Talas Cowl

The Shenandoah Fiber Festival is coming up soon here in northern Virginia from September 28th-30th. I look forward to this wonderful festival every year both from a professional point of view and a personal one. The business side of me enjoys finding new yarns and companies to work with that are local, scoping out the latest yarn I’ve been stalking on instagram, talking shop with companies and other designers, and being there as a professional knitwear designer, seeing many of my designs borrowed by companies and hanging up in booths. The other part of me looks forward to angora bunnies that I need to pet, apple cobbler to wolf down (seriously, what is in it that makes it so GOOD?!), seeing old friends, taking my kids and husband to roam around looking at yarn and animals as an anonymous fiber fan, looking for gifts, and enjoying the festive atmosphere. The festival gets bigger and better each year and it’s worth the trip.


At this very festival last year, I finally got to meet Aimee from Little Fox. I had been an admirer of her yarn - particularly her color palette - and was delighted to pick up some of her fibers to play with. Aimee is a local dyer and interior designer with a talent to make all her colors magically go well together. I am delighted to introduce one of two new patterns I’ll be releasing this season in her yarn.

Meet the Talas Cowl, a cabled, lacy, feather and fan delight. “Talas” means “wave” in Bosnian (we have a family friend who is Bosnian), a motif evident in the feather and fan portions of this generous cowl. Using tonal pinks in petal and pixie dust (how great are those color names?) on US 5 and 7 circular needles, this cowl combines two techniques I love to see together - lace and cables. The juxtaposition of cables - a clumping of stitches building a section up - with lace - a pulling apart of stitches leaving negative space - is something I don’t see often but is quite lovely.


I like my lacy cowls to have heft to them and this cowl is nice and tall at 25” high x 34” circumference when blocked. Add another rep in a third color, or just do one if you prefer something shorter. Little Fox’s Mere, a 100% superwash fiber, creates excellent stitch definition with perfect bounce. I will definitely use this yarn again! Lacy cowls are good for year-round wear, whether you’re combating an over-zealous air conditioner, or the winter chill. Cowls are harder to lose than shawls, and as I mentioned in my last post, excellent gifts.


Download the Talas Cowl here and be sure to check out the Shanendoah Fiber Festival! If you see me there, please say hello!

Catnip Cowl

Summer has the magical power of both slogging by day after day in the humidity and blinding sunlight, yet also somehow whooshes by so quickly you wonder what happened to July and August. You suddenly find yourself in the back-to-school aisle at Target, your cart laden with folders, notebooks, glue sticks, and crayons and shake your head in wonder to find yourself right back where you were a year ago. Is a whole new school year starting again already?

This summer I was up to my usual tricks, knitting madly away preparing for fall and winter releases. I always add in new designs in here and there, but when school is about to let out in June, I gather my lists and sketches, look at the yarn I want to work with, do my math, draw my charts, pull my needles, and get knitting. Summer slips by every year and I like to have a hefty pile of new knits to share when fall begins.


This summer I knit by the community pool, on my back patio, in the car while doing our annual drive up to New Hampshire, on the hiking trail when we stopped for a quick break, with my knitting group, always in bed at night while watching Netflix, and any time I could grab a few minutes to get some stitches worked. I may have been sunburned, covered in mosquito bites, and have a lapful of wool, but I wouldn't have it any other way. I always bring my knitting with me. Don't you?

I absolutely love working with local dyers (and we are lucky to have a lot of them in the DC Metro area). I met Kim from Kim Dyes Yarn at a fiber festival after a mutual knitting friend told us we should meet. I had taken both of my children with me to this festival, and my son found her first, drawn like a moth to the flame to the sparkle yarn. What can I say? He is his mother's child. After choosing 2 lovely shades of Sugar Cookies Sparkle Sock in Ziggy Stardust and Lady Mary (plus a hank my son picked out for me to make him some socks with), I had an idea for this twinkling yarn by the time we pulled out of the parking lot.


Meet the first new pattern for my fall/winter collection, the Catnip Cowl! I've been inspired by cats before (remember the popular Bad Kitty Cowl?) and this cowl was an ode to my long-gone favorite sparkle-loving cat, Igby. The combination of cats and waves of catnip make this an eye-catching, fun-to-knit design for any cat lover. It's playful with a bit of a Where's Waldo vibe, and designed so no floats need to be trapped.

