Autograph Ninja: Book Edition

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It’s no secret that I love a good autograph (see The Autograph Ninja and The Autograph Ninja Strikes Again). I’ve collected signatures from actors, musicians, and authors over the years and apparently my friends have noticed. Most of the recent autographs I’ve acquired have been gifts and that makes them all the more special to me.

Last Christmas, a co-worker was my Secret Santa. She got me hooked on Outlander by giving me the first book in the series a few months before. I loved it and couldn’t wait to read the next book. I almost died when I opened my Christmas gift – it was a signed copy of Dragonfly in Amber. The funny thing is, I was her Secret Santa, too. I got her an Outlander coloring book!

 

One of the most sentimental autographs I’ve ever received came from a dear friend that passed away a few years ago. We shared a love of the Maisie Dobbs series and often read the newest release together. The last Christmas gift he gave me was signed copy of a title I was missing in my collection of the series, Pardonable Lies, (I borrowed it from him originally). It remains one of my most precious memories of him.

The same friend also gave me a signed copy of Hide Tide in Tucson by Barbara Kingsolver. He was a huge fan of Kingsolver and was pretty determined to convince me to read everything she’s ever written (I’m working on it!). He gave it to me shortly before he passed away. I like to think he knew I’d take care of it for him. He was right. I will.

Sometimes, I’m lucky enough to come across autographs on my own. I love how Barnes & Noble started offering signed editions of books around the holidays. I treated myself to a signed copy of Heartless by Marissa Meyer. I love her series, The Lunar Chronicles, so it was so exciting to snag a signed copy of her most recent novel.

The last and most recent autographs were gained the old fashioned way – I went to Phoenix Comicon and waited in line! The book is Q-Squared by Peter David. I bought it 23 years ago (with my first ever paycheck!) and always hoped I’d get Peter David to sign it as he is one of my favorite sci-fi writers. It turns out he was scheduled to be at Phoenix Comicon, along with the actor who plays Q on Star Trek: The Next Generation. I decided to have my book signed by both.

I struck gold with John de Lancie (Q). He turned out to be a pretty cool guy with a serious love of history. Once he found out I was a history teacher, we had a nice chat about books to read and the general scope of historical events.

Unfortunately, Peter David had to leave Comicon early due to a family emergency, but he did leave behind index cards with his autograph for fans to pick up. It’s too bad the autograph isn’t directly on my book, but I’ll take it nonetheless – it’s still his autograph!

While it’s always more fun to get autographs by meeting an author, it’s incredibly special to receive them as gifts as well. In many ways, a gifted autograph takes on all the more meaning as it came from someone who cared enough to give it to me.

 

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c.b.w. 2017

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Knit Happens at Christmas

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When I learned how to knit three years ago, I had no idea how much of a Christmas tradition it would become. What started as a pair of socks for everyone turned into special orders to specific knitted items and/or specialized projects.

I’m not complaining in the least because I love giving handmade gifts. Sometimes I wonder if my friends and family feel that way – there’s always that little voice that wonders if they’re thinking, “oh no, not again!” However, everyone’s excited responses told me I hit the mark this year!

My Christmas knitting odyssey began in early August. My stepmother very specifically asked for lightweight dishcloths. So, I tracked down some Sport weight cotton and got to work:

Yarn: Premier Yarns Cotton Fair (Violets and Cocoa)
Patterns From: Eight Linen Washcloths

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Next, I knit up some socks for a few friends that haven’t received socks since the first knitty round of Christmas. I made a simple 3×1 ribbed sock with a touch of color work in various worsted weight yarns (my yarn stash came in pretty handy!). Then, I got creative and paired each pair of socks with a book. Now these simple socks are “Reading Socks!”

Yarn: Various stash yarns, worsted weight
Pattern: Ann’s Go-To Socks

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One of my friends is a fellow Twi-Hard, so I made her a replica of a hat worn by Bella in the movie version of Eclipse. This was my first attempt at color work beyond the heel and toe of a sock. While I love how it turned out, this project reinforced my overall preference for textured patterns instead of color work.

