DIY and MAKE STUFF

Want to Write and Self-Publish a Book?

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I’ve been working on some aspects of my writing and getting my books out to the world more. This equals marketing, which is not something I’m naturally attracted to doing. I could say I have found myself procrastinating on this, but I don’t like labels! ๐Ÿ™‚

I thought it might be helpful to those of you who are interested in self-publishing to share some resources I have found lately. For those new to this blog, I should say I’ve self-published 8 non-fiction books to date! But I am always looking to learn more about the process. ๐Ÿ™‚

The Creative Penn

Joanna Penn is a MONSTER in self-publishing! She has written countless books, both fiction and non-fiction, and is really interested in helping others. She has a website full of resources and a podcast I’ve also been enjoying. Everything else I’m going to mention in this blog post came from her suggestions! I really enjoyed the episode about “Going Wide for the Win” which talks about publishing in as many places and ways as possible. After listening to this episode, I no longer feel paralyzed and overwhelmed; I am so much more inspired and empowered to get my books out on more platforms. After all, I wrote them for others to read!

E-books – Draft 2 Digital

I’ve made it a personal goal to get ALL my books into ebook format before the end of March. I have been working on it since January and it’s coming along. There are several services that take care of ebook creation and distribution, and I have settled on Draft 2 Digital. They even have a print option, although they do not have as many different book sizes available as other print-on-demand printers, such as lulu.com, which is the printer I have been using. I find lulu.com has some pretty hefty fees, however, so I am looking at my options. For ebooks, I think Draft 2 Digital is great, but by all means, do your own research.

By the way, getting your own ISBN is VERY easy in Canada! Go to this page in Library and Archives Canada, start an account and then start requesting ISBNs. It isn’t hard and it’s totally free. If you have created a publishing company, great. If not, you can publish under your own name too. You need to request a unique ISBN for every format of every book. For example, my latest book Forging Sisterhood in the Frozen North will eventually have 4 ISBNs – one for the paperback (which is already out), one for the large print version, one for the ebook, and one for the audiobook.

http://teresagriffith.ca/books#FSFN

Audio Books – Find a Way Voices

Audio books are crazy popular. There used to be only one way to distribute them (Audible.com), but thanks to Find a Way Voices, there are now other options. I am not a fan of monopolies, so I was glad to learn about Find a Way Voices! If you think you might ever create an audio book, be sure to check them out. Can you believe I recorded myself reading Love Your Skeletons years ago, and I still haven’t done anything with it!?! It’s embarrassing. Like I said, I was procrastinating and feeling unsure of how to start.

Need some motivation?

If you are serious about writing a book and want someone to check in with you on your progress, I would love to do this for you. Having an accountability partner who checks in with you is a great way to actually finish something you have started. Please contact me and we’ll make it happen. ๐Ÿ™‚

Quick 5-Ingredient Scones

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I just have to share this recipe that comes from the giant cookbook/textbook The Joy of Cooking. Iโ€™ll include my tweaks that make these scones extra-delicious! And soooo fast to make. They also happen to be dairy-free and vegan and only require 5 ingredients! The scones I made today (photo below) have fruit added, but these scones are delicious with just the 5 ingredients.

Ingredients:

  • 1 + 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 2 + 1/2 teaspoons baking powder (NOT soda!)
  • 1 or less teaspoon sugar (organic, if you have)
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1+1/4 cups thick coconut cream

The coconut cream should be almost as thick as butter. It replaces the butter and eggs in the original recipe. I scoop it out of canned coconut milk and that works great. The only problem is that the amount of thick cream varies between cans. Itโ€™s best if you have two 14-oz (400 ml) cans to scoop the thickest coconut cream from. Pro-tip: donโ€™t shake the cans! The thickest cream rises to the top, so just open them and start scooping!

I increased the amount of baking powder in the original recipe because, letโ€™s face it, most of the baking powder on our shelves is probably a little old and has lost some of its potency.

Directions

Preheat oven to 450 F. Get a baking stone or cookie sheet ready. Baking stones work great for these! Combine all dry ingredients and make a well in the middle. Measure out and add the coconut cream. If you like, you can add 1/2 cup dried fruit such as blueberries, cranberries, chopped apricots or candied ginger. Whatever you add should TOTAL 1/2 cup, and donโ€™t use wet fruit like frozen blueberries. You would have to plan ahead to thaw them and dry them out a bit. These scones are still delicious without any add-ins!
Mix the minimum amount to combine everything.

