Skip to content

Archive for

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.

Fast-Fifty-Number-35.jpg&MaxW=640&q=100

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.

greencowl1

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.

greencowl2

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.

friends

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.

cowl1

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.

smallacorn3

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.

small_nyra1

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.

fiberists1

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!

Luce Cowl

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 

shoe-2

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.

shoe-3

11659393_962962463769429_1292294238345295953_n

11695492_962962453769430_8174847841756325745_n

photo credit: Giacomo Giorigi / Sea Shepherd Global

388770

388772

388769

388777

388778

 

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.

delftware-tulip-plates_ref12130b

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.”

cats

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.

cats3

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.

Intertwined

My parents recently sold the house I grew up in, which was an oddly emotional experience for me, especially considering I haven’t lived there since I left at 18 to go to RISD. Leaving behind a tiny New England town in southeastern Massachusetts, they moved into an apartment in Boston.

I got a call recently from my mom, telling me about a huge net installation she saw while exploring her new bit of town, then she sent me this link (original article here) to share with you, dear readers.  It looks like a beautiful piece of knitting stretched across buildings and sky and I love that the artist states that it’s a way to “visually knit together the fabric of the city with art.” If you find yourself in Boston, it would definitely be worth checking out. Gorgeous!

Thanks, mom!

A Monumental Sculpture of Colorful Twine Netting Suspended Above Boston 

echelman_12

echelman_04

One hundred miles of twine compose this public sculpture of suspended netting above Boston, a structure that spans the void of an elevated highway that once split downtown Boston from its waterfront. The artist, Janet Echelman, designed the artwork titled As If It Were Already Here to reflect the history of the installation’s location. Echelman also intended the piece to be a visual metaphor—a way to “visually knit together the fabric of the city with art,” she explains.

The installation is 600 feet at its widest, including over 500,000 knots for structural support. Each time one section of the sculpture sways or vibrates in the wind the other parts follow suit, undulating as a single form 600 feet in the sky. As the day progresses the 1,000-pound structure’s webbed surface begins to glow, becoming a beacon in the sky rather than blending into the blue above it. In addition to moving with the wind, the structure also glows in response to sensors that register tension and project light onto the sculpture.

As If It Were Already Here is just one of Echelman’s enormous sculptures, she’s also installed pieces in MontrealSeattle, and elsewhere. Echelman received the Guggenheim Fellowship, the Harvard University Loeb Fellowship, a Fulbright Lectureship, and was named an Architectural Digest Innovator for “changing the very essence of urban spaces.” You can see Echelman speak about her other environmentally-responsive sculptures in her TED talk here.

echelman_07

echelman_10

echelman_01

echelman_11

echelman_05

echelman_08

Fade Into You

I went up to Maryland and visited the lovely ladies at Dragonfly Fibers and came home with an armful of yarn as well as one of their beautiful gradient sock yarn kits. Gradient kits hold so much possibility… The gentle ebb and flow of color, the ombre effect the yarn creates when knitted up, the excitement of being done with one color then reaching for the next to continue the bleed into the new. I’m a fan.

cowl1

When I sat down to figure out just what I wanted to do with the array of blues called “Cheshire Cat,” I was stumped. Fair Isle always calls to me like a Siren song, but Fair Isle with colors that are too similar create a muddled or muddy effect (if you missed my post on color theory and how best to choose yarns for color work knitting, read it here.) After casting on and ripping out a few times, I knew I wanted to do Fair Isle and I knew I wanted one of my favorite color combinations, blue and red. The wonderful women at Dragonfly sent me down another gradient box in “Peony” and inspiration was ignited.

cowl2

I enjoy the show Nashville. It’s got good music, great actors and it’s good to knit to. One of my favorite songs on that show is Fade Into You, a love song. If you haven’t heard it, take a listen below:

Inspired by the line, “If I was the red and you were the blue, I could just fade into you,” the Fade Into You cowl was born. Knit from the bottom up in the round in one piece on US 3s, the magic in this cowl really happens when you start switching the colors. The reds and the blues start at opposite ends of their respective spectrums, then flow back out. Ombre Fair Isle? Sign. Me. Up.

cowl

Made with 2 Dragonfly Fibers gradient kits, the color possibilities for this cowl are endless. What about just using one kit and pairing it with black or white? What about using 2 kits that together create a stunning array of color for your neck? What about just using bits and bobs of fingering weight yarn from your stash? I talked about this on my color theory post – MAKE IT YOUR OWN!

Download the Fade Into You cowl pattern here.

Sew Many Bags…

I loved sitting next to my mom when I was little as she sewed away in our attic nook (usually making something for me). I recently inherited her sewing table and that combined with my Grandma Myrt’s sewing box (read about that here), makes me feel like I’m continuing on a tradition of female crafters by being the latest link in a very long chain.

Summer is a time for sewing in our house. Yes, my lap is usually occupied with a giant pile of wool, alpaca, linen or cotton yarn, but there’s something really satisfying about washing up fabrics, pairing them together, ironing them out and sewing them up to make something special. I sew when I’m happy, when I’m sad, when I need to think through some problems, almost always when I can’t sleep (fellow insomniacs, fist bump!) and when my wrists need a break from the knitting needles.

11750687_10206573063060272_7665004828017311485_n

This summer has been a major season of binge-sewing for me. My insomnia gets worse in the warmer months and while some people would pop a sleeping pill, I cozy up to my sewing machine, sewing late into the night, audio book streaming through my headphones and gentle snores drifting down from upstairs. I never minded not being able to sleep. I choose to embrace it and use that time to create.

I just listed a batch of 40 new knitting project bags in my Etsy shop here. Many are knit-themed! This rounds out about 150 bags I’ve made this summer so far, and with 2 weeks left of summer camp followed by a brief sojourn up north, I hope to knock out 60 more or so before heading up to Squam to teach.

Check out the latest batch of bags here!