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Force Friday

A long time ago in a galaxy far, far away, a knitter was born who has been obsessed with Star Wars for her entire life.

Oh wait, that’s me.

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I adore everything about Star Wars (well, the original trilogy anyway, the prequels left a bit to be desired) – the story, the tech, the characters, the costumes, the special effects… There’s something for everyone, whether it’s a certain character you relate to, rooting for the underdog, a droid you have an affinity with or someone going through an issue in a galaxy far, far away that you find yourself going through here on Earth. I don’t trust people who don’t like Star Wars the same way I don’t trust people who don’t like chocolate, pizza or unicorns.

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When they announced a few years back that they were going to be filming more movies and picking up where Episode VI left off, I thought I might spontaneously combust with sheer excitement. I wasn’t born yet when the very first film was released, but I love hearing stories from those who were there and it has the same frenzy that the first Harry Potter film did. When the first Harry Potter came out, I sat in line for hours on the floor with my RISD friends, hunkered down with my knitting and caffeine in full-on HP geek mode, waiting patiently for the ticket guy to let us get into the theater.

I’ve wanted to design a pattern trilogy inspired by Star Wars for a long time. It’s been tucked away in the back of my mind and I kept thinking,” You really need to plan that out, because December 2015 will be here before you know it.” Since today is Force Friday (and I just got back from Target where a Star Wars shirt or two may have slipped into my shopping cart, and my heart nearly burst with pride when my 4-year-old told me he wanted Star Wars underoos), it seems like the perfect day to introduce the first of the pattern trilogy.

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Fellow Star Wars fans, meet the Nerfherder Cowl (inspired by the below video clip – if you get my posts via email, it won’t show up). The first of 3 Star Wars-inspired patterns by TanisKnits, the Nerfherder Cowl is designed to be the perfect knit to work on while you re watch the 6 films to prep for the new one. With a stitch pattern reminiscent of stars and galaxies, it’s a very interesting project packed with texture and color. I’ve paired The Lemonade Shop’s Sparkle DK yarn in the appropriately named color way “The Force” (blue sparkles!), and Manos del Uruguay’s wonderful Silk Blend yarn in “Shocking.” I love the neon yarn paired with the calm blues and by striping them in even intervals, it adds another layer of depth and they tone each other down nicely.

This cowl is knit back and forth the short way and joined at the end with kitchener stitch (you could certainly 3-needle bind off instead if you wish) which means finished length is up to you. I’ve been into longer cowls lately and the stitch pattern was so addicting that I just keep knitting!

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The next 2 TanisKnits Star Wars-inspired patterns will be headed your way in soon, so keep your eyes out for the next installment coming soon.

Download the Nerfherder Cowl here and may the force be with you, always.

Welcome Home!

The fun thing about designing for yarn and pattern clubs, is when the pattern rights revert back to the designer, it’s like seeing an old friend after a long absence. I had two such patterns return back to me this week and I’m delighted that they’re now available to the masses.

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Originally designed to be part of The Knitting Boutique’s Luxury Sweater Club (yes, please), the Winnick Cardigan was an idea I had while working away this past winter. I usually stick to 3/4 sleeves because I work so much with my hands and I don’t like cuffs flopping around getting in my way, but my torso and upper arms get cold. My desk is right next to a window and we live in an old row house – things get drafty. A short-sleeved sweater would be perfect, but I needed to Tanis-ize it, so I jazzed up my sketch with some Estonian lace work, threw a few bobbles in there for some texture and voila! The Winnick Cardigan came to be. Sized generously from a 34″ bust up through a 54″ bust, you’ll only need anywhere from 780-1040 yards of worsted weight yarn. The lace doesn’t start until after the sleeves have been quarantined off after the raglan shaping is complete, and it’s easy to add length in the torso or even long sleeves if you wish.