Sprinkle about 1/4 cup of flour on a clean counter or large cutting board. Dump dough onto that and shape into a circle 3/4 inch (about 2 cm) thick. You donโ€™t even really need to use a rolling pin. Cut with a knife into 6 or 8 wedge shapes. Transfer the wedges onto the baking stone. Take a little more coconut oil/milk (the thinner stuff) and brush it on each wedge. Sprinkle a tiny pinch of sugar on each. Without the glaze, the scones will be a bit dry and wonโ€™t brown up as nicely as they bake.

Bake in the oven about 15 minutes, until golden. Let them cool slightly before moving them. Eat WARM with a little butter or coconut oil. Yum!

Refurbishing an Old Board Game

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Does anyone else here like to play the board game Aggravation? It’s a game where you have to move your marbles around the board to get from “home” to “safe.” Along the way, you can take shortcuts, or take out your friends and send them back to the beginning. It looks like this:

I love this game! It’s so fun. So, when I saw a crappy old one for $1 at a garage sale, I bought it. But it didn’t have enough holes drilled in it. It only had holes around the outside (see photo below). That isn’t very fun! You need a center hole to be a short cut, and some way to get into the middle. So, I decided to add more holes!

I tried to make the curves smooth, and by putting masking tape on, I could erase them and adjust them before drilling them.

Initially, I used a drill stand which holds the hand drill at whatever angle you set. I set it for 90 degrees, or perpendicular. It worked alright, but on a couple of the holes, the device moved a little and the hole did not end up where I had wanted it. Then, we found a drill press on kijiji! So, I set the depth and that was better… for the holes it could reach. It couldn’t reach the holes closes to the centre, or the curved parts. So in the end, I used a combination of the hand-held drill and stand and the drill press. I think I may have drilled the center hole a bit too deep! Once I had all the holes drilled, I took the masking tape off.

Now, I had to do something about that rather awful finish. There were some pretty big gouges too, where the wood had broken away when the original maker drilled their holes. I filled those with wood filler and then went at it with the sander! The wood filler shows up as light grey in the photo below. Isn’t that a nice piece of wood, though!?! Without that orange stain?!?

I had to redrill one hole because the stand had slipped and the hole was too close to its neighbour. I put down lots of wood filler, then very carefully drilled into all that wood filler to move the hole over. It worked! in the photo above, the new hole is pretty close to 12 o’clock.

Next, I slowly and carefully painted all the holes with dark brown enamel that I’ve had around here for ages. Looks nice, doesn’t it!?! Sure beats that orange-brown wood! You can see old holes, new holes and painted holes below.

The new holes needed 2 coats because some enamel absorbed into the wood. Then, I had to decide what to do for the colours. Did you notice this game is a hexagon? There are home bases for 6 people to play. I thought about getting marbles in 6 colours and painting the home bases and safe bases in those colours, but then I remembered I had some large wooden beads… I used the beads and went through my craft supplies at home to find 6 different colours of enamel/paint that I already had! (Yes, some of it was nail polish! I also borrowed some yellow from my mom… Thanks, Mom!)

I am so pleased with the result!

I did kind of a minimalist painting scheme on the home bases, just connecting the holes with lines. Overall, this was a really fun project, and it would be equally fun to make from scratch! I’ve seen aggravation games with 4 home bases or 8, but 6 was good too.

How To Play

Your marbles (or in this case, beads) start at your home, which is on the outside edge of the board. My family plays by rolling a dice, but some people play with cards — that lets you plan your moves. You need to roll a 1 or a 6 to get out of the home base and start playing — that just gets your marble onto that first hole outside your home base. Then, you move around clockwise according to how you roll until you get back to your safe — the part inside the curved areas on my board. In the photo above, you can see there are 2 orange marbles still at home and 2 out and about on the playing board. The copper-coloured player has one in his safe already and one in the shortcut… he or she is probably waiting for a 1 to get out! ๐Ÿ™‚ As you go around, if you land on someone else’s marble you get to send them home. You can have all your marbles in play at one time, or just focus on one.

If you want to try your luck on the shortcut, you have to jump into the middle from a special dot. On my game, it is painted sparkly! On other games, it might be painted red or with a yellow circle around it. Can you see the sparkly holes at the top of each arc? You need to roll a 1 to get out, and you can come out onto any sparkly dot you choose… but you’ll probably want the one just before your safe base!

The first person to get all their marbles into their safe wins! At the end, sometimes I get stuck waiting for a small number like a 2 so I can get in the door! ๐Ÿ™‚

I hope this inspires you to get a piece of plywood (at least a half inch thick) and start drilling some holes! ๐Ÿ™‚ Take care, everybody.