The thing about cowls - and there are a LOT of new TanisKnits cowl designs coming your way shortly - is they are a universal perfect gift. Everyone has a neck, if you're off-gauge a bit, it shouldn't matter too much, you can make them as long/short/tall/wide as you want, they're significantly harder to lose than a scarf, and they are always appreciated. As a knitter, they're something smallish and easy to grab when you're heading out the door to tuck in your bag in case you get a free knitting moment. This cowl is designed to loop twice around your neck, but make it even longer for three loops around, or shorter for just one loop. I don't always have time to invest in a sweater or large shawl, but cowls are doable and a good way to learn a new technique.


Starting with a provisional cast on, this easy Fair Isle chart works up quickly on fingering weight on US 2 knitting needles. The entire cowl is knit in the round, then kitchenered at the end. There's some garter stripes here and there for added texture, and it'd be cute to do each chart repeat in 2 new colors or change up the background and foreground while keep the other the same. You certainly don't have to use sparkle yarn, but the world is a better place when we sparkle! Kim is at all sorts of festivals this fall, including one of my favorites that we hit every year, the Shenandoah Fiber Festival. Stop by her booth to see the cowl and pick your own colors, or snag a kit all ready to go!


I have so much more to share with you (I have also been on a serious Fair Isle mitten kick) and will be back to regularly blogging now that 1 of 2 kids are in school.

Download the Catnip Cowl here. Meow!



Come Away with Me...

I have been sitting on some news that I am tickled to finally get to share with you!


Over my many years of teaching, I've taught in many places - in yarn shops, in hotels, in schools, on lakes, in cabins, in churches, in TV studios, in cars and buses, on trains, via Skype... You name it, chances are I've taught there. Sometimes I feel like the character in Green Eggs & Ham - I will teach knitting with a fox, in a box, with a mouse, in a house, here or there, anywhere! Somewhere I have never taught but definitely wanted to was on a cruise ship.


I am absolutely delighted to announce that I'll be teaching with Craft Cruises setting sail to Alaska on June 15-22, 2019!!! This round-trip adventure into the land of the midnight sun starts in Vancouver and takes us along Alaska's inside passage, Tracy Arm, Juneau, Skagway, Glacier Bay National Park, and Ketchikan, all perfect places for glacier, waterfall, and wildflower viewing. The summer sun days will be long and the knitting will be abundant! All meals and shipboard activities, taxes and fees, welcome cocktail party, social gatherings, and yarn shopping info is included. I'll be teaching thrummed mitts or slippers, beginner Fair Isle, beaded lace, lace forensics, counterpanes, and advanced Fair Isle classes onboard.


Our ship will be Holland America's MS Nieuw Amsterdam, a 935' cruise ship. At 86,000 tons, this ship celebrates the glamour and history of New York City, formerly called Nieuw Amsterdam, with its inspired interior design and art collection.

Highlights include: 

  • Arrive a day early to explore Vancouver on a yarn crawl featuring a visit to the top yarn shops and a visit to the dye studio of Sweet Georgia Artisan Hand-Dyed Luxury Yarns
  • A visit to Vancouver is always a foodie trip, since you can dine on traditional Pacific Northwest salmon or at any number of this city's trendy restaurants or food trucks
  • Spend three luxurious days at sea with classes offered by knitting expert Tanis Gray
  • Cruise Tracy Arm Inlet where steep cliffs, waterfalls, blue ice and glacier-covered mountains surrounded by old-growth rainforest make this Alaska's most stunning cruising area
  • Shop for Alaska produced yarns, including Qiviut, in Juneau, Skagway and Ketchikan
  • Eat the best crab in Alaska at Tracy's King Crab Shack on the pier in Juneau
  • Ride the Mount Roberts Tramway up 1,800 feet to enjoy the expansive views of the Gastineau Channel in Juneau
  • Cruise into Glacier Bay National Park, which is one of the world's largest biospheres with its abundant marine wildlife, active glaciers and moss-covered forests
  • Take the White Pass and Yukon narrow-gauge train journey in Skagway where you will learn all about the gold rush
  • In Ketchikan sample all varieties of salmon and learn all about the salmon fishing industry
  • Visit the Saxman Totem Park and learn why Ketchikan is truly the totem capital of the world
  • Extend your stay and take the train to Seattle where you can hop on the Washington State Ferry to Bainbridge Island for a visit to Churchmouse Yarns and Teas and then swing by Pike Place Market and So Much Yarn for a true Pacific Northwest knitting adventure

I've mentioned before how I love retreats and knitting getaways because it removes us from our daily lives. We get to leave the relentless everyday schedule behind and be with our people, becoming more educated in our beloved craft! How excellent will it be to bring knitting with you, cruise along one of the most beautiful places in the United States, be with fellow crafty people, learn so many new techniques, have me at your disposal, eat, sightsee, relax, and have an incredible knitting adventure?