Another friend who came back are the Burkhardt Wristers. Originally part of Dragonfly Fiber’s Club (goodness did I LOVE this color way!), these little beauties have mirror-image cables running their entire length and a thumb gusset. 1 Hank of my favorite yarn from Dragonfly Fiber’s, Traveller DK, will yield 2 pairs! I love being able to get more than 1 project out of a single hank, so knit one for you and a friend! Start those holiday gifts – they always sneak up on us, no?

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Download the Winnick Cardigan here and the Burkhardt Wristers here. Welcome home, friends!

Izziyana Shuhaimi

Crafting takes time – we say it again and again every time someone says “Oh, you made that? How long did it take you?” I came across this article on Singapore-based artist Izziyana Suhaimi who adds embroidery to her pencil and watercolor illustrations and it reminded me of that. I especially like the bear hat, since I’ve knit something similar in the past! Original article here.

Fashion Illustrations with Embroidered Accents and Accessories by Izziyana Suhaimi

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Singapore-based artist Izziyana Suhaimi introduces embroidered accents to her carefully rendered pencil and watercolor illustrations. Patterns of flowers unfold much like a tapestry across the paper canvas creating pieces she refers to as “evidence of the hand and of time.” For her series The Looms in Our Bones Suhaimi focuses mostly on fashion acessories where scarves, hats, and other clothing is depicted in thread, while she also uses the same techniques for more abstract shapes and designs. From her artist statement:

Embroidery for me is a quiet and still act, where each stitch represents a moment passed. The building of stitches then becomes a representation of time passing and the final work is like a physical manifestation of time – a time object. Each stitch is also a recording of the maker’s thoughts and emotions. I enjoy the duality of embroidery, in its movements of stabbing, cutting, covering, building, repairing, taking apart. Every stitch made seems to unfold a story and withhold it at the same time.

You can see much more of Suhaimi’s work here.

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35

It’s an interesting progression from having birthdays as a kid to having them as an adult. As a kid, all I wanted was to be older, to get more privileges, learn to drive, get to the next grade, have more freedom. As an adult, the clock seems to have sped up since I’ve had my son and I no longer measure my age by the lines appearing on my face and hands, but by how tall he’s getting or new “grown up” words and phrases that come out of his mouth. I never minded getting older like some women tend to, and I try to embrace my age and think “Wow, I’ve survived this long and that’s a lot longer than some people get. I’m lucky.” Birthdays should make you feel thankful, not shameful. With age comes wisdom and we should honor that by wearing our number of years with pride, not hide them away.

So here it is world, today I turn 35! Bump me up into that next age bracket and let’s celebrate!

Getting to do what I love every day is the best present of all. Working in the creative field and having parents that knew I wouldn’t/couldn’t fit into the mold of sitting in a cubicle each day and let me venture off the paved road into the art field to realize my dreams and a husband who thinks it’s “cool” that his wife is a knitwear designer and author makes me feel more blessed than they’ll ever know. Being able to stay at home with my son and stay up late to get my work done when he’s sleeping is tricky, but it’s a balance that works for me and my family and I wouldn’t trade it for anything.

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As I usher in this new year and new age bracket, I want to celebrate YOU, dear readers. The talented and incredible bunch of friends I’ve made while traveling this road both in real life and online, whether you watch me on Knitting Daily TV, you read by blog, you carry your WIP around in a TanisKnits project bag, you’re working on one of my designs, you just got one of my books or you come and take a class with me, I thank my lucky stars EVERY SINGLE DAY that I am doing what I’m doing and that I have you all right there with me. Thank you, from deep within my soul, thank you for being part of this great little corner of our knitting community that I call home.

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If you know me in real life, you know I bake like a fiend and whether you like it or not, you’re probably going home with a few dozen cookies or a loaf of bread after we hang out. You know that if I know you had a bad week or you’re going through something tough, I will be there with something handmade or homemade, ears primed to listen and arms to wrap you in a hug. Since I can’t do that for all of you, I try to show my appreciation throughout the year with free patterns, tutorials, hints, tips, tricks and giveaways galore! Let’s welcome in 35 with a new free pattern for you, the Beecham Cowl.

