Tannei Casey Bags

I was delighted to meet Tannei Casey back in September when I was teaching at Knitter’s Day Out in Harrisburg, PA for the second year in a row (spoiler alert, I’ll be teaching there again next year!) and she was a vendor in the marketplace. I’m always on the lookout for an exceptional project bag and I came across her wonderful bags and was drawn to them immediately. After asking myself, “Do you really need another project bag?” (another spoiler alert, the answer was “yes”), I got to chatting with Tannei. After the weekend workshops were over, I began following her on Instagram and have become a huge fan of her bags, purchasing many for gifts and a few more for myself.


What makes her bags different? Using designer fabric and canvas or waxed canvas bottoms, her bags are super sturdy, very well made, come in lots of different sizes, are canvas lined with pockets for small notions or patterns, and the price point is ideal. She’s also a knitter and so many of us “cross craft.” Being a sewer myself, I really appreciate high-quality project bags. I am not always kind to mine - they get shoved in bags, thrown about in the car, tossed around by my kids - I need a bag that can keep up with my on-the-go-knitting. Tannei was kind enough to sit down recently and answer a few questions…

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Tanis Gray (TG): When did you start sewing and what did you make for your first project?  

Tannei Casey (TC): ?  I learned how to sew from my Home Economics teacher when I was in 7th grade.  She was very patient and methodical and I learned so much from her.  She started by teaching the whole class how to make our own pin cushion.  We had to draw out our own design on felt, hand embroidered it, hand sewn it together then stuff it.  After that, we made an apron, night cap and night gown.  I think she figured if our sewing wasn't great, we could still use those items inside the house!  I was very impatient and wanted to make my own clothes.  The first piece of clothing I made was a pair of gauchos in a navy cotton poplin...hey, it was the 70's!  

TG: You’re a knitter so you know what kinds of project bags we love! What are your favorite things to knit?  

TC: I knit a lot of sweaters and I have to admit, I am a selfish knitter and usually knit for myself.  I do like to knit baby sweaters for friends and families though.  I have made shawls, socks and scarves but they can't beat the satisfaction of a completed sweater.  

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TG: Do you have a favorite fabric company you like to use for your bags?  

TC: My favorite is definitely the Rifle Paper Co. line from Cotton and Steel.  I just love all their prints and can't wait for the next line to come out.  Every fabric company is unique in their own way and it's hard to pick one.  For me, it's usually a print that grabs my attention, then it's the weight of the fabric. I generally look for heavier fabrics like lightweight canvas, cotton/linen or twill for my bags because I think it's important to have a bag that is sturdy with a bit of heft to it.  I also use a lot of waxed canvas, especially for the bottom of the bags.  The fact that it's water repellent makes it practical and keeps the knits clean and dry.

TG: Is sewing your primary job or like many of us, do you have another job as well?  

TC: Sewing is my primary job.  It's funny because I've never referred to what I do as a job.  I don't know if it's because I love what I do or because I am doing it at home and I am my own boss!  I studied fashion design in college but did not pursue it as a career.  I ended up working in retail and human resources for years.  When we moved from Toronto to Philadelphia 11 years ago, I became a stay at home mom.  The sewing machine kept calling to me though and as my son got older, I found I spent more and more time in the sewing room.  I eventually set up an Etsy shop to sell my handmade bags and baby quilts. 

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TG: How do you decide your color palette?

TC: I really don't plan out a color palette.  The prints that are used for my bags are really varied.  I do tent to like the modern, simple prints but I do love a traditional paisley or floral too.  Every once in a while I will see a fabric line where I could not resist getting most of the prints in the line - a couple of examples of that are Jen Hewitt's and Anna Graham's lines that came out a couple months ago. Cloud 9 Fabrics just released Eloise Renouf's lastest line this week and I HAD to order it all. 

TG: Are bags your favorite thing to sew or do you tend to make a lot of garments also?  

TC: I just like to make things with my hands so it depends what my mood is at the time.  I like making bags to sell because I don't have to deal with sizing or fit.  It is also easier on my hands because I can use a rotary cutter to cut all the straight seams.  I do like making garments for myself every once in a while.  I have a couple pairs of corduroy wide leg cropped pants cut out now just waiting to be sewn.  


TG: Tell us why your bags are so amazing!  

TC: I think it helps that I've been knitting for as long as I've been sewing.  I understand what a knitter wants. Once I have an idea, I can make one and use it myself first to make adjustments if needed.  As I said earlier, I prefer to use heavier fabrics; it makes for a more durable bag.  The lining of all the bigger bags are a heavy cotton canvas.  This is twofold - the light color canvas makes it easy to see what's inside the bag and the heavy fabric gives the bag so it will stand on its own.  My industrial sewing machine also creates better stitch definition especially when sewing with the heavier fabrics.  Through trial and error over the years, I've been able to source quality supplies and notions to create products that I am happy with at an affordable price to my customers.   

