Why "The Sexy Knitter"?

Hey everybody! This is long overdue, but I've finally filmed a little video about how I became The Sexy Knitter. Hopefully, this will clear some things up:

If you're interested in hearing more, I get a bit more indepth about my own past and the reasoning behind The Sexy Knitter in my podcast chat with Marly Bird of the Yarn Thing podcast. You can hear that episode here!

I invite you to come back to the blog, because I'm going to be sharing some tips and tricks for achieving the confidence that I talk about in the video. There's a lot of information out there, but sadly more often than not it makes us feel even worse about ourselves. I'd like to share some of these things in a way that will empower you to find the happiness and joy that you deserve. So stay tuned, because in this place, you are allowed to be free. You are allowed to be sexy. You are allowed to be YOU.


Getting to Know You #7: Ann Kingstone

This feature is back! Today I'm interviewing Ann Kingstone, who I had the delightful pleasure of meeting at last year's TNNA in Columbus, Ohio. (I've since found out that Ann is a hugger, like me, so if you ever get to meet her, just go ahead and give her a big squeeze - you won't be able to resist, anyway!) Today's post is a stop on the Novel Knits blog tour, and Ann was gracious enough to give me a mini-interview to go along with my gushing over the new book.

Ann's first book Novel Knits, is inspired by characters in British literature

I met Ann in a dark corner of a restaurant in Columbus while attending Marly Bird's Yarn Thing Designer Dinner. Ann's outgoing personality and infectious laugh put me right at ease in a room where I knew hardly anyone, and when Marly announced that we would all be receiving a Namaste bag at the end of the night, Ann and I were both jumping up and down in excitement and disbelief (seriously, you had to be there - from all the squealing going on, you would have thought Oprah had just told an audience they were all getting new cars)! When I met Ann, her first book, Novel Knits, had just been released. This book features fifteen showstopping patterns based on the works of Jane Austen, J.K. Rowling and JRR Tolkien. That's a pretty rich set of inspiration, and Ann doesn't disappoint, providing the book with a full range of patterns from lace to cables to fair isle. There are sweaters! There are shawls! There are socks! There are housewares and accessories! And each is beautifully executed with the flair and technical skill that only Ann can give.

TSK: I love the idea of this book. It's like...knitwear based fan fiction! As I flipped each page, I could envision a little story to go with each project. The French mother, sending a pair of Chausettes de Beauxbatons socks in a care package for her daughter at Hogwarts who didn't get the champion spot in the Triwizarad Tournament, or Galadriel, donning Lanthir Lamath for a walk through her wood on a chilly day. Clearly you're an avid reader; do you have plans for more book-based knitwear designs?

AK: I do!! I'm especially keen to get to work on some Brontë-themed knits as I live in Brontëland (the West Riding of Yorkshire).

The actual Platform 9 3/4 at King's Cross Station has a half-trolly lodged in the wall for passerby to take Hogwarts photos!

TSK: I simply MUST ask you this. Have you been to King's Cross Station, and stood at the barrier between platforms 9 and 10? Does such a barrier actually exist, as depicted so clearly throughout the Harry Potter films? I'm curious to know whether this has become a popular tourist spot.

AK: LOL - yes I have!! The metal barrier that the books describe isn't there, but there is a stone walkway between platforms 9 and 10 where the station has placed a tribute - a luggage trolley apparently disappearing into the wall. There is invariably a queue of tourists waiting to be photographed pushing the trolley! Alas, my siter's photos of me pushing it didn't come out very well (it's a dark spot, and the photos were taken with her Blackberry). Maybe another time swith a better camera we'll get some good shots of it?

TSK: Tell me about your design process. When you read through these books, did you picture each character in a specific piece of knitwear? I do that sometimes...  Or would you say you were designing for the spirit of the characters you love so well? I know some books specifically refer to knitwear (in fact, I'm currently designing a 4-piece collection based around the knitwear mentioned in The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern); were the knits in your book literal interpretations, or loosely inspired by?

