cut the thread. I’ve done it beneath the quill so it won’t interfere with your fingers when you hold it. Take your glue of choice (I’m using Gorilla Glue here and coat all of the thread. Once you’ve covered it on all sides you need to leave it to dry (but you knew that, didn’t you?)
When it has completely dried you can trim the threads or tie them into a bow or whatever floats your boat. Sometimes I leave them, sometimes I cut them.
Here are a couple different feathers. I’ve stripped the barb from the one on the left, which is closer to what a real quill would have looked like. The one on the right is a feather in all its glory (well, except there is no turkey attached, which is the REAL glory!)
I’ve punched a hole in one of my business cards and attached the quill to a little pot of ink. These are some of the reader gifts I will be giving away at my debut signings.
*Want to win a quill and other cool stuff? Go to my Giveaways page and sign up for my newsletter
Upcycle Your Animal Feed Sacks
Do you like animals? Do like to sew? Even if you don’t have a hobby farm you still might have some animal feed bags laying around you could “upcycle” into re-usable shopping bags, beach bags, or a hip bag to take to your local farmer’s market.
In addition to poultry and dog feed I buy a lot of bird seed, both mixed seed and black oil sunflower. Oftentimes the bags have very pretty designs, like this one:
The best bags are the ones that have a weave as you can use a sewing machine to put them together.
You can use other types of bags, like dog or cat food bags, but those cannot be punctured with a needle without damaging the bag material. You can always make a bag from them using my method, you just need to use glue, instead of a sewing machine.
Once you’ve found the bag you want you should take off both the top and bottom binding material and lay the bag out flat on a cutting surface and trim the edges of the top or bottom if necessary.
I am using a cutting wheel with a ruler made specifically for cutting wheels on my bag but you can use regular scissors.
Once you’ve evened up the edges you can cut off the top part of the bag so you will have some material to make a handle.
Don’t worry if the strip you have to work with is wrinkled or ugly, by the time you are finished flattening and folding and sewing it the handle will be fine.
I cut off enough so that I can fold it in half with the ends tucked in–so maybe 2.5 times the width of the final handle.
Here is the strip I cut in the first picture.
In the second picture you can see the piece is much flatter after “hand ironing” and clamping with binder clips. I use binder clips for this project because they are much easier than shoving pins into the stiff material.
Once your handle is folded, clipped, and ready to sew you can set it aside.
Turn your bag inside out and use binder clips to fold a seam on the bottom edge of the bag.
You will then sew the seam and also sew the handle.
I sew two seams on the handle, one on each side, which stabilizes it and makes it less likely to roll. (see picture on lower left)
Once you’ve sewed the bottom seam you next sew the corners so you will have a bag that sits up on its own.
You will open the bag up (still keeping it inside out) and use a triangle guide to mark the corners.
I just make a triangle guide out of a reinforced piece of paper.
It’s easier to look at the following pictures to understand what I mean.
First you will turn the bag so the seam you’ve just sewed is running vertically, make sure the seam is centered and place the triangle on the corner and mark it with a pen or marker.
See how the seam you’ve just sewn is facing you in the picture to the left (the one with my hand almost covering all the seam!)
That is the bottom of the bag and this is what you will stitch to make your bag stand up on its own.
Here it is after I’ve drawn the marking:
And then here it is after I’ve sewn both corners. I’ve left the picture larger so you can see what I mean. See how it is standing up, even though it is inside out?
Now you can turn your bag rightside out.
For the top edge of the bag you are going to fold the top over two times so there are no raw edges showing.
Once you’ve turned it over all the way around you can either pin or clamp it so that it’s even.
Now you will tuck the end of the handle under the fold at whatever two points on the bag you would like your handle.
Again I use binder clips to get everything into position.
Here is a picture of the back side of the bag all clipped and ready to sew!
Once everything is secure, you can sew it. It won’t be easy, the material is stiff and you will have to struggle with it. Just go slowly and keep checking that the slick material isn’t slipping.
Before I show you the finished project I’d like to share a bit about the sewing machine I’m using.
