Yarnside Chats 003 - Kitchener Stitch Made Easy

Did you all notice that there's a new Knitcircus online? The Fall issue is really beautiful! You should definitely go take a look. While you're there, visit Page 21 to see my newest video on Broomstick Lace! In the meantime, here's me demystifying the Kitchener Stitch.

Have trouble remembering the steps? Watch this video and you'll always know which end is up!

The winner of Jennifer Hansen's Cabled Turban giveaway is Allyson, of SweatShopofLove! Allyson, drop me a line at thesexyknitter@gmail.com, and I'll get you hooked up with Jennifer for your prize. Congratulations!


Deliciousness: Banana Oatmeal Chocolate Chip Cookies

First I just have to say that you really must try these cookies. The first time I had one of these was at my friend Lisbeth's house, and when she told me she was going to make "Banana Cookies", I was a little reticent. Then she told me they also had oatmeal and chocolate chips, and I felt a little better about it. The defining moment, though, was when she gave me a little round of frozen cookie dough to eat. Let me tell you - not only did I take back my snarky comment about banana cookies being "gross" (or something similarly gracious), I also wound up groveling for the recipe. Lisbeth, being the amazing friend she is, generously complied. You can find the original recipe here.

Raw, frozen cookie dough & warm, gooey cookies

The Dr. practically expects me to have a stock of these in the freezer at all times. In fact, we both like the frozen, raw dough so much I almost never even get around to baking any, but they are quite delicious both ways.

You can make up a batch of these in practically no time at all, with stuff you probably already have lying around your pantry. I almost always make a double batch, and am able to use my hand mixer to mix up all of the ingredients except for the chocolate chips. Once your dough is mixed, use a small cookie scoop (like this) to portion the cookies out into a large, airtight plastic container. You can get about 3-4 dozen cookies into one of Ziploc's large rectangular containers; be sure to put a piece of wax paper between the layers, so the dough doesn't all stick together.

If you're baking the frozen dough, heat your oven to 375 degrees and bake for 8-10 minutes. Basically, you want to leave them in just long enough for the cookies to set, or you'll wind up with crunchy cookies. Still tasty, particularly if you happen to like crunchy cookies, but I prefer these with a nice, chewy texture and just-barely-crispy edges.


Stacey's EASIER Magic Ring for crochet!

Looky, you guys! Stacey Trock from Fresh Stitches has made the Magic Ring for crochet easier! Didn't think that was possible, but apparently it was. Give it a watch, or see her original blog post and photo tutorial on the subject here.

Thanks, Stacey!


Getting to Know You #3: Jennifer Hansen

Welcome back to Getting to Know You, my series of mini-interviews with other knitwear designers I admire! This week I've interviewed the woman who holds the title of "Designer whose patterns I have knitted more than any other designer", Jennifer Hansen! Jennifer is the powerhouse behind Stitch Diva Studios, and I first got wind of her gorgeous designs when her sexy tank, Goddess, came out. Since then, I've knitted almost a dozen designs from SDS, some for myself and many through Jennifer's sample knitter program. Believe it or not, I actually got into designing because of Jennifer! But that's another story for another day. For now, on with the interview!
Sahara and Goddess, modeled by me

TSK: You've built such a massive brand for yourself it's actually more like an empire! Offering everything from fabulously sexy, beautifully designed knit, crochet, AND tunisian lace patterns to kits, video tutorials and even your own in-house yarn brand, you've turned yourself into a household name among knitters. How did you go from being Jennifer Hansen to being THE Stitch Diva? What tips can you give other designers looking to expand their brand?

SD: Hard work! Although that sounds trite, it is true. Probably a more valuable insight would be to look at what you can do that provides value in a different way than other things you see out there. Find a niche you love.

Cecilia Chemise - sample crocheted by me

TSK: What would you say your niche is?

SD: I'm told that Stitch Diva garments have a certain look to them - a distinctive aesthetic sensibility. I also have interest in techniques like hairpin lace, broomstick crochet, and Tunisian that are not that commonplace. I don't think anyone would come to the Stitch Diva site for menswear, amigurumi or conservative female apparel. There is nothing wrong with those things, but that is not where I like to play.

Endless Knitted Cardi Shawl - Modeled by Jennifer and green sample knitted by me

TSK: Social media is touted as one of the most important things in brand-building, yet you are scarcely to be found on Twitter or even (gasp!) Ravelry. How do you keep your customers interested in what you've got going on, and how are you pulling in new followers?

SD: At the end of the day, I think people are interested in the quality of the design, the quality of the instructions and the value of what a designer does as it contributes to the craft and to a knitter/crocheter's enjoyment of their hobby.  There are only so many hours in the day and I really try to create distinctive work that says something different than other offerings out there. I can only hope that defines the brand.