AK: The designs were mostly 'inspired by' or 'named for' rather than being literal interpretations. For example, in 'Northanger Abbey' Jane Austen parodies the 'Gothic romance' literature that was very popular at the time she wrote, so I endeavoured to give my 'Northanger' gloves a gothic feel. Similarly, the hooded scarf 'Lanthir Lamath' is deliberately elvish in appearance. However, many of the designs were already pretty well formulated before I realised they were appropriate to a particular literary theme. For example. the Durmstrang socks were so named because they had such a Nordic feel (Rowling presents Durmstrang as a school in a very Northern sea-faring and mountainous land...).

TSK: Pemberly is hands-down my utter favorite from this collection. The brilliance of this design, the flattering quality of the undulating center panel, the clever monochromatic nature of the original sample, it all combines for one magnificent piece. Did you have a clear favorite in the collection? If so, what made it stand out to you?

AK: For me it's the hooded scarf, Lanthir Lamath (pictured on the book's cover). I love the way the pattern develops from the drops of water at the bottom of the tails, through the intertwined rivulets further up, to the separation of the cascades to frame the celtic knot on the hood. The design began as a way to make sense of the pattern for embossed circles that I had come up with by using them to represent droplets of water. When I started out I didn't know it would end up being so very glorious! And it seems other knitters agree with me; although Pemberley is very popular too, Lanthir Lamath is currently winning on Ravelry in terms of numbers of projects and favourites. 

TSK: What's up next for you? Tell us all about your latest collection, plans for your next book (if any?), knitting events you plan to attend this year, teaching engagements, etc.

AK: Currently I'm working on a collection of seasonally-themed knits, 3 designs for each season of the year which together form a book I intend to publish in late May/early June. I'm also working on developing the 'Knitting School' at my website where I'm slowly building a library of lessons for advanced knitting techniques. It is important to me to help knitters develop the advanced knitting skills that are used in many of my patterns. That's why I'm also workshops in yarn shops around the UK. Next weekend (28th January) sees me signing books and teaching stranded knitting techniques at The Sheep Shop in Cambridge, then 23rd February sees me signing books at the new season yarn launch at Baa Ram Ewe in Leeds. I have a wonderful knitter friend contacting other yarn shops around the country to set such engagements up for me, with the intention of having at least one teaching engagement a month.
And... I'm coming to America again for the TNNA trade show in June. I hope to see you there again Sarah?

Be sure to visit Ann's blog to keep up with her newest designs! 

TSK: Squeee! I would absolutely love to see you again. If you need a roommate, look no further! I'll be looking forward to that. Okay, one last question for you. With so many creative outlets for crafty people (especially literature & movie fans it seems), why choose knitting?

AK: Knitting is about so much more than creating warm and flattering garments. It truly is an expressive art form, articulating feeling, culture, themes, ideas, interests, wishes, etc. I love the term 'knitting voices', so prosaically communicating that knits are expressive of the knitters who produce them. Obviously, my particular interest is in how knitters express literary interests in their stitches. Just how much knitters love to do that is shown in the abundance of literary-themed groups and patterns in Ravelry; for example, there are 89 Harry Potter themed groups and over 300 Harry Potter themed patterns! So when I had the idea for a literary-themed knitting book, I knew that it would appeal to a lot of knitters.

I'd like to thank Ann for stopping by and sharing a little bit about her book with us. You can check out the other stops on her blog tour through Woolly Wormhead, The Knitting Goddess, MaryJane Mucklestone, Carol Feller, and Anniken Allis' websites.Forthcoming blog spots in the tour include Stephen West, The Yarn YardRuth Garcia Alcantud, and Franklin Habit, so keep your eye on their blogs, as well!