I bought this 1913 commercial Singer machine from a saddle maker who lived at the very end of The Santa Fe Trail (true story!) He was downsizing and had three commercial Singers just like this one. I already had 12 sewing machines at the time so I needed to make and sell a lot of these feed bags to justify the expenditure!
The machine was originally operated by a treadle but the saddle-maker attached a 1.5 HP motor to it and also added this (kind of ugly but very handy) formica top, complete with homemade scissor holder!
He showed me how to operate it when I bought it but it all dribbled out of my head before I actually got to use the machine.
Luckily, the Smithsonian Institute has a library of operator manuals, so I was able to download a copy of the actual instruction manual
You don’t need to use a 1913 Singer to sew your bag, I sewed my first 50 bags on the first machine I bought for myself back in 1986, which is the cheapest Singer made.
Just make sure you buy a heavy needle adequate to the task and use heavy duty thread.
Okay! Here is what you’ve been waiting for, the finished bag!
Voila! I hope you give this a try and upcycle a bag of your own. Please don’t hesitate to ask questions!
If you’d like to win the bag I’ve upcycled in this article please come and check out my upcoming Facebook Party on June 18, 2018, where I’m giving away not only a bag, but other goodies, too! NO purchase necessary. Link to Summer Reading List Launch Party!!
NOTE: I’m re-posting this by request because I’m crocheting another skirt just like it, but in chili red.
Yes, I really am crazy. . .
Every time I wear this skirt people want to know more about it and also want to know where I found the pattern. I’ve attached the pattern link below and it’s free!!
If you decide you want to make one and have any questions please feel free to ask me as I see granny squares in my sleep. I’ve also made just about every mistake a person can make–at least when it comes to this pattern.
This time I will post more pictures as I go along.
Last April I decided I had to have this skirt I saw featured on beautifulcrochetstuff.com
I’m a self-taught knitter and crocheter who knows just enough about both to be dangerous (to myself, mostly). By dangerous I mean I frequently get into projects that are well over my head.
If I would have stopped and thought about it for a second (which I didn’t) I would have said, “No way!” to making this skirt.
Instead, I looked online for the yarn (well, thread would be more accurate). The woman who designed the pattern recommends: Alize Forever cotton. I found the product for sale in Latvia. Seriously. It cost less than $2/skein and only took a few weeks to get all the way to the mountains of Northern New Mexico.
Here is what it looks like when compared to both a spool of sewing thread and serger thread (finer than normal thread):
I began crocheting the granny squares last April. I wish I had taken photos, but it didn’t occur to me what a monumental task this project would be (told you I didn’t think things through…)
All of the squares looked wrinkly and oddly-shaped and . . . weird. But I just kept going. I made about 10 squares and then put the project away until November 2016, when I finished the squares and began to join everything together. Each row took about 2 hours, not counting the time it took me to undo mistakes I made. Since I worked on this while streaming movies with my husband, I frequently crocheted entire rows that were wrong.
It looked like the skirt wasn’t getting any bigger, even after a few months of working on it 4 or 5 evenings a week. But persistence paid off and so did the fact I wanted it finished for my conference in LA this March.
I was crocheting the frill on the bottom and feeling like it would never be quite long enough when I decided to see if I could press it with an iron and maybe “flatten” it out a bit.
Yes, this was exactly what the granny squares needed to become beautiful and flat. In fact, the skirt became plenty long after I pressed it. It was beautiful . I LOVED it. Unfortunately, once the fibers have been ironed it’s almost impossible to weave in all the loose ends on the garment.
So, live and learn. And also live with dozens of loose ends you are too afraid to cut and cannot weave in. . .
Anyhow, here are some pics of the finished product:
A close up of the bottom:
One of those pesky granny squares:
And the waistband, which you crochet with thread and elastic thread:
So, there is the skirt. I would make one and sell it for about a million dollars…
Please join me and the debut authors 18 group to celebrate the release of our summer books! We’ll be getting together on Facebook for a few hours to talk about the books and giveaway prizes.
When: June 18, 2018
What Time: 6:30-9:30 EDT
Where: Summer Reading List Party!
