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In Which We Find A Ghost Town…

It’s a pretty rare thing for us to take a family vacation. We visit our families, we take day trips, we plan brief getaways with friends, but I cannot remember the last time we blocked out an entire week 8 months in advance without knowing what we were going to do. While I was filming videos in Colorado for Interweave last month, my husband and I hatched our vacation plan over email. Before I knew it, I was deciding which projects to bring with me, packing us up and like all knitters, wondering if I brought too much knitting or (horror!) too little.


Smoky Mountains

Last week found us in new territory. While the husband drove the full 1400 miles roundtrip so I could happily knit and crochet away in the front seat and wrangle our son, we camped between 2 streams in Tennesee, watched fireflies outside our tent, I knit in a stream, we visited Dollywood and rode rollercoasters until I swear I could hear my ribcage rattling around, touched sting rays, walked through a shark tunnel, stayed in a cabin on the bank of another river in North Carolina, hiked the Smoky Mountains, ate some amazing food in Asheville, visited the Biltmore Estate, tubed down some rapids, visited a few knit shops and my most favorite thing of all – hiked deep into the woods and stumbled upon a ghost town.

Best knitting location EVER at our camp site on the Little River, Tennessee

I love old things, especially old things that somehow relate to American history. Maybe that’s why I love knitting so much – the history that’s flowing from our fingers as we stitch away is so calming and so global. While hiking and searching for an old graveyard that was on a random map we had where we were camping in Elkmont, Tennessee, we found ourselves in the middle of an abandoned village. Since we were in the land of no internet, we had to wait until we were back in civilization to do some research and see exactly where it was that we had gone back in time to.


Daisy Town’s “Adamless Eden” Cabin, Tennessee

According to Wikipedia, “In his company’s early days, Wilson Townsend allowed hunters and fishermen to use the Little River Railroad to access the deep, game-rich forests of the Smokies. As the Elkmont valley was slowly stripped of its valuable timber, Townsend began to advertise the area as a mountain getaway. In 1909, Little River Railroad began offering the Sunday “Elkmont Special”— non-stop train service from Knoxville to Elkmont. In 1910, an affluent group of Knoxville hunting and fishing enthusiasts formed the Appalachian Club and purchased what is now “Daisy Town” south of the confluence of Little River and Jakes Creek. They built the Appalachian Clubhouse for use as a lodge. Within a few years, several clubmembers built cottages, and the club evolved into a mountain getaway for Knoxville’s elite.  In 1920, Willis P. Davis and his wife Anne, who owned a summer cottage at Elkmont, began to suggest an idea for a national park in the Smokies after a visit to Yellowstone. Business owners in Knoxville quickly saw the benefits of a national park and began lobbying federal and state governments.”


Deep Creek Waterfall, North Carolina

While the history itself was very interesting, we were more interested in what exactly had happened afterwards… Why were the original 19 cottages from “Daisy Town” that we stumbled upon still (barely) standing, abandoned and overgrown? Why hadn’t they been repaired or torn down, letting the land be reclaimed by nature? After more searching, we found, “Most of the lifetime leases on the Wonderland Hotel and the rustic cottages at Elkmont expired in 1992 (two expired in 2001), and ownership reverted to the National Park Service. The park’s 1982 General Management Plan calls for all structures to be removed to allow nature to reclaim the affected areas. However, in 1994, the Wonderland Hotel and several of the rustic cottages were placed on the National Register of Historic Places, giving them a special status. A debate immediately ensued over the fate of these structures. In 2005, the Wonderland Hotel collapsed from a structural failure. Parts of the hotel deemed to have historical value were removed and the rest cleared, leaving only the annex and a chimney fall. In its 2009 Final Environmental Impact Statement for Elkmont, the National Park Service announced plans to restore the Appalachian Clubhouse and eighteen cabins in the Appalachian Club section. The remaining structures will be carefully documented and removed. Seventeen of the nineteen structures chosen for restoration and preservation are located in the Appalachian Club’s “Daisy Town” section. These were selected primarily as the oldest and most historically notable structures in the historic district. Most of the cottages were built between 1910 and 1930, and renovated numerous times over subsequent decades.”


Gatlinburg Aquarium Shark Tunnel, Tennessee

While walking through this silent “town” in the middle of a giant forest with my son and husband, I could imagine people knitting and crocheting on their front porches, laughter and birds chirping, watching children running down the street or like I had a few days prior, wondering if they brought enough knitting to get them through their trip. Life was different back then – of course – but again, our knitting history runs so deep and so far into the past that it wasn’t a great stretch of my imagination to picture people happily knitting away on a bright summer’s day, their cottages intact and new. There was something very odd about those houses in the woods to me. I felt like I belonged there and had a weird sense of deja vu the whole time we walked quietly through. Since the structures were unstable with “no trespassing” signs posted everywhere, we walked, touching nothing, anxious to find out more about this place.