No. 6 - sample knitted by me

TSK: You design, you photograph, you model, you Photoshop, you build websites....is there anything you DON'T do? What tips do you have for those of us who feel overwhelmed by all this technology? What would you say is the single most important thing for a designer to get right, besides writing a top-notch pattern?

SD: I come from a pretty varied professional background in IT, architecture and professional services, so I am fortunate that I have pertinent experiences to bring to bear. Many of these skills have no relation to being a good designer. I also am fortunate to have met some very good people along the way who work with me. I don't do all of this alone.

Silken Scabbard - sample knitted by me

TSK: Interesting that you noted all those extra skills that have nothing to do with the design work itself. It's so true, but unfortunately for self-publishing, these skills do seem vital to a designer's overall success! If you had to pick one skill to recommend a designer develop outside of pattern-writing, what would it be? Photography? Styling? Layout? Having a great website to promote the pattern?

SD: I think photography is key for online sales - this applies to patterns or just selling your used personal items on CraigsList. You can have the most beautiful design in the world, but unless you are able to convey what you have done in a compelling visual way, it just won't be successful. On the same token, it is important for the photo to convey the reality of the design. Other people will make it and post their results online as well. I have ripped designs that showed shaping flaws in photography and then fixed them and rephotographed to get the kind of photo I wanted. The camera is a great design tool.

Cabled Turban - modeled by Jennifer

As a special thank you to my readers, Jennifer has generously offered a copy of my current favorite pattern, the Cabled Turban (above), to one lucky commenter! To enter, you must first "Like" Jennifer's fan page on Facebook, then leave me a comment here telling me you did (be sure to include your Facebook name or I won't be able to look you up)! Winner will be announced on Wednesday, August 31.

Looking for the winner from Angela Tong's interview? It's Miss Julep! Congrats, Nancy, Angela will be sending your free pattern along shortly! Didn't win? Don't forget you can still get $1.00 off Angela's Kouyou or LaReine shawl patterns with the coupon code "sexyinterview", now through August 30!


Deliciousness: Pretzel Bites

Cooking always gives me a little pick-me-up when I'm feeling sad or bored, or need to feel like I've accomplished something. With the Dr. at Vascular Fellows Bootcamp in Houston all weekend, I needed something to do. So, I whipped up a batch of pretzel bites and invited the neighbors over for some board games!

Cinnamon Sugar Pretzel Bites & Vanilla Glaze

I followed Jonna's recipe from Get Off Your Butt and Bake! You can find it here. The genius of this recipe lies in the fact that you get to use purchased, frozen dinner rolls as the base for your pretzels! Jonna recommends Rhodes Texas-sized rolls, so that's what I bought. The recipe says you have to thaw them out, so genius me, I decided to toss the whole bag of rolls in the refrigerator to thaw out overnight. I, um, exploded the bag (these are yeast rolls). Oops. Actually it wasn't too bad, the bag had popped a seam and a big chunk of dough had oozed out. I just cut that part off and continued with the recipe as written, except that I had one ginormous piece of dough to work from instead of individual rolls. Ah, well.

Garlic Parmesan Pretzel Bites

I followed the recipe for the cinnamon sugar bites exactly as outlined in the original recipe, except that I didn't need to let the balls of dough rise before boiling, and I forgot to grease the baking sheet. Don't forget to do this. For the parmesan version, I added a generous shaking of garlic salt to the parmesan before I rolled the bites, and they were DELICIOUS.

I'll definitely be making these again! They're quick, easy and inexpensive, plus you can make a huge platter full of pretzel bites out of just one bag of rolls, so they'd be great for parties.

Oh, and the board game we played?

Mid-Life Crisis, ca 1982. What can I say? I go for the obscure.


Deliciousness: Andes Mint Cupcakes

Are you guys on Pinterest? I am, and I find it extremely inspiring; having all those photos of fashion, stylish hairdos, DIY tutorials, enchanting destinations and especially food scroll through my screen is fascinating to me. I've been trying loads of new recipes (you can follow that board of mine here) and thought I might start sharing a few of them with you. Up first is something I just whipped up for the first time today, Andes Mint Cupcakes, from Your Cup of Cake. Lizzy's recipe just sounded so good I had to try it! I'm a sucker for Andes Mints. Anyway, here's my version:

I actually broke out the piping bags!

One thing you can't see from my photo is that these cupcakes are filled with Chocolate Mint goodness. Lizzy suggests using a squeezy bottle to pipe the chocolate inside, but I didn't have one on hand so I just used a small, round pastry tip and a piping bag. I must say, I think a squeezy bottle would be easier, but I got the job done! 