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Designed to use up that one hank of special yarn you either have in your stash or you’ve been eyeing at your LYS, this cowl is designed to be a “one and done” kind of project with only 2 ends to weave in, no finishing other than a good blocking and a nice gift for YOURSELF. Using one of my favorite lace patterns that knits up in the round looking much more difficult than it actually is, that hank of handspun you’ve been hoarding or that hank of luxury yarn you’ve been coveting is ideal. Yarn weight doesn’t really matter (the photographed version is knit on sport weight on US 6 needles), just size your needles accordingly and enjoy. Download the Beecham Cowl here.

How about one other birthday gift? All TanisKnits patterns (remember that TanisKnits and Tanis Gray patterns are two different pattern lines, follow the link here) on Ravelry are 35% off today only from 12am to 12pm EST. No coupon code is needed and please enjoy!

Thank you for celebrating with me!

Meet Rachel!

Readers, meet Rachel! Rachel is one of my favorite people and my absolute favorite knitwear model. She’s one of those rare people who are kind, generous (remember a few posts back when a violin showed up on my doorstep after I told everyone about my lifelong dream to play? That was from Rachel!), funny, smart, beautiful, a wonderful friend and a great mom – basically one in a zillion. Rachel was good enough to sit down and answer a few questions for us. I thought it’d be nice for everyone to get to know this awesome person I am privileged to call friend since her face graces my blog and knitting designs on a regular basis.

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Rachel and I at a recent Sunday morning photo shoot

Tanis (TG): If you look on my designer page on Ravelry, your face is everywhere. People are sometimes surprised when they meet me when I travel for workshops because they think you’re me and I’m your photographer! We are in fact, two different people. Do you find this as amusing as I do?

Rachel (RL): I think this is so funny, especially considering the first time I met you. I had been aware of you and your work for a while before we met, but we met for the first time when you toured the school where I teach. After you knocked on the door, I opened it expecting to see a model you frequently used! I think I was momentarily confused, and most likely incredibly awkward when I introduced myself to you because of my visual expectation of you. You were so gracious and warm though, and I couldn’t help but admire the knit shawl you wore, so I assume you forgave my awkwardness? Hi, my name is Rachel, and I am in fact not Tanis Gray.

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My favorite image I’ve taken of Rachel, modeling the Voluptuous Cowl I designed for Imperial Yarn

TG: You teach preschool in Alexandria, VA and we met when you became my son’s first teacher a few years ago. Did you always want to be a teacher?

RL: So, I’ve always had an inkling that I would be a teacher. I mean, there was a bit of time there in childhood when I was going to be a ballerina/journalist/botanist/neo-natal intensive care nurse, but yes, children and teaching have always been passions of mine. At the school where I work as Director and teacher, we incorporate many different educational philosophies and we especially find inspiration in the Montessori philosophy. I cannot extol the Montessori philosophy enough.  It’s a child-centered approach to education that considers children to be hungry for knowledge and able to initiate their own education within a well-prepared environment. The Montessori method values children as unique individuals and, most importantly, follows the child as they explore the world. What’s so fantastic is that the Montessori method can be incorporated in the home environment as well as the school environment, giving children independence, self-motivation, the ability to self-correct, and the support to become active knowledge seekers. I’ve incorporated as much Montessori into my home as I can with my 3-year-old son, and it’s become a way of life around our home.

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Rachel in one of her favorite TanisKnits designs, the Acorned Hat

TG: Where are you from? Tell us a little about yourself.

RL: I’m originally from San Diego. I was born and raised there, and lived there until I moved to the DC metro area 8 years ago. I was actually in the process of preparing to move to Japan to teach, but met my husband, fell in love, and moved here instead. My husband, Vance, and I have been married for almost 7 years, and we have a 3-year-old son named Theodore, Teddy for short. I love my family, crafting, food, and binge-watching tv shows on Hulu and amazon prime. I’m kind of a linguistics nerd, and have a healthy obsession with onomastics (the study of names), natural health, and educational philosophies. In my time off from school, I love going on nature walks with my family, exploring the history and the hidden spots in the DC metro area.