Our trip inspired many a future knitting project, color combinations to reenact in the form of Fair Isle (so much GREEN!), a renewed sense of pride and love for what I do and sparked my sense of adventure which had lay dormant for far too long. I learned so much on this trip and it was wonderful visiting so many places I had never been. But the best part? These two guys here, reconnecting as a family and appreciating what we have.


Stay tuned for some summer vacation-inspired knitting patterns coming your way soon!


Perfectly Feminine Knits & Giveaway!

UPDATE 6.18.15: Congratulations to Carol P for winning a copy of the book! Carol check your email!


I recently got my hands on a copy of Lene Holme Samsoe’s wonderful new book, Perfectly Feminine Knits (Interweave/F+W; $26.99). I wasn’t sure what to expect… You hear “feminine” and wonder if it’s all ruffles, cutesy lace and tailored garments. Not only was I pleasantly surprised, but this book had at least 4 garments in it that I wanted to make, one of which I ran to my stash to find the perfect yarn for!

Perfectly Feminine Knits - jacket art

I enjoyed reading Lene’s introduction where she speaks about knitting and relaxation and how adaptable knitting has been over the years. I also very much liked how this book is laid out with chapters being classified as techniques – knit and purl, lace, bobbles, cables and garter stitch. A nice mix of 25 accessories and garments, there’s something in this book for everyone. It’s a great collection for people who may have shied away from one technique (I once knew a woman who was terrified of bobbles!) to see multiple examples of and dive right into.

Perfectly Feminine Knits - Agnes beauty image

Agnes – can’t wait to knit this!

Perfectly Feminine Knits - Greta beauty image


Perfectly Feminine Knits - Benedicte beauty image


Many of the sweaters are simple with classic silhouettes and a textured detail. I’m excited to cast on for the Agnes Round Yoke Cardigan, Greta Guernsey Cowl and the Rose Aran-Pattern Sweater. I’m super-picky about sweaters that I knit for myself that are not my designs. It’s rare that personal knitting happens, so when I get a few precious minutes, I want a pattern that I know will look good 10 years from now! Agnes is everything I love in a cardigan and I stash dove for some great yarn to cast on for that soon.

Perfectly Feminine Knits - Cille beauty image


Perfectly Feminine Knits - Ella beauty image


Perfectly Feminine Knits - Nora beauty image


Photography is so important and I liked the “lifestyle” vibe of this book. Almost everything in this book had at least 1 great little detail or some sort of “wow factor.” This is one that will definitely have a place on my bookshelf for years to come.

Now for the giveaway! This giveaway is open to all US residents with a non-PO Box mailing address. For a chance to win a copy of this book, answer the below trivia question correctly in the comments section and you’ll automatically be entered in to win!

Hamlet’s castle is situated in which Danish city?

A winner will be chosen at random at midnight tonight and contacted by me via email. Good luck!

Crocheted Leaf Sculptures

The thing about crafting is it takes time. Sewing, knitting, crochet, weaving, whatever your craft of choice is, these are not activities that are done in a jiffy. Non-crafty folks often don’t understand. I have heard “couldn’t you just buy that?” or “that must have taken forever to make, hope it’s worth it” so many times while sitting at the playground as my hands work away and I keep my eyes on my child, that I keep my internal eye-rolling to myself and try not to let that sigh of exasperation escape my lips. The thought that just because something may be a large investment of my time to create means it’s not worth it, or simply a waste of my time, makes me sad. I’m not into building ships in bottles, but I certainly appreciate the effort that went into it. Everyone has their thing that they love and no matter if it takes a few minutes or a few decades, we do what we need to do to make that creation a reality, regardless of the time investment.

That being said, I read about Susanna Bauer recently and her amazing and intricate crocheted leaf sculptures. I imagine a lot of people think her craft of choice is a waste of time (and a friend said just that when I sent her a link), but using some pretty simple tools, she creates incredible beauty. I couldn’t wait to share it with you, dear readers. Original article here.

Delicate Crocheted Leaf Sculptures By Susanna Bauer 

Delicate leaves and other natural objects decorated with fine crocheting are Susanna Bauer’s specialty. She was taught how to crochet as a small child in Germany, but was more interested in making tiny items instead of blankets and covers. These skills led Bauer into a career in model-making, but her love of nature drew her back.

“There is a fine balance in my work between fragility and strength,” Bauer writes on her website. “…the tenderness and tension in human connections, the transient yet enduring beauty of nature that can be found in the smallest detail, vulnerability and resilience that could be transferred to nature as a whole.”

