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In Lieu of Rhinebeck…

This past weekend was the Rhinebeck Sheep & Wool Festival. When we lived in New York City, driving up the morning of, spending the day there, stuffing ourselves to the gills with chicken pot pie, fried artichokes and apple cider, then driving home the same night in a food coma with a trunk full of wool was easy. We didn’t have to worry about where to stay, what to do if all the restaurants had crazy wait times, rabid knitters or bathroom lines.

Great Falls

Great Falls

Earlier this week I finally got home from filming my third season of Knitting Daily TV (read about that in last week’s post) and all I wanted to do was spend time with my family. Northern Virginia is place rich with history, museums, trails and scenery. The leaves were stunning and we hiked our way to Great Falls on Saturday, then to the Claude Moore Colonial Farm on Sunday.

In the same vein as Williamsburg but on about 1/15th the scale, the Colonial Farm at Turkey Run is a living history museum that portrays family life on a small, low-income farm in 1771, just prior to the Revolutionary War. The popularity of the Farm is due in large part to its continuing focus on authenticity and its ongoing encouragement of both child and adult visitors to participate in the daily activities of an 18th century family farm. Experiential learning is a growing trend with most museums and the Farm has been a leader in this. Williamsburg is an entire town and an experience while this is much more focused on the life of one family on a much smaller scale.


Colonial Woman Making Soap


Plants Drying Out for Cooking, Dyeing, Soap & Decoration

Colonial-Era Looms for Ribbons & Ties

Colonial-Era Reproductions of Looms for Ribbons & Ties

We were lucky enough to go on a weekend during their thrice-yearly Market Fair, with activities for kids, authentic shopping, historic demos and tradespeople out practicing their craft. Obviously, I drifted to the yarn stall immediately! The lady and I talked extensively about the natural dyeing process of yarns and she was prepping to start spinning at her wheel. I’ve tried a lot of the natural dyes she had out on display and it was interesting to see a few of them in the natural form, rather than getting it as a powder ready-made. We shared tips and ideas and I was pleased she knew so much.


Yarn Stall


Roving for Spinning Demo


Yarn Dyed with Natural Ingredients


Herbs, Plants and Bugs for Natural Dyeing


Yarn-Related Images from Colonial Books

Around the corner from the yarn stall was a man making rope. “Making rope?” you ask? Yes! He was fascinating to listen to and he showed us all sorts of materials he had used to make rope (oddly similar to drop spindling, but with different materials and done without the spindle) such as white birch, mahogany bark, jute, hemp, animal intestines (yes, intestines) that made almost a wavy-like rope, flax, corn husk, birch, strawberry vine… Pretty much name it and this man had tried making rope out of it. I never knew so many materials could be made into rope and he demoed a few techniques that were the same as in knitting as far as twisting and plying. I left with a length of rope he gifted me and I’ll never take the rope section at Home Depot for granted again. Making rope is more tedious than making yarn and in some cases, the lives of Colonial people depended on good, strong rope for bridges, bundling crops at harvest time and strong fences to last throughout all seasons.

Rope Stall

Rope Stall


Choosing Materials

Different Types of Rope

Different Types of Rope

Further down we came across men making both circular and rectangular baskets out of white birch strips. He wasn’t as chatty as the rope or yarn people, but he had clearly been making baskets for years and each was unique. What’s so great about places like Williamsburg, the Claude Moore Colonial Farm and other historic experiences, is the people stay in character and stay true to their time. Ask them if you can take a picture with your camera and they may ask “what’s a camera?” This can be frustrating if you’re asking about something they’re demoing, but they were less strict about it at Claude Moore and more willing to share information than other places we’ve been to. Very family friendly, inexpensive and authentic lunches, fire pits, sword demos, puppet shows and animals made this a day we all really enjoyed. Definitely stop by if you’re local.