TG: What’s coming up for you? 

TC: I wanted to do something for the holiday season so I am working on a simple waxed canvas medium size drawstring bag in cedar green.  It is the same bag I did for a fund raiser a few weeks back in a different color.  I hope customers will like it!   For 2019, I will be at the Allentown Fiber Festival in April and Knitter's Day Out in September.  I will also be doing a pop-up shop with the Knitting Boutique at a couple of their retreats in March and September.  Being a one person operation, and preferring to keep it that way, I prefer to do the smaller local shows.  They are also more intimate and I get to spend time talking and interacting with customers and other makers and sellers.


TG: Where can people purchase your amazing bags?  

TC: My bags can be found in my Etsy shop at tanneicasey.com .  If you want to know what's new in the shop or what I am up to most days, check out my Instagram feed under ID tanneicasey. 

TG: Thanks for the interview, Tannei! Your bags make great gifts and I can’t wait to see what pops up next in your shop!

Merida Mittens

I’ve been talking a lot here about how much I love teaching at the Magical Fiber Fantasy Retreat in November in Disney World with The Ross Farm and Four Purls! One of the things I do for the students is to introduce new Disney-themed designs and build my classes around them using all sorts of exciting techniques. Nothing gets you in the mood for a magical retreat than new magical designs to knit!


Over the past couple of weeks I’ve shared the Elsa Cuffs, the Heirloom Braid Cowl, and the Briar Rose Cowl. Today I’m happy to finally get my favorite from this retreat out there and available to all - the Merida Mittens.


Merida is my one of my favorite Disney princesses from the movie Brave. She’s a bit rough around the edges, a tomboy, shuns her princess status and balks at the thought of marrying. She rides horses, shoots arrows, climbs mountains, chases will-o-the-wisps through the Scottish forest, attempts to wrangle her little brothers, and is struggling with leaving her childhood behind and growing up. She has fiery orange hair and wears a deep teal dress. This isn’t my first Brave-inspired design. Back in 2015 I introduced the Chase the Wind & Touch the Sky beaded lace shawl, inspired by my favorite song from the movie. This is one of the Disney films that didn’t get the attention it deserved and has a strong and willful female lead. If you haven’t seen it, get your hands on the DVD!


With Merida and her firecracker personality in mind, I set about designing these mitts, working closely with Queen City Yarn to have the perfect orange and teal yarn to work with in their Biddleville DK. I knew I wanted a picot edging as a nod to her struggles with femininity, Scottish thistles in the cuffs, Celtic cables twisting their way up the front, and Scottish tartan on the palm side. That may be my favorite element - a tartan surprise in the palm of your hand! This design was tricky with so many elements and I worked and reworked the charts dozens of times until it clicked. It also gave me an excuse to watch the film again with my son and get one of my models with gorgeous natural red hair on standby.


Knit from the bottom up in the round on 2 circular needles (DPNs or magic loop can be substituted if preferred) using stranded color work on DK weight, these mittens have traditional Nordic shaping and a thumb gusset. It was fun trying them on as I was knitting them and watching them come to life on my hands. I LOVE THESE MITTENS. I love everything about them and am delighted at how they turned out. It was wonderful to see the sold out class packed with Fair Isle knitters, all working in different color combinations and talking about the film!


Let’s give away a copy of the pattern! Answer the below Brave trivia question correctly and you’ll automatically be entered to win. Be sure to leave your Ravelry name in the comments and I’ll gift the pattern to you directly. A winner will be chosen at random on Friday, November 30th.

What are the names of Merida’s mischievous triplet brothers?

Download the Merida Mittens pattern here, purchase a kit from Queen City here, and enjoy the picture below of my kids meeting Merida in Disney World!


Elsa Cuffs & Heirloom Braid Cowl

The holidays have a way of sneaking up behind you, catching you totally unaware like a little kid who jumps out of a doorway to scare the heck out of you. The transition between Halloween, Thanksgiving, Hanuakah, Christmas, Kwanza, and New Years gets shorter each year. I know it’s coming, but that doesn’t seem to matter.


I was teaching at the Magical Fiber Fantasy Retreat last week in Disney World. We surprised our kids and brought them along for a family trip before I taught and kept it a secret until we were about to board the plane! Seeing the magic of the parks, the rides, and the characters through the eyes of a child was better than any ride I’ve ever been on! While our daughter won’t remember the trip, our son had a wonderful time and I was sad to see them go. The parks were in complete holiday mode with Christmas music in the air, wreaths and trees everywhere, and while it caught me off guard for a minute, I found myself humming along in no time.