Yarn: Lion Brand, Vanna’s Choice, (Green and Natural)
Pattern: Twilight Eclipse Bella Striped Hat

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My love of lace knitting got a nice workout with a scarf I made for my aunt. I found this pattern while playing on Pinterest and it turned out to be a beautiful and relatively easy pattern.

Yarn: Paton’s Classic Worsted Wool, (white)
Pattern: Birch Trees Scarf

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When I made my mom a kitchen towel last year, my sister wanted one, too. So, I decided to make one for her for Christmas. While a bit unconventional, this towel is highly absorbent and very sturdy. A row of buttons allows for the towel to be secured around an oven handle.

Yarn: Sugar n’ Spice Solids and Twists (Wine and Cottage)
Pattern: Triangles Towel

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Last, but not least, I made my mother something very special. Her kitchen window has long been in need of a pretty curtain or valance. I just so happened to come across a stunning lattice lace curtain pattern and thought it would look fantastic on her window. It’s one of the larger pieces I’ve ever made and it turned out beautiful!

Yarn: Knit Picks Shine Sport (Platinum)
Pattern: Dappled Lace Cafe Curtain

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One section of a 48″ panel

Knitting gifts is always fun, but now I’m excited to pick up my knitting needles and make a little something for myself!

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c.b.w. 2015

Merry Knitty Christmas!

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Another Christmas means another year of knitting gifts for family and friends. I made everything from socks to cowls to kitchen towels, which made for an interesting few months of knitting that never left me bored.

If you’re on my Christmas list, don’t scroll down any further unless you want Santa to bring you coal.

I’m serious, Santa is watching you.

Spoilers!!!

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I love working with cotton yarn, so for two people on my list I made cotton dishcloth and kitchen towel sets.

Tile Stitch Kitchen Towel (improvised pattern)

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Triangles Kitchen Towel

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Paired with Stacked Barrels and Simple Weave Dishcloths

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For a friend who doesn’t love a good kitchen towel, I made her a set of spa cloths in her favorite colors. I paired them with a bar of lavender soap for the ultimate spa experience.

Baby Fern Stitch and Basic Diamonds Spa Cloths

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Friends and family that received hats last year, got cowls to match their hats. The Leaving Cowls were made using leftover hat yarn, while the Present Cowl was made to look like jeans (something I know my friend would like and it matches her hat without being too matchy matchy).

Leaving Cowls

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Present Cowl

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While visiting family over the summer, a little prodding revealed a family member likes to wear scarves. I had no idea what to get him for Christmas, so this piece of info came in very handy!

Men’s Cashmere Scarf (or wool!)

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What would any knitting marathon be without pulling out my sock loom? For the ultimate Harry Potter fan, I made a pair of Gryffindor themed socks using a pattern called Hermione’s Day Socks. It was very tempting to keep them for myself!

Hermione’s Day Socks

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Last year I tried and failed (more than once) to make a pair of fingerless gloves for someone who really wanted a pair. So, this year, I was determined to find the right pattern and learn how to make a thumbhole. The first pair was an epic fail, (they are now a ball of yarn), but the second pair came out perfectly.

Peaks Fingerless Mitts (from Sock Loom Projects by Isela Phelps)

100_4864The gift knitting continues as I work on a baby blanket for a friend who is expecting. I’ll post pictures as soon as it’s done.

Happy Holidays!

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c.b.w. 2014

Favorite Thing Friday: Leaving Cowls

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It’s halfway through September, so that means I’m all tangled up in knitting for Christmas. So far, I’ve got three gifts complete, two of which are the result of my new favorite knitting pattern.

Ravelry is a treasure trove of free patterns if you’re willing to do a little homework. Searching with the right key words and filters will reveal some pretty great patterns. For two of the people on my Christmas gift list, I knew I wanted to make a pretty cowl that would match the hats I made for them last year, so I searched for “knitting, free, cowl, leaves.”