More refurbishing: An Old Drum Carder

Making a Parka for an Alpaca

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I should probably apologize right now, as this is going to be another of those oddly-specific posts that you are going to either get VERY excited about, because it’s exactly what you need, or it’s not relevant to your life at all. This post is about making coats for alpacas! ๐Ÿ™‚

These coats lay across the animal’s back and attach under the belly with a strap and fasten across the front of their chest with overlapping panels and either straps or velcro. Let’s start with the basic shape. I found this pattern image online and used it as a guideline. I would love to give credit to the originator, but all I have is this google drive link.

The U-shaped part at the top is where the alpaca’s neck will go, and the chest straps will connect across the alpaca’s chest and the belly straps will connect under the belly. You will need 2 measurements for the alpaca you are making the coat for: around-the-belly circumference and length of back (from neck to tail).

My first venture into making coats was last fall, when we knew we had a baby on the way and it would be due in October. What a heck of a time of year to be born! So I made two coats — a lightweight one and a warmer one. I used measurements off the internet for the sizes of coats that were for sale. I was so glad I did. That little guy really needed his coat! He was basically born shivering and after I dried him off, I put it on him and he perked up a lot!

Look how pink his ears and nose are!

The next day, I made him a neckwarmer and put that on him too.

As he got bigger and winter got colder, we put his thicker coat on him. This one was insulated with alpaca fibre from his mama!

Isn’t he adorable!?! He grew up really well and is still very gentle and likes to come nose-to-nose with me. I think he knows we will take care of him no matter what!

Okay, we are in danger of getting sentimental, so let’s get down to business and look at how I made these coats! ๐Ÿ™‚

I guess I didn’t take many pictures of the construction of the first coat, but here it is all finished, waiting for the little one to be born! My mom supplied the light blue fabric and wide velcro — thanks Mom!
Making the second coat: The pattern piece overlaid on fuzzy cloth.
To add an insulating layer, I hand-carded alpaca fibre and made it into mini-batts which I laid out inside the coat, overlapping a little.
I machine quilted the coat and added a windproof layer — the dark blue fabric (thanks again, Mom). It puckered quite a bit, but at least the alpaca fleece layer would be anchored well.
I underestimated how big Pigpen was getting, so it didn’t even fit him! I had to make the coat bigger… or the straps longer!

I felt pretty good about how that went! We used the light blue coat for Rupert for a few days when he was born this summer too!

I think he likes it!

If you just can’t get enough of these little ones, check out my posts here.

One cold evening last year, I noticed our elderly female, Uki, shivering. I felt so bad for her! She was still nursing little Pigpen and earlier in the year, she had been putting a lot of energy into growing him and not her coat.

The proud mama, not long after Pigpen was born! (He had just stood up!) Yes, that’s a washcloth on his back. I had to run back in the house for his coat!

So, I quickly made up a three-layer coat to help her keep warm. This year, with more time to work on it, I made some alpaca fibre into batts and added a quilted layer! I used the existing coat as a pattern and cut out the cloth from an old but very soft sheet.

Here is the coat laid out on the floor. The batts are different colours because it is fibre from different alpacas!

Using full-size batts was far better than hand-carded fibre, and I only anchored it every 3-4 inches.

I quilted the coat by hand with thread, tying small knots. I seem to love projects that take a lot of time!

I machine quilted the section at the chest, so that it isn’t quite as puffy. I figured out how to do it without the cloth puckering (thank you, internet). I then stitched it to the windproof layer in ten or so places. We put it on her tonight, even though it isn’t forecast to be too cold. She is pregnant again, with her cria due in June, so I think she might just wear this coat all winter!

An alpaca in a parka!

Last year, the coat was a bit too loose and would sometimes creep forward and end up bunched up around her neck. Hopefully now that it’s a puffy coat, it will stay put better. I did it up as tightly as I could.

I should make another one in case Daisy needs it! She is still nursing little Rupert, but at least she is not pregnant too. What a toll that must take on a body!

Now I have friends asking if I can make coats for dogs! I’m not sure I want to get into that racket… but then I hate to see an animal cold! ๐Ÿ™‚

Take care, everybody! Stay warm!

Some Remembrance Day Knitting and a Free Pattern

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Some years, I post a thoughtful article on Remembrance Day. This year, I wanted to share some knitting!

First off, I found this pattern for knitted poppies, so of course, I made two! Pretty nifty and quick little pattern! If you would normally get a plastic poppy and leave a donation for the Legion, it would be nice to leave a donation while you wear your knitted poppy!