Bauer now lives in Cornwall, England. An exhibition of her work will be on display at the Lemon Street Gallery through June 27th.

Image credits: Susanna Bauer

Khuno & Garner + Kit Giveaway!

UPDATE: 6.11.15: Congratulations to winner Ge Ge with the correct answer of Irene! Ge Ge check your email!

If you didn’t win, head over to Dragonfly Fibers where they’ve made kits using the same colors I did! kits available here.


I’ve been on a cowl kick lately, dear readers. The summer is always a hectic time – school is ending, we need to switch our mindset from SCHEDULE EVERYTHING to kicking back a bit and relaxing. Our family spends more time in the car together on long-distance trips this time of year and I like to grab a few project bags with smaller projects to take with me when we hit the road (and let’s be honest here, I spend more time thinking about what knitting I’m bringing with me than anything else we pack). If you’re like me, you happily relinquish the wheel and would rather be on the passenger side because that means more knitting time. Tucked in-between car snacks, a zillion project bags and a gallon of iced tea you’ll find me happily knitting away as we roar down the highway.


Cowls are the perfect car knitting project. They fit easily in your lap, they don’t take up much room, they’re easily put down and picked back up again and they make perfect gifts. With cowls you don’t have to worry about if it’ll fit whomever you’re knitting for and can focus more on pattern, color and fiber. There’s no right or left, minimal finishing and they’re one of the best projects to learn a new technique on.


It’s no secret I’m addicted to Fair Isle. I’ll shout it from the rooftops all day long – BRING ON THE STRANDED COLORWORK KNITTING! We all have our favorite techniques, and this is mine. With that in mind, I’d like to introduce you to my latest TanisKnits designs, the Khuno Cowl and the Garner Cowl, both fair isle cowl projects.


Khuno Cowl


Knitting up on US 10 24″ circular knitting needles on the wonderfully squishy and soft hand dyed Dragonfly Fiber’s Super TravellerKhuno is inspired by a dream I had about being on an archeological dig looking for Incan artifacts (maybe I’ve been watching too much Indiana Jones?). A great excuse to use that super bulky hank of variegated yarn you have in your stash paired with a solid, or use 2 highly contrasting solids (if you have trouble choosing colors, read my color theory post here), big yarn = big stitches = fast knitting. I love Latvian Braids and here they add texture as well as weight to keep the ends from curling over. I know the warm weather just got here after a brutal winter, but I’m looking forward to the temperatures dipping back down so I can wear this little beauty around my neck.


Garner Cowl

If you’re looking for more traditional colorwork knitting, the Garner Cowl will appease that craving. Designed and knit while watching my way through Alias, the tone on tone stranded colorwork is a nod to the Scandinavian influence seen in some fair isle work. Knit in Imperial Yarn’s Erin and knit up on US 7 24″ circular knitting needles, I love the two blues together and how it creates unisex appeal. Because stranded colorwork makes a double-thick fabric, this classy cowl will keep you super warm. If you work in a chilly office that keeps the air conditioning cranked up, why not knit yourself one to keep you from shivering under the vent?

Now for the giveaway… One lucky reader will not only win a copy of the Khuno Cowl pattern, but the wonderful folks at Dragonfly Fibers are generously letting that same winner pick 2 colors of Super Traveller (winner’s choice of what colors they want) to make the cowl with! Thanks, Dragonfly Fibers!

Answer this trivia question correctly to be entered in to win the random drawing: What is the name of Indiana Jones’ secretary (in The Last Crusade Indiana Jones says her name) and is also the name of one of my grandmothers? A winner will be chosen at random on Thursday and contacted by me via email. The winner will be posted on this updated post that same day. Good luck!

Happy travels this summer, wherever the road takes you. Pack lots of knitting and drive safe!

Download the Khuno Cowl pattern here and the Garner Cowl pattern here.

Clothesline Basket Tutorial

The end of the school year is drawing to a close and I’m always stumped by what to get teachers. We have a lot of teachers in our lives (my son attends 2 different preschools this year) as well as amazing admin staff and his speech therapist. I trolled Pinterest for gift ideas both worthy of the teachers and people who make both our lives and our son’s life more enriched as well as something useful and handmade. I couldn’t come up with anything I liked until I saw what I’m about to share with you.

I remember giving my own teachers end-of-year gifts as well as holiday gifts back when I was in school. Their desks would be littered with mugs, cookies, candles and ceramic apples. Having some amazing friends in my adult life that are teachers (and two cousins that are teachers), I often hear “I appreciate the thought, but seriously. If I get one more candle I don’t know what I’m going to do with it…” With that dialogue running through my mind, I searched for a gift that says “You are an important part of my son’s life. We appreciate the work you do and THANK YOU.”