Putting one of these in your mouth is simply magical; you get tangy, fluffy, chocolatey cake, oozing with peppermint chocolate sauce, and creamy, perfect peppermint buttercream. Need I say more? I had to force myself to stop at just one; I'm taking the rest of these around to my local yarn shops this weekend! (Don't you wish you lived near me?)

I made these cupcakes exactly by the recipe; the ONLY thing I changed was that I only put half an Andes on top of my cupcakes, instead of a whole one. From one recipe I was able to make two dozen regular sized cupcakes, and 3 Texas-sized cupcakes. I filled the cupcake liners with two scoops from my small cookie scoop (similar) and they turned out perfectly fluffy! At first I wasn't sure the chocolate filling would get me through all 2 dozen cupcakes, but it did and I was even able to drizzle some over the tops of the cupcakes as in the original blog post. It took me just over an hour from the time I started mixing up the cupcake batter to the time I was finished decorating.

I'll definitely be making these again; in fact, I'll probably be using the cupcake part of the recipe any time I need to make chocolate cupcakes, because the addition of sour cream and buttermilk to the boxed Devil's Food cake mix is a stroke of genius. This was my first time ever filling a cupcake, and now I want to fill all the cupcakes!

Next time: Cream Cheese Filled Snickerdoodles! That's right, I said it. Stay tuned!


Getting to Know You #2: Angela Tong

Welcome back to Getting to Know You! Today I interviewed Angela Tong, who I had the pleasure of meeting at TNNA this year. I'd been drooling over Angela's Kouyou Shawl since the day it first came out, as well as being a huge fan of her hand-drawn knitting robot project bags on Etsy, so naturally I was pretty excited to meet her in person. When I decided to start doing a series on designers I admire, Angela was right at the top of the list.

Kouyou Shawl - isn't it gorgeous?

TSK: So, Angela. I’m already head over heels for your designs, and you’ve only published 5 so far! Your 5th pattern, Colfax, appeared on the pages of Knitscene Magazine. I LOVE that you've gone from Beginning Designer to Golden Girl overnight, because you totally deserve it. Please tell me you're going to keep designing - I for one, want to see more. What are your plans for upcoming designs, and where should we be looking for them?

AT: Yes, I'm definitely going to keep designing! I will be having more designs being published in print magazines, online magazines and books. I am very excited about the upcoming designs, which will include patterns in Knitscene, Petite Purls and the book, Knit Noro: Accessories: 30 Colorful Little Knits.

Colfax Shawl, from Knitscene Fall 2011

TSK: I understand from your Ravelry profile that you are a former fine jewelry designer. Any plans to translate that expertise into knitwear? Knitted jewelry seems to be very trendy right now! Surely your experience in that area would give you a bit of an edge over competitors, too...

AT: Funny that you should ask. I have often thought about designing some knitted or crocheted jewelry. Since jewelry design was my career for so long, I wanted to take a step back from it. For now, I am enjoying designing knit wear. 

Knitting Robot & Knitting Ninja Project Bags from Angela's Etsy Shop

TSK: That is totally understandable. We're enjoying your knitwear design, too! Okay, last question. What’s the one book you’d recommend to beginning knitters that you feel will teach them everything they need to know?

AT: Oh, it’s hard to pick only one book since I love collecting books. But I would recommend Stitch ‘N Bitch: The Knitter’s Handbook by Debbie Stoller.

TSK: I love this answer! I am always recommending that very book to beginners. It totally changed the way I knit! I think one of the most important pieces of knowledge any knitter can have is an understanding of how stitches relate to each other in the work.

That wraps up this week's interview! Thanks for chatting with me, Angela! As a special thank you to my  readers, Angela is offering a FREE copy of my favorite pattern from her line, the Kouyou Shawl, to one lucky commenter. I'll announce the winner on Monday, August 22! Can't wait to see if you won? Angela is also offering $1.00 off her Kouyou or LaReine shawls with the coupon code, "sexyinterview" through Tuesday, August 30. Go buy one now and support this fabulous new designer!

Follow Angela's design career online through her blog, Ravelry, Twitter or Etsy.


Yarnside Chats - Judy's Magic Cast On Tutorial

So awhile back, I did a tutorial on the awesome Judy's Magic Cast On. It appeared in Yarnside Chats, my regular featured over on Knitcircus. (This was Episode 2, for anyone who's counting.)