Second, I have a veteran friend who asked me to knit a scarf using the stripes of one of his service medals! I love this idea! I finished the scarf yesterday and he got it today — just in time for him to wear it… nowhere. Or to a virtual Remembrance Day service he attends in his pajamas. Anyways. If you know a soldier or veteran and have seen them wearing their service medals, why not ask them if they’d like a scarf custom-knit just for them in the colours of one of their medals?

Service Award Scarf

This isn’t a pattern as much as just some helpful tips on how I made my scarf. I used a circular needle that measures 32 inches from tip to tip and that made a fairly long scarf. The stitches were quite jammed up on the needle, so if you also want a nice long scarf, 32 inches is the minimum length for the needle, I’d say.

Yarn: I ordered Drops Nepal from a yarn store online because I didn’t have all the colours I needed. It’s 65% wool 35% alpaca and made a nice, basic scarf. You might have all the yarn you need in your stash — great! If you can match yarns, great. I had to use a different yarn for the center stripe, but the colour was so perfect, I decided to go with it. If you can use all the same fibre content, great. But honestly, it’s a scarf so you don’t need to get too fussy. Just make sure it won’t be itchy!

Needles: I used 5.5 mm needles with this yarn (on a 32″ long circular needle as I said). Obviously, you can scale this up/down depending on your yarn and if you’re a tight/loose knitter.

If you are a beginner knitter, you might think this scarf is knit across the short dimension like all beginner scarves. This is not the case. It’s waaaay easier to knit this using long rows, so that your colour changes are far less frequent. If you are an advanced knitter looking for a challenge (and not in a hurry), you know what to do. You may be thinking, this won’t slow me down much, but you have forgotten about the untangling! I will proceed to give directions to the beginners/sane people out there.

Let me say as a short sidebar that I considered doing some sort of complex, multi-coloured double knit scarf. It would have been so beautiful! But the colour changes and likelihood of getting severely tangled up scared me off. I tried a sample of it and gave up! It just seemed unnecessarily complicated. But, if you are up for it, you could double knit, or knit in the round and then tack it down (sew it) to keep it flat. Or, like me, you could just *K* until finished! Garter stitch for the win!

Instructions: Cast on enough stitches to fill the needle and/or make you think it is way too many. Then cast on another 20 or so stitches. That should be about the right amount. If you like, you can do a gauge swatch and then some math, but I just filled the circular needle. I didn’t even COUNT the stitches! (What a rebel.) I know it was over a hundred. I decided to use the Chinese Waitress Cast on which proves I’m not lazy, just easy going! (Here’s a good tutorial, by Stacey at Very Pink Knits.) This cast on makes a very nice, structured edge which I could have taken a picture of, except that navy blue is a very difficult colour to photograph!

For the scarf I made, which is the British military medal for service in the South Atlantic (post WWII), I decided to do 5 garter ridges of navy, 3 ridges of bright blue, 4 ridges of white, 6 ridges of green and so on in reverse. This made my scarf 30 ridges wide (60 rows of knitting). As long as you always change colours when the tail of yarn that you began with is at the top, your stripes will be consistent; there will be a right side and wrong side of the scarf, but even the wrong side with it’s dashed lines of colour looks okay (peeking out from under the right side in the photo below).

It is worth a mock up if you aren’t sure how wide to make the stripes. Some medals have several stripes, so you’ll want to see how to knit them up and keep the scarf a “good scarf width.” Just cast on 10 or so stitches and start knitting stripes. The absolute width of each stripe is not important; it just needs to look proportional. Your scarf might be narrower or wider and that’s okay! (Don’t ask me how wide mine turned out; I forgot to measure it before gifting it! It’s a “good scarf width!”)

My veteran friend told me that the black and white service medal on the right (on photo above) is for long service and good conduct. Most other medals are for service on certain campaigns/wars. Ask your soldier/veteran friend to explain this to you! And as I said before, I think it’s best to ask your friend which one they would like in a scarf, or if they would even like a scarf at all! Some vets might not want to be reminded… others might have an award for conspicuous bravery and that is probably the one that should be knitted into a scarf!

When you have reached the end of your scarf, which is the width, to be clear, you are done! I did an Icelandic cast off (Very Pink Knits video here), which is a bit slower than a basic CO, but it makes a nice, ornamental edge perfect for a scarf. It took FOREVER! (I think my scarf was actually closer to 200 sts long, but it felt like a thousand.)

But heck, when you’re knitting for someone who put their life on the line for your freedom… I think you can spend a little more time on the cast-off, eh!? ๐Ÿ˜‰

Take care, everyone! Have a great day and happy knitting!