I am counting down the days until this wonderful voyage commences and I hope you'll join me. I have been to Alaska before and it's truly breathtaking. Add in knitting and it's the perfect trip!  I take knitting education very seriously, and consider it truly an honor to pass our craft on and educate students in a patient, relaxing, and exciting way. What better setting than this?

Learn more about the itinerary here, the classes here, pricing here, and the ship here.

Try Everything

I have big news to share next week, friends! Be sure to come back after we celebrate our Independence to see what it is!

If you have young children in your life, chances are that you've seen Zootopia. The bright, quick-paced, hilarious film won many awards and it's apropos of what's happening in the world today. One of our favorite scenes is when a gazelle (with the voice of Shakira) sings the song "Try Everything." One of the lines goes, "I won't give up, no I won't give in until I reach the end, and I'll start again." This is something I try to drill into my son's brain each day - try everything. It doesn't matter if you fail, it doesn't matter if you're the best in the class - just TRY. This song goes off on my phone each school morning as the 10-minute alarm. When we hear it my son knows it's time to make his bed, get his teeth brushed, find his shoes, and be ready to walk to school. I hope that somewhere deep inside his curious little mind this ear worm song will wiggle itself around during the day, reminding him to give something a try even if it's scary and new.


People are surprised when I would tell them that I don't knit brioche. I've been knitting for over 30 years with books, TV shows, magazines, and having pretty much anything to do with knitting under my belt. Fair Isle - a technique that strikes fear into the hearts of many - is second nature to me. Lace on both sides? Bring it. Cables with multiple cable needles going in different directions as tangled up as Medusa's hair? Sure thing. Mosaic knitting? Charts? Designing? Easy peasy. But brioche was like someone I really wanted to be friends with but they had no interest in being friends with me. I decided this would be the summer that brioche and I become friends. We would enter into some sort of weird courtship and dagnabbit, we would be hanging out and enjoying each other's company by summer's end.

I try to practice what I preach to my kids, and with this in mind, I picked up needles and yarn with this goal of conquering brioche. I've tried this technique over the years without much success. Like many techniques in knitting, it's easier if someone shows you rather than trying to learn off a computer screen. The person who teaches brioche at my LYS usually teaches on the same evenings I do, making taking one of his brioche classes an impossibility. The stars aligned a few weeks ago and I enrolled in his intro class, off and running with brioche. I made my scarf with Freia scraps (because a riot of color is just how I roll), I learned how to fix dropped brioche stitches and ladder down. I learned to let the rhythm and my hands take over, making my brain take a back seat. I watched my Ravelry queue fill up with brioche projects and quickly recognized that reading a brioche pattern made sense now. I'm working on increasing and decreasing and trying to get a handle on brioche charts.


The most important lesson during my quest? I was reminded what it felt like to be sitting on the other side of the table. I'm so used to leading a class full of students and being in complete control. I can look at knitting and instantly see what needs fixing and be able to take care of it. I was nervous when I sat down with my brioche pattern and swatching yarn, unsure of what "brk" and "brp" meant. I felt like all thumbs and my confidence was hovering right around zero. Yes, it's just needles and yarn and frogging back isn't a big deal, unless of course it's a few hard-earned rows on your needles that just a few moments ago you were incredibly proud of.

Next time you're thinking of trying something new and thoughts of "I'm too old for this," or "I know how to knit everything else, why bother learning this," or "it's too scary" flood your mind, remember what it felt like the first time you picked up sticks and string and turned it into something beautiful. The result is incredibly worthwhile. What technique have you been wanting to try but been feeling trepidatious about? Summer is the perfect time to give it a whirl.

Brioche and I? We've been hanging out almost every night getting to know each other better. We're testing boundaries and needle sizes, but I have a feeling this will be a lifelong friendship from here on out. Like the gazelle says, I'll won't give up and I won't give in.