Within seconds, I spotted a pattern called the Leaving Cowl. Beautiful interlocking leaves and simple edging convinced me straight away that this was “the one.” Within minutes I downloaded and printed it out.

Last year, I was smart and stashed some yarn that matched most of the hats I made for gifts last year. By sheer luck, the gauge on the Leaving Cowl matched two of the skeins I had saved. Let the cast on commence!

I made the first cowl using a gorgeous Harvest Yellow, (Paton’s Classic Worsted Wool). The golden tone really enhanced the leaves and made this piece feel extra cozy.

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Harvest Yellow Leaving Cowl

For the second cowl, I decided to make the edges a little more special. I pulled out another stashed skein, Grey Marble (Paton’s Classic Worsted Wool) and paired it with a skein of Plum Heather. The warm tone of the plum gave the leaves gorgeous definition, while the grey marble created a nice contrast.

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Plum Heather and Grey Marble Leaving Cowl

The pattern itself is very easy to read. It provides both a chart and written out stitch instructions. I’d recommend it for knitters who feel comfortable with stitches that go beyond the basics as there a couple of tricky stitches, including slip 1, knit 2 together and pass slipped stitch over. If you’re a beginner looking for a little challenge to build your skills, this is a great pattern to push yourself to the next level.

I love these cowls so much, it’s going to be tough to let them go. At the same time, I know those receiving them will be very happy! I’ll definitely be making one for myself once the Christmas knitting madness comes to an end.

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What’s your favorite thing this week?

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c.b.w. 2014

Favorite Thing Friday: So Many Dishcloths!

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My knitting needles have been very busy this summer! Not only am I working on a beautiful pair of socks and super cute pleated top, but I’m also casting on smaller projects for birthday gifts.

One of the easiest things to make for someone is a set of dishcloths or what I like to call Spa Cloths. Pair them with a beautiful bar of soap and you’ve got a thoughtful gift that is also practical.

I’ve made a total of nine Spa Cloths in the last two weeks, all of which have taught me new lace stitches. Part of the reason I love knitting spa cloths is the fact that I can learn new knitting techniques on a small project. If I make a mistake it’s not a big deal to start over again!

First up is the Baby Fern Stitch, a free pattern I found on Ravelry. It looks really difficult, but it only involves a few simple stitches. This is one I’ll have to eventually make for myself! I love the ridges that define a pattern that is both botanical and geometric.

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Baby Fern Stitch

Next up is the Leaf Lace Washcloth, which is another free pattern I found on Ravelry. Initially, I intended it as a gift, but I loved it so much I ended up keeping it for myself. What can I say, I’m a sucker for leaves.

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Leaf Lace Washcloth

After another search through Ravelry (the array of free patterns is truly astonishing), I found a pattern called Christmas Tree Lot Cloth. This is another one I really wanted to keep for myself, but it’s so perfect for the person receiving it I had to let it go!

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Christmas Tree Lot Cloth

I saved the best for last. When I saw the Elvish Leaf Dishcloth pattern, I was instantly in love. While the stitches are relatively easy, keeping track of the pattern from row to row is difficult. I have no shame in admitting I ripped this project out three times before I finally got the pattern right. The end result, however, was worth all the frustration as it is just gorgeous.

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Elvish Leaf Dishcloth

While I usually don’t wet block spa cloths, I did block both the Christmas Tree Lot and Elvish Leaf cloths to get them to lay flat for gift presentation. Lace patterns in a thick gauge tend to pucker and that doesn’t look very nice in a gift box!

The other spa cloths I made were shipped before I could get a picture (I was running a little late for early July birthdays!). If I make them again, I’ll be sure to post pics!

The simplistic nature of spa cloths is a big reason why I love them so much. When in the middle of large or difficult project, they are nice break that offers a satisfying end result. Aside from that, I love giving handmade gifts.

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What’s your favorite thing this week?

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c.b.w. 2014