Refurbishing my old Drum Carder

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Hi everyone! As you know, I raise alpacas and I have been wanting to make my own yarn from their glorious fibre! To help with that, my grandma gave me her good spinning wheel and her drum carder. I learned to spin this summer with the help of an instructor from the weaver’s guild — God bless you, Brenda!! — but this post isn’t about spinning. It’s about the drum carder.

I have made quite a few batts with it, but I was starting to notice a lot of the teeth coming out — 3 or 4 for every batt I made with it! I was starting to really worry!

Don’t you love how the cloth is actually thick leather and the teeth look like blunt thumbtacks pushed through from the back? I wonder what year this drum carder was made? If you have any idea, leave a comment because I would love to know!

When I looked into ordering a new carding cloth — that’s what they call that spiky material that goes on the outside of the drum — I couldn’t seem to find a Canadian source for it. Since the US postal system is quite broken, I was not keen on ordering from south of the border and I prefer to buy local or at least Canadian when I can. I asked my aunt-in-law who owns Legacy Studio if she had carding cloth, or if she could get it for me. She said the best stuff comes from Europe, so I found a supplier from the Netherlands, Golden Fleece Carders. Want to hear the best part? I got my carding cloth — which is the perfect width for my machine! — in 17 days! From overseas!! I am so thrilled! I ordered something from the US in July and it took over 6 weeks!

So, anyways, I am really excited to be refurbishing the old drum carder. It’s like Reduce, Reuse, Recycle got another R: Refurbish! So, let the not-quite-tutorial begin!

I took the old cloth off using a flathead screwdriver to pry the staples and nails off.

There are so many teeth missing! Especially along that one edge. The batts always looked like they’d been to hell and back. So many holes.

So, I continued prying staples and nails until I had them all off! Avert your eyes — that’s a naked drum there! ๐Ÿ˜ฎ

Check out the new cloth! There are quite a few more pins per square inch…

I was so thrilled that this company carried the carding cloth in the exact width I needed. The American ones were never the right width (I don’t mean to sound anti-American, it’s just true). This cloth is only 72 DPI, because I wanted it to be multi-purpose. For alpaca, some people go A LOT finer!

I measured how long it needed to be and started taking out pins so I could cut it. I took out 3 rows in total and they came out easily. Then I cut it with regular scissors!

Now here is where things start getting interesting! See how close together those two drums are? The top one, with the old pins, is called the licker and its pins are NOT supposed to touch the main drum, or maybe just barely touch. Because the pins on the new cloth are quite a bit longer, the pins on the two drums are grinding together at this point! (The old pins touched more than they should have, but I didn’t know better.) So, I had to figure out if I could move either of the drums. It turns out, my little old drum carder is pretty adjustable! I was able to loosen the bolts on the sides (you can see one on the left) and back the main drum up so that it would have more room! It was a bit of work, but I’m happy — the teeth barely touch now.

I then got to work stapling and nailing the new cloth in place. I forgot to get a picture of the stapling, but I just used an ordinary staple gun. Then, I had to nail the little nails back in where the cloth meets up. See the problem below?

You can’t nail them in because you’ll end up pounding on the pins of the carding cloth! Luckily, we had a punch, which worked great! I just carefully positioned it on the head of each nail and pounded them in.

Sorry, you can’t see the top, but it’s just flat for the hammer to hit it. This let me hammer those little nails right down snuggly!

And now my drum carder is like new, sort of!

For now, I’ve decided to leave the licker drum as is. I might change the cloth in the future, but it’s working okay, so I left it!

I have to tell you: I LOVE giving new life to old things! It is one of my favourite things to do, and probably why this project was so much fun! (If you feel the same, I recommend Laura Kampf videos on YouTube because she is the best at this, and her videography is a pleasure to watch!)

Of course I had to put the new/old carder to work! Since the new teeth are longer, it makes thicker batts. They still look a bit ratty; they don’t come off the drum as easily because there are so many more teeth! I also might need to work on my technique…

I made 2 batts and then took the next one off as a rolag, which seemed to work better. Dang, it’s a dense rolag though!

I should probably apologize to my regular readers, as this is one of those oddly-specific posts and if you don’t know what a rolag is, I don’t blame you! A rolag is a small roll of fibre that spinners can spin from. Anyways, thanks for hanging in there with me all this while and I hope it might help someone else who needs to change carding cloth on their old drum carder!

Reduce, Reuse, Recycle, Refurbish, Repair, Repurpose! So many great Re’s! If you have any examples of Refubish, Repair or Repurpose, share them in the comments! ๐Ÿ™‚