I wanted to do a feature on Judy's Magic Cast On because not only is this a great cast on for toe-up socks, it's also just about the most genius provisional cast on ever. You can even use it to cast on for something you want joined on two sides, like a hoodie or a zippered pouch. Want to learn how to apply Judy's Magic to these techniques? Sure you do. Watch on, below:

See the original article on Judy's Magic at Knitty.com

Huge thanks goes to Judy Becker for sharing this cast on with the world at large, and to Knitcircus, for encouraging me to film my ideas on how the technique can be applied outside of the sock world.


Getting to Know You #1: Julie Crawford

Hi everybody! You may have noticed a few changes to the blog...it got a little facelift this week! I thought it was looking a bit plain/cluttered, so I brightened it up a smidge and (hopefully) made it a little more streamlined. Let me know what you think of the new look in the comments area, won't you?

Okay, on to the fun stuff! I thought it would be super fun to do a little series of interviews with other knitwear designers I admire. So hopefully you're going to get to know some new faces and be inspired by their work, too!

First up is Julie Crawford. I first got to know Julie through the Designer's Group on Ravelry, which I help moderate. When her fabulous lace tank, Make Up Your Mind, came out in Knitty Summer 2011, I knew this was a girl who was going places. Sure enough, her design was one of the most popular from the issue, with over 250 projects in just five short months since its release. This design is definitely on my must-knit short list, and luckily for me I just happen to have a few skeins of the exact yarn the pattern calls for!

I think that this fabulous racerback is a really versatile piece. Even though it's a lace tank, I think it could easily be worn right into the cooler months of fall with a few simple layering tricks, so I decided to style it up using my trusty friend, Polyvore! Here's my take:

Make Up Your Mind

Make Up Your Mind
by Julie Crawford of knittedbliss.com
Styled for fall by The Sexy Knitter

Julie was gracious enough to give me a little mini-interview, so read on for a glimpse into her mind:

TSK: So, Julie. What got you started designing?

JC: I was really reluctant, actually. There already seemed to be so many amazing new designs coming out all the time, and so many great designers; I didn't feel that there was anything really missing from the offerings. My Ravelry queue was often over 100 items, so there were certainly lots of existing patterns I was interested in knitting. But then Tanis (of Tanis Fiber Arts) had contacted me about doing a design in her yarn, even though I had never designed anything. She liked my style, and was confident that it would translate into good designs.  I'm not sure when I would have gotten around to designing if it hadn't been for that push in the right direction - Sometimes all it takes is someone else to believe that you can do it.

TSK: I love your style, too! I for one am super glad that Tanis stepped up to the plate and encouraged you. You are clearly gifted at this, so I'm excited you've entered (or should I say, been unceremoniously shoved into?) the world of knitwear design. Hopefully we're going to be seeing a lot more from you in the near future. What's up next for you, design-wise?

JC: I'm working on lots of things!! Once I started designing, it was like I'd wake up almost every day with a new pattern idea. I can't knit fast enough to keep up with the ideas that are swimming around in my head. I'm trying to work as fast as I can, but I have a day job as well, so that really cuts into my knitting and designing time. I'm aiming to put out about one new design a month, which is kind of a lot considering that a year ago, I had no design ambitions at all. Now, it's all I want to do! I try to knit seasonally appropriate things, but that can be challenging since I'd also like to publish more, and the lead times for submissions are often months out of season from the garments themselves.

Not only is Julie super talented, she's also a knockout! Here she is modeling some of her own designs.

TSK: I totally understand that! It always feels kind of strange to be knitting a worsted-weight, woolen sweater in the middle of summer. Don't forget about self-publishing, though! With the huge success of your first Knitty pattern, I think you would do well in that arena. Side note: Julie let me know that next month she's going to be releasing a fabulous new, FREE pattern. You can get a sneak-peek at her design, here. Okay, last question. Who would you say was the one knitter who has been most inspirational to you?

JC: I'm extremely hard pressed to pick just one, but I think that it would have to be Eunny Jang. Way back in pre-ravelry days, long before she was the editor of Interweave Knits, she had a blog and I read every single post. It was such a totally inspirational blog for me, for both my knitting and blogging of course, but also about what it meant to see the world as a knitter. She made modifications. She made up patterns, and her FOs were things I could see myself wearing. That's what I want from my knitting, and my own designs- not just something to knit, but something that I love to wear when I'm finished knitting it.

TSK: Yes! You and I share the same design motto. :) Also, Eunny is a serious badass, so that qualifies as an awesome answer in my book. She's also super nice! I got to chat with her at TNNA this year and she is a total sweetheart.

That wraps up our inaugural interview! If you want to follow up on Julie's design career, you can check out her blog at www.knittedbliss.com (definitely worth stopping by on a Monday), or find her on Ravelry and Twitter as knittedblissjc.