YESSSS! Pirate trivia by Minerva . . . aaarrrg!
Here is a tiny taste of some tough and tricky trivia:
What was pirate Mark Read’s real name?* (answer below)
Join the fun and win a 12-Book Bundle and MORE!
The Patronesses are hosting a party on Facebook! It costs nothing to join in the fun and there will be trivia and prizes!
Here is the link to join the group: https://www.facebook.com/
I will be giving away an autographed book and some handmade bookmarks that look like this…
Here is one in an actual book!
*Mary Read, one of the only two women convicted of piracy
Hope to see you there!
Yes, this is a review for adults. No kiddies allowed.
I’ve read a lot of reviews comparing Hoang’s debut to Sally Thorne’s The Hating Game (which I LOOOOOVED) Yes, both books are hilarious and peopled with characters you really care about, but I think The Kiss Quotient pulled ahead of The Hating Game on my list of favorite contemporary romances.
Why? Because I’ve never read a romance novel where the characters are so honest. Seriously, Stella’s reaction to Michael is so refreshingly REAL I just couldn’t get enough.
And Michael? He is nuclear meltdown HOT. And not just his body, he is also funny and hard-working and responsible and self-aware–yes, he is the freakin’ UNICORN of men!!!! But you believe in this unicorn because of Hoang’s deft development of his character. Mainly it is his family that makes you believe.
He has a PILE of sisters who keep him from getting conceited (these girls need their own book. HINT. No, I’m serious. I want a book about Janie. Now.) I love his family.
But back to Michael. Not only is he hot, he is also smart, sensitive, and he knows his way around women’s clothing (see, unicorn, right?) He is a decent, funny, witty (and did I mention HOT) guy who gets better and better the more you get to know him.
My favorite part of the book (other than the sex scenes, which are not only plentiful but SCORCHING) is the fact there are no “too-stupid-to-live” misunderstandings. These guys are about as honest with each other as you can get, which doesn’t mean they don’t both have their secrets, but the things they DO keep from each other you can understand.
This book is a mo*&%$#ing blockbuster. I can SO see it being made into a movie. Just two words about that: Daniel Henny.
It’s time for FREE advance reader copies of DANGEROUS!!!
You can sign up for a copy either on NETGALLEY or GOODREADS.
What sort of lady doesn’t make her debut until the age of thirty-two? A timeless beauty with a mysterious past—and a future she intends to take into her own hands . . .
Lady Euphemia Marlington hasn’t been free in seventeen years—not since she was captured by Corsairs and sold into a harem. Now the sultan is dead and Mia is back in London facing relentless newspapermen, an insatiably curious public, and her first Season. Worst of all is her ashamed father’s ultimatum: marry a man of his choosing or live out her life in seclusion. No doubt her potential groom is a demented octogenarian. Fortunately, Mia is no longer a girl, but a clever woman with a secret—and a plan of her own . . .
Adam de Courtney’s first two wives died under mysterious circumstances. Now there isn’t a peer in England willing to let his daughter marry the dangerously handsome man the ton calls The Murderous Marquess. Nobody except Mia’s father, the desperate Duke of Carlisle. Clearly Mia must resemble an aging matron, or worse. However, in need of an heir, Adam will use the arrangement to his advantage . . .
But when the two outcasts finally meet, assumptions will be replaced by surprises, deceit by desire—and a meeting of minds between two schemers may lead to a meeting of hearts—if the secrets of their pasts don’t tear them apart . . .
“Minerva Spencer’s writing is sophisticated and wickedly witty. Dangerous is a delight from start to finish with swashbuckling action, scorching love scenes, and a coolly arrogant hero to die for. Spencer is my new auto-buy.”
—New York Times bestselling author Elizabeth Hoyt
“Readers will love this lusty and unusual marriage of convenience story.”
—New York Times bestselling author Madeline Hunter
“Smart, witty, graceful, sensual, elegant and gritty all at once. It has all of the meticulous attention to detail I love in Georgette Heyer, BUT WITH SEX!”
—RITA-award winning author Jeffe Kennedy