This is the second year in a row I’ve taught at this wonderful retreat. Whether you’re a Disney fan or not, there’s something magic in the air (pixie dust, perhaps?), you feel a spring in your step, and you can’t help but embrace the whimsy. The retreat is on Disney property and I enjoyed seeing familiar faces and many new ones. There’s a well-curated marketplace with excellent yarn, notions, and other knitting treats, a banquet, excellent class options, impromptu knitting groups popping up, and it’s great to be with “my people.”

I designed 4 new projects for this retreat, one of which I released before we left for Orlando, the Briar Rose Cowl. Today I’d like to share the Elsa Cuffs and the Heirloom Braid Cowl!


Using Elsa’s door in Frozen for inspiration (if you haven't seen Frozen, Anna spends a lot of time outside her sister Elsa’s door, begging her to come and play), the traditional Norwegian star motif appears in beaded form. I love beaded cuffs for many reasons, but I find them particularly useful for keeping that bit of skin warm between where your mittens begin and where your coat cuff ends that always gets hit with an icy blast. The beads are prestrung (I’m a big advocate for beading as you go with a crochet hook, but prestringing is unavoidable when working garter otherwise the beads get hidden in the ridges) in a fingering weight colorway designed exclusively from Emma’s Yarn called “Elsa’s Door.” The garter allows these to be one size fits all and they work up swiftly and would make a great gift for the holidays. The pattern is written with 2 options - start with a provisional cast on and kitchener together at the end, or long tail cast on and whip stitch the ends together. Either will work and kits are available here.


For my braids class, I wanted to design a project that had both Latvian and Estonian braids sharing the spotlight. The Heirloom Braid Cowl features Latvian braids going in both directions nestled right up to Estonian braids. The solid bands between the braided sections are simple knit and purl patterns to add texture and interest. The pattern is written for a shorter, squishier aran weight version in The Ross Farm Aran and a longer, slightly narrower worsted version in Neighborhood Fiber Co Studio Worsted. The Ross Farm puts on the Magical Fiber Fantasy Retreat and it was an honor to use their yarn for this cowl. They specialize in rare breeds and both Amy and Scott are good people. I also like to idea of a superwash, brightly colored version in the Studio Worsted. They look completely different and it’s nice to have both a neutral and a technicolor version!


There’s still one more pattern from the retreat that I’ll be introducing soon!

Download the Elsa Cuffs here and the Heirloom Braid cowl here. Use the code DISNEY for 25% off each pattern now through November 20. Magical!

Briar Rose Cowl

I loved watching the Disney version of Sleeping Beauty when I was a kid. The classic Disney films would start with an ornate storybook opening and you’d dive right into the story, watching it unfold with the magic of animation. This film in particular was visually stunning and a true masterpiece. The forest backgrounds reminded me of ancient tapestries, and who could forget Aurora’s gorgeous dress that changed from pink to blue, or the toxic spinning wheel that put her into a deep sleep? I was never a huge fan of her being a damsel in distress that needed a kiss to wake up, but the aesthetics of this film was one of the reasons I studied animation at RISD.


I’m packing up this week and getting ready to head off to Disney World to teach for my second year in a row at the Magical Fiber Fantasy Retreat. Knitting and Disney World? Sign. Me. Up. I’ll be teaching Fair Isle 101, Fair Isle 2.0, Beaded Cuffs, and Latvian & Estonian Braids. This retreat truly is magical being on Disney property, enthusiastic students, a great knitting marketplace, and excellent fellow teachers. This year I’ll be teaching alongside Kirsten Kapur, Alana Dakos, and Jillian Moreno. It was such a blast last year and I’m thrilled to be going back!


While I’ll be releasing my retreat-debuting patterns after the retreat has wrapped up, I wanted to introduce a new Sleeping Beauty-inspired Fair Isle design, the Briar Rose Cowl, to get into the spirit. I worked closely with Queen City Yarn to develop a brand new worsted colorway called Briar Rose, a mix of pink and blue with white, just like Aurora’s dress! The cowl features rose, spinning wheel, dragon, and crown motifs, all nods to this classic fairy tale and favorite parts of Briar Rose/Princess Aurora’s story.


Knitting up on US 7 (4.5mm) circs with Queen City’s superwash Wesley Heights Worsted, this addictive cowl is a must for all Disney fans! A companion to my A Dream is a Wish Your Heart Makes Cowl, which was a project that debuted at last year’s retreat, this corrugated rib and stranded color work combo is the perfect travel knit (especially if you’re on your way to Disney World!). If you’re at the retreat, there will be kits available for the cowl there!


Hope to see some of you at the retreat, and stay tuned for a couple more Disney-inspired patterns coming your way soon! Oh, boy!

Download the Briar Rose Cowl here and use code DISNEY for 25% off until November 5. There are also yarn kits available from Queen City here.