As a special thank you to my readers, Ann is offering a digital copy of Novel Knits to one lucky commenter! To enter, simply leave a comment below telling Ann how fabulous the new book is. I'll announce a winner by the end of next week. If you're on Twitter and would like an extra entry, simply tweet the following:

"@TheSexyKnitter and @AnnKingstone are giving away a copy Ann's book, Novel Knits! Visit Sarah's blog to enter: http://tinyurl.com/novelknits"

Looking for the winner of the last giveaway? It's Andria (Adia on Ravelry)! Congrats Andria! I'll be in touch to get your address. 

Picks of the Day:
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Coming Soon: Principesa Dress

If you'll be at TNNA this weekend, you won't want to miss the fashion show. The Principesa Dress is currently being tech edited and will be available for purchase very, very soon! Details and additional photos will be posted when the pattern goes live.

Style Your Knits: Limeade Fizz Shawlette

This weekend, I'll be attending The National Needlearts Association trade show in Phoenix, AZ. I hadn't planned to attend this show, but I received some super-generous sponsorship from Anzula Luxury Fibers that made my trip possible, and I'm excited to be attending again after a great first visit last year!

TNNA is one of those events where you need to look your best, and designers are no exception. Since the temperatures are supposed to be in the 70's while I'm there, I thought I could get away with wearing a pair of shorts. For this look, I've styled my Limeade Fizz Shawl & Shawlette (mine is the shawlette size) with a jersey tee with a print that reminds me of garter stitch, some glitzy gladiator sandals, oversized bronze earrings, and a brightly printed Fossil clutch. The whole look is meant to be comfy and bright, with the point of the shawlette in the front, kerchief-style.

I'll be wearing this around the show floor on Friday while I help some folks set up, so if you see me, please do come up and say hello!

Style Your Knits: Limeade Fizz Shawlette
Limeade Fizz Shawlette by TheSexyKnitter

Oh, and I'll also be sporting this new diamond ring the Dr. bought for me tonight, just because he felt like buying me some jewelry. I have to tell you, I love this ring, and I don't mind one bit that it came from Walmart! It looks like a little bow on my finger. How cute is that?

By the way, I haven't announced a winner for my latest giveaway yet, so go read all about it and leave a comment so you can be entered, okay? I'll announce a winner and a new giveaway on Tuesday when I get back from TNNA.
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SexyKnitter readers get 20% off 579Jewelry with coupon code "sexyfans"!


Coming Soon: Sulpice Socks

I'm so excited to finally be able to show you these socks! I designed this pair in July of last year and am pleased to announce that they are about to be published in The Knitter Magazine, Issue 41. The issue will be available for purchase in the UK at the end of this month and will likely hit American newsstands sometime in March or April.

This pair of socks represents my first foray into cable design, and I have to say I'm pretty hooked. I absolutely love working with twisted stitches, and creating a unique cable pattern from one of my own sketches was really satisfying. I've already sketched out about three more and have grand plans for designing around them, so stay tuned!

Picks of the Day:

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Deliciousness: Peanut Butter Chocolate Pretzel Sandwiches

Saw these on Pinterest the other day and was practically forced to buy pretzels the very next time I went to the grocery store. They're basically teeny tiny pretzel sandwiches, stuffed with super sweetened peanut butter and dipped in chocolate. You can find the original recipe over at Elissa's blog, 17 and Baking. Apparently these were born out of an epic fail to make something else, and the sheer desperation to make something sweet, dammit, drove her to make something quick and easy. (Note to Elissa: I'm kinda glad that pear clafoutis didn't turn out, because these sounded way better, anyway!)

I'll be attending a baby shower at one of my LYSs on Saturday. Whenever there's an event like this going on over there, it's always sort of heavily hinted that perhaps I might like to bring something? (Let me tell you, it's not like they have to twist my arm!) I knew there would already be cake, so I decided to make my treat a salty-sweet-crunchy snack instead of opting for one of the so-much-sugar-you'll-keel-over confections I usually arrive with.

These aren't going to make it over there.