I came across some baskets made out of clothesline recently. They looked easy to make and everyone needs a basket for their treasures, phones, desk stuff, notions and other small things, right? I looked at some tutorials, spent some time at my sewing machine and voila! I have 10 baskets to give to deserving educators. After posting a picture of one of them on Instagram, I got dozens of requests on how to make them and I am only too happy to oblige.

These baskets are a great way to use up old or odd-colored thread you have lying around, or keep it neutral and use white, gray or tan. I like to make them bright and colorful, so I tend to go for the pinks, reds, blue and greens. Some of them I dip-dyed after finishing them (and we’ll talk more about that later) to match the thread. You’ll need a fair amount of thread and your bobbin thread will end up being your outside color, so keep that in mind if you’re using neutral inside and a bright color on the outside.

What do you need to make your own sewed basket? You’ll need clothesline – and you want to make sure it’s 100% cotton, not too thick and not stretchy. I went with 7/32″ thickness and found it easily on Amazon. The one I got had 200 feet and I was able to make 3 medium-sized baskets as well as a small one with the leftovers. It’s not easy to start a new clothesline in the middle of a basket (not like joining in new yarn when the skein runs out), so I always make sure I have enough to make it through a basket and save my little leftover bits for small bowls and baskets. Make sure you have a solid sewing machine that has a zigzag stitch and plenty of elbow room.


step2Start your center base by circling your clothesline around itself into a circle about the size of a quarter.


Then, making sure you’re on the zigzag stitch and that the tail attached to the clothesline is coming off to the right side, sew across, then across the other way (making an “x”) through the small base. If you want you can go across again and again, making it into 1/8’s, but I found an “x” works just fine.



Now start to turn your work counter-clockwise, and this is the key element – be sure that when you zigzag that you’re grabbing part of the clothesline from the existing circle and the new added piece (you’re basically working in the ditch between the two) and that you’re attaching them together. If you miss one side it won’t attach and it can’t stay together. Make sense? Continue doing that, turning it slowly and letting your machine feed the new clothesline in. One other thing worth mentioning is that they don’t have to be perfect. These are handmade gifts! Part of the charm is some wonky stitches or changing your thread color halfway through. Embrace any weirdness happening and roll with it – that’s what makes each one unique.


Keep doing this, letting your work hang over and out, just make sure you’re keeping your base flat. The bigger the base, the harder it is to manage, so start thinking about how wide across you want your base to be before things get out of hand and difficult to control.


Keep doing this until you reach the desired base diameter. For this one, I went to about 8″ across.

step8If you’re wanting to make a bunch of trivets or coasters, this is where you secure off the end and finish up. If you’re wanting to make a basket or bowl, this is where we start turning up the edges, making the bowl shape. Grab your base and pull it up so it’s vertical. I pull it up so the base is flush against the side of my machine. Using the side of the machine is a great way to keep the bowl shape consistent.

step9Keep working around in a circle the way you’ve been doing, just keep your work against your machine and go for as much as you want the height/depth of the bowl or basket to be. I went about 3.5″ deep. The clothesline may need a little more help now that you’re shaping the bowl, so just be sure it’s right up against the work. If you’re afraid of putting your fingers too close to the needle, use a stiletto or a chopstick as a pushing device.

step10Great! If you’re making bowls, go for the desired depth and finish off! If you’re wanting to make a basket and add in handles, go to the desired depth, then pull away the clothesline to make the actual handle. Be sure to backstitch a few times before you pull the clothesline away. This will add stability.

step11Cut your thread, make your loop, then reattach and start stitching again. Be sure to backstitch again a few times when you join back in. I like to mark the opposite side of the basket so I can get the handles even, but maybe you just want one or want to wing it. Anything goes!

step12Now you have a decision to make. Do you want a single loop for the handle or do you want to make it stronger and shore it up? I like to go a few times around, and how many times you do that is entirely up to you. Just keep the handle loops together and don’t rush it.

step13Once you’ve gone around enough (3 times in this case), it’s time to wrap things up.


Cut your clothesline and tuck it into one of the sides, backstitching as you come to it.


step16Each basket is so different! Finish your end off with a swirl, or make a really deep basket and attach a leather strap to make it a beach bag. Use self-striping thread or paint or dye the clothesline before you start to sew. Wrap the clothesline in fabric as you work for more of a scrapy feel, or spray paint it when you’re all done.


On some baskets I painted the bottom part (I really like the look of just a dip-dye or a partial paint job) or let it sit in a bowl of dye for a hint of color. Make each basket unique and put your own look and finishing touches on it. If you can find out the recipients favorite color, all the better.

Happy making, readers!