TG: In addition to being a wonderful teacher and a fantastic model, you’re a knitter, too! How long have you been knitting?

RL: I’ve been knitting for 14 years. Because my father was in the military, we lived on the opposite side of the country from our extended family. This led to only seeing my grandparents during their visits to San Diego or on summer trips back to northwestern Pennsylvania. One of my earlier sensory memories is of my grandmother knitting on a visit to our house in California. I remember sitting on the arm of her chair watching her as she peered through her glasses at the knitting in her hands. I remember just watching her as she quickly worked her yarn from one needle to the other, her concentration intent, but willing to answer my questions about the loops on her needles, the coarse yarn she used, and what it was that she was making. Attached to this memory, I also remember my love/hate relationship with the packages she would send of oversized ponchos and stiffly crocheted collars. From the former memory though, my fascination with yarn and needles was born. I knew I wanted to learn, but unfortunately she passed away when I was young, and I didn’t have the opportunity to learn from her. When I was in my freshman year of college, I decided that I wanted to learn how to knit in her memory. My mother taught me a basic single cast on, and garter stitch, and from there I self-taught. I still have a few knitting and crochet needles from my grandmother that are largely impractical, but I use them sentimentally.

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Even in the humid, buggy woods, Rachel looks great modeling the Nyra Cowl!

TG: What’s your favorite thing to knit?

RL: Lately? Small things. I have many half-started, never-finished projects in queue that have been calling my name. Maybe because I’m always around them, I love knitting children’s clothing. I love that so much detail can go into such tiny works. I also enjoy a good challenging sweater. There is so much satisfaction in seeing your completed work. The first “big” project I ever knit was a sweater for my father. The left shoulder seam is so crooked that it drives me batty every time I see it, but he wears it proudly to this day.

TG:  Our sons are friends and Teddy has modeled once for me. Are you going to teach Teddy how to knit?

RL: Yes, most definitely! He’s already shown a bit of interest, and by that I mean, he’s repeatedly swung my circular needles around like a lasso. I may be wearing an eye patch the next time you see me.

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Only a true friend would model the 100% wool Polarized Hat in over 100 degree heat!

TG: What’s your favorite thing I’ve designed that you’ve modeled for me?

RL: Oh my goodness, where to begin? There are so many to choose from! Most recently, I loved Bad Kitty! Although I’m terribly allergic to cats, I loved the design and colors of the cat-inspired cowl. Your Emporia Cowl was so soft and warm, because hello, cashmere. The Acorned Hat is stunning, as is the Nyra Cowl. I fell in love with your Warrior Shawl pattern, and finally felt like I could pull off a shawl.

TG:  Favorite fiber? Book? Color? Artist?

RL: Okay, I’m probably the most indecisive person I know, so… Favorite fiber: cashmere, hands down. Merino comes in a very close second, followed by silk maybe? Gah, too many to choose from! Book: Well I mean, besides your books, I actually really enjoy Knitting America by Susan Strawn. It isn’t so much a pattern book as it is a history of knitting in America. Color: Green, or blue, or gray. Earth tones? Jewel tones? I like ’em all. Artist: I saw a few pieces by Rania Hassan in 2007, and enjoyed her art, but as far as designers go, there is so much talent out there to name just a few. I’m inspired by so much of the work that you all do!

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An impromptu photo shoot for the Luce Cowl at the zoo with our sons!

TG: You are a very patient, calming personality. Does this come from teaching little ones all day or copious amounts of knitting?

RL: Haha. Well, thanks. I guess it comes from a lot of deep breathing, knitting, prayers, imagining that every one is just a giant toddler, and more deep breathing.

TG: Do you prefer to knit for your son/family members or yourself?

RL: I have a couple of drawers filled with beautiful yarn I’ve bought for myself over the years, and I really do plan to use it on myself one day, but I mostly stick to knitting for others. As I knit for family and friends, it’s so nice to really focus on the person I’m knitting for and send out all that good energy and love when I deliver the finished product.