Fair warning, here. These are stupid easy to make and dangerously delicious. I told the Dr. we'd try one each, just to see how they were, but that I was going to take the rest of them to the shower. Half an hour later, they were almost all gone. I'd decided to dip half of my batch in semi-sweet chocolate, and the other half in white chocolate, and while I fully expected to like the semi-sweet the best (one of my LYS owners is allergic to chocolate so the white ones were meant for her), the white chocolate was both my and the Dr.'s favorite. I have no idea why; I don't usually like white chocolate but something about it just goes really well with the peanut butter mixture.

Other than the white chocolate switch, I did a couple of other things different, too. First, I froze the sandwiches solid before dipping them in chocolate. Since the recipe makes a huge batch, the last few sandwiches were starting to thaw out and get rather sticky by the time I got to them, so I might suggest pulling them out just a few at a time for the chocolate section. Oh, and I used my handy cookie scoop in the peanut butter mixture, instead of trying to form peanut butter balls by hand. My cookie scoop fits about a tablespoon and a half, but I only scooped up about a teaspoon worth of filling for each sandwich, just eyeballing it. With the opening of the scoop facing upwards, click the handle a few times, causing the peanut butter to roll back and forth and form a tiny little ball. Once this is done, you can just tip the ball onto the pretzel, then squash it down with another pretzel. No sticky fingers! 

I give this recipe two thumbs up (okay, with the Dr.'s vote that's actually four thumbs up) and will definitely be making some of these again. Since the pretzel sandwiches didn't make it to Saturday, I'm going to try coating some pretzel sticks with the peanut butter and chocolate, and see how that goes! Will report back. In the meantime, seriously. You need some pretzel sandwiches. Now.


Flatten your...cake layers?

Sprinkle cake, a la Raspberri Cupcakes

This is usually the time of year when folks start thinking about losing weight, eating better, and generally being more healthy in the new year than they were in the last. While the rest of the world is daydreaming about finally getting those abs flat, I'm hung up on trying to get my cake layers flat. I mean, layered cakes are a big enough hassle without having to wrestle 1/4-inch off the top of each cake with an abnormally long serrated knife, amiright? I mean, someone could lose a finger, and that would not be a great way to start the new year. (As a side note, if you are looking to cut calories, check out this post for a tasty way to prepare boxed cake mix in a calorie-friendly way!)

I made a sprinkle cake on Saturday. The Dr. had been craving wedding cake for a week, and we were hosting our preacher and his wife for dessert so I figured, why not? I would've loved to do an ombre cake like Steph's, but the Dr. can be picky about details and I didn't think purple wedding cake would go over well. Word to the wise, though: covering a cake with sprinkles is WAY HARDER THAN IT LOOKS. I think I'll be finding sprinkles in the nooks and crannies of my kitchen until the day we move. I have absolutely no suggestions on how to prevent them from going everywhere, either; Steph suggests putting your cake into a giant container of some sort, but I was frosting on a cake pedestal so that was a no-go for me. I can only say if you're going to try this at home, have the vacuum handy.

Anyway, on with the point. I figured out an easy, no-muss, no-fuss, no-cutting, no-waste way of getting those cake layers perfectly flat, every time. And here's how I did it:

Step 1: Remove the springform section of the pan from your cake as soon as it comes out of the oven (leave the cake on the round metal bit underneath); place it on a wire rack to cool.

Step 2: Cover warm cake with a flexible silicon cutting mat.

Step 3: Put a large, flat cookie pan on top of the cutting mat.

Step 4: Plop a 2-pound bag of sugar (or other light weight) on top of the whole stack.

Step 5: When cool, remove all items from the top of the cake. Note that the just the very moist top coat of cake is going to stick to your silicon mat; this is your delicious, taste-testing treat! Scrape that goodness off with a fork and eat it. (Hey, you gotta make sure your cake is guest-worthy without cutting into it somehow, right?)

Voila! Perfectly flat cake layers with no cutting, no fuss, and no waste.

I didn't add any additional steps to this process - promise! No cutting, no weird frosting-some-parts-more-than-others, nada. Just stacked 'em right up and slapped some frosting on! And look how pretty and even it came out!

I think this technique could also work with sheet cakes; instead of a silicon mat, you'd want to use parchment paper, and instead of a cookie sheet and weight, use a light book or two.

....Yeah, I'm totally doing this any time I make cake layers from now on. WIN.


New Pattern: Pretty in Pink Hat

I have a new pattern out in the February/March issue of Your Knitting Life (previously known as Knitting Today!), the Pretty in Pink Hat. This hat was specifically designed to flatter curls (HELLO!), big hair, and dreads. It's oversized around the brim to leave room for all that hair, but if oversized hats aren't your thing, the pattern also includes instructions for how to convert the hat to a beret with plain ribbing at the bottom.

This hat uses just 2 balls of Red Heart Boutique Midnight, an aran weight, glittery, self-striping acrylic. I didn't use all of both balls though; I'd say if you were going to substitue you'd probably need maybe 200-250 yards.

This hat was quite fun to make; I wanted it to have sections of zig zag lace set off by bands of lateral braid stitches, with the plain sections not appearing to chevron at all. The technique is simple but different, and achieved exactly the effect I was going for. Let me tell you, it was quite the challenge to make self-striping yarn zigzag in some sections without having it zigzag all over!

This hat would also look lovely in a solid color, and I'm looking forward to making one for myself. I can't decide between red, green, or blue, but I'm thinking I might have to go buy some Malabrigo Twist.

I just happen to have an extra copy of the February/March issue, along with 2 skeins of the yarn used for this hat, and you know what that means!! That's right baby, it's giveaway time!

Even if the Pretty in Pink hat doesn't strike your fancy, there are tons of other great patterns in this issue. I'm partial to the Emma Gloves and the Sweetheart Socks, myself. (There's also a super cute Penguin Hat, for kids!)

I think we'll mix things up this time. To enter, take a look at my portfolio on Ravelry, then leave a comment telling me which pattern of mine you'd be most likely to knit. If you're on Twitter, you can get an extra entry by tweeting the following:

"Tell @TheSexyKnitter which of her patterns you most want to knit, & you could win a kit to make her new hat: http://tinyurl.com/hatgiveaway"

And that's it! We'll leave the comments open until I'm ready to announce a winner, probably sometime in the next week or so.

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Style Your Knits: Ribbed Vest

I did something outrageous last week: I knitted for myself...from a pattern...using stash yarn! I almost never get to do this any more, as I'm seemingly always knitting for work. Not that I'm complaining about that, mind you; this job is the best I've ever had. However, it does take a toll after awhile, looking at all the latest patterns and my friends' beautiful "I knit this for myself" projects, and knowing I don't have the time to indulge. This year, though, I decided to take off the week between Christmas and the new year, and treat myself to a little selfish knitting. I selected the Ribbed Vest pattern from Sarah Punderson, which is all the rage at my LYS right now. There is this lovely grey sample hanging up in the shop, and it's been all I could do not to shove it in one of my giant handbags and take it home with me. Instead, I bought the pattern and chose some mossy green Mirasol Qina from my stash (I held the yarn doubled) to make my version. I started it on December 30th and finished it last night, and I just couldn't wait to wear it today! Here's how I styled mine:

Ribbed Vest

Ribbed Vest by TheSexyKnitter featuring a project by salwaldo

Pairing a chunky vest on top with skinny jeans on bottom helps to even out the proportions of the overall look. The flowy, high-low button down shirt with a bit of lace also complements the heaviness of the knitwear, and adds a touch of femininity. I finished my look off today with a braid-wrapped side ponytail, a handmade sea turtle brooch purchased from a fair trade shop in Wyoming, a huge silk rose ring from The Petal Collection, and some small brass earrings with a lovely green patina (similar). Hopefully, I'll be able to snag some photos of my outfit soon to post on Ravelry! In the meantime, I give this pattern two thumbs up and highly recommend it as a stylish stash buster!