I hope you enjoyed meeting Rachel, dear readers! Stay tuned for many more new TanisKnits designs modeled by my amazing friend!

Recycling

I read the below article recently (original article published here) and started thinking about how similar fishing nets and yarn are. Imagine if we took all the leftover yarn we had from all of our projects and did something amazing like this? I love seeing people turn a negative like illegal fishing and harming our oceans and sea life and turning it into a positive and useful thing that we all wear – sneakers. “The problems we face are many, but so are the solutions.” Well said indeed.

Discarded Plastic Fishing Nets Retrieved from the Ocean Used in New Shoe Prototype 

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Adidas is now designing shoes from our oceans’ detritus, recently producing the world’s first prototype with parts constructed from ocean plastic and illegal deep-sea gillnets. The athletic apparel manufacture partnered with Parley for the Oceans as collaborators, a group of creators, thinkers, and leaders who design projects that aim to end the destruction of our oceans.

The community explains, “Our oceans are about to collapse and there is not much time to turn it around. Nobody can solve this alone. Everyone has to be a part of the solution. And collaboration is the magic formula.”

An ally of Parley, the Sea Shepard Conservation Society, collected the materials for the shoe while tracking an outlawed poaching vessel off the coast of West Africa. The concept for the shoe was then created in just six days, the prototype showcased at the UnxParley launch event in New York on June 29.

Parley explains that this concept is only the beginning, but is an example of how impactful creative collaboration is. “The problems we face are many, but so are the solutions. Stay tuned to learn more about how Parley will end ocean plastic pollution.” Although the partners have explained that this specific concept might never be commercially available, Adidas plans to introduce recycled plastic into their manufacturing process by early next year.

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photo credit: Giacomo Giorigi / Sea Shepherd Global

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Bad Kitty

I like looking back over my current design year and remembering yarns I enjoyed working with, projects that had that magical balance from concept to weaving in ends, color combinations that popped and if it turned into a class, was a great project to teach and the students did wonderfully. One of my favorite designs this current design year was the Simon Says Cowl, and I knew I wanted to use that yarn again for another color work cowl.

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I’d like to introduce the Bad Kitty cowl, a Fair Isle knit cowl with Latvian braids and a Delft pottery-vibe. According to Holland.com, “Delft Blue is the world-famous earthenware that has been produced in the city of Delft since the 17th century. Between 1600 and 1800, this earthenware was popular among rich families who would show off their Delft Blue collections to one another. Although the Delftware potters preferred to call their earthenware “porcelain”, it was only a cheaper version of the real Chinese porcelain. Delft Blue was not made from the typical porcelain clay, but from clay that was coated with a tin glaze after it was fired. In spite of this, Delft Blue achieved unrivalled popularity, and at its peak, there were 33 factories in Delft. Of all of these factories, the only one remaining today is Royal Delft.”

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I was hanging out with a friend recently, binge-watching Outlander with her as she was cat-sitting for her parents. It’s been a while since my cat Igby passed away, and I haven’t had to fight the (always losing) battle between woman, cat and yarn for years. After leaving her house and spending the next few days picking cat hair out of my yarn, the idea for the Bad Kitty cowl was hatched.

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Knit in the round in the lovely Mrs. Crosby’s Carpet Bag yarn on US 6 needles, this cowl uses 1 hank of each color. I also really love the idea of switching colors in each striped section and having a rainbow of bad kitties circling around, plotting their revenge on your yarn! Carpet Bag has great drape when knitted up and the sheen (from the 20% silk) and slight halo (from the 80% superwash merino) make it super soft and cozy. A lot of knitters are sensitive to yarn around their neck or on their forehead and this yarn hit an ideal balance for me.

cats2Pairing Fair Isle and Latvian Braids running in opposite directions creates a dynamic combination between texture and design. Throw in some corrugated ribbing for balance and weight and you have everything I love about cowls in one project. The added length ensures enough knit fabric to tuck under your coat and keep out the chill, but you can make it even longer or shorter if you wish.

Keep the bad kitties who go after your yarn at bay! Download the Bad Kitty cowl here.

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