Starting a Circular Basket

Starting a Circular Basket

Finishing a Rectangular Basket

Finishing a Rectangular Basket

Am I sorry I missed Rhinebeck? Sure, but not really. We had an amazing time as a family, got plenty of beautiful fall weather time outside, learned a lot and went to bed happy. Rhinbeck will be there waiting for me next year.

Over the next few weeks I’ll be introducing a bunch of new patterns here on the blog, ideal for holiday knitting… Stay tuned!


Wire Trees

I saw this article online with stunning trees made out of wire. While it’s not knitting-related, it does remind me of lace knitting, yarn overs, dedication to your art and the sheer beauty of wonderful craftsmanship. Enjoy!


Dense Wire Tree Sculptures by Clive Maddison

by Christopher Jobson

Dense Wire Tree Sculptures by Clive Maddison wire trees sculpture

Dense Wire Tree Sculptures by Clive Maddison wire trees sculpture

Dense Wire Tree Sculptures by Clive Maddison wire trees sculpture

Dense Wire Tree Sculptures by Clive Maddison wire trees sculpture

Dense Wire Tree Sculptures by Clive Maddison wire trees sculpture

Dense Wire Tree Sculptures by Clive Maddison wire trees sculpture

Using nothing but wire, sculptor Clive Madison creates tangled trees that grow from wooden bases into dense clusters of leaves and branches. Each piece is made by hand without glue or solder, using single strands of wire that start at the base and terminate at the top. You can see many more pieces on his website, and several are available through Lee Champman Gallery. (via Ghost in the Machine).

Hampton Cowl & Knitting Daily!

It’s been a busy week here at TanisKnits. On Sunday I flew out to Ohio to film my third season of Knitting Daily TV with Vickie Howell! I’ve always enjoyed working on Knitting Daily TV as it gives you a chance to meet new designers, hang out with designers you admire, learn new things, see old friends and work on a big project together. My old segment, “Tools of the Trade” was switched up this year and became “Stitch Sampler,” where I teach viewers interesting stitches. I love teaching and this gives me a chance to go beyond the classroom walls and right into your living room. Getting a chance to be Vickie’s cohost (and I’m in every episode) is a wonderful thing. Here are a few highlights!


I also released a new pattern for autumn this week, the Hampton Cowl. Knit in Dragonfly Fiber’s Super Traveler yarn with 1 hank of each color, this cowl is designed to be an ideal beginner Fair Isle pattern as well as a quick knit. I chose a variegated and a solid, but any colors would work! I always love the combination of corrugated ribbing and Fair Isle with a bulky yarn and it’s so satisfying to knit because to goes so fast. My friend Louisa from Knitting Daily TV was kind enough to be my model and we ran out into the wilds of Ohio between takes of the show for our photo shoot.





Download the Hampton Cowl pattern here. Happy fall!


Work Space

I’ve been asked a lot about my work space lately, especially with the opening of my brand new Etsy shop. People assume I have this amazing, magical, grand-scale, sparkly studio all to myself. And it’s true.


Except for the grand-scale part.


We live in a row house built in 1939 when people apparently were very short and didn’t need closets. My “studio” is what my neighbor (since we all have the same layout) uses as her closet and I can pretty much stand in the middle and touch both walls with my arms outstretched. However, necessity is indeed the mother of invention and I make it work. The best part? I am able to have all my books readily available, Ikea makes tiny desks, I have a window and most importantly, a door I can close and walk away from if I need to. My sewing machine lives in our living room in the corner and that’s the best place for it right now.


Welcome to my studio, fellow knitters! What does your space look like?

Coppelia Cowl

Like many young girls, I was convinced that I’d grow up and be a ballerina. I’d live a glamorous life by day, have the best posture, then dance away the evenings on stage in front of thousands.


That didn’t happen.

I started ballet classes when I was 3, wore my first pointe shoes at 10 and our Christmas holidays revolved around my Boston Ballet Nutcracker schedule. Dancing was in my soul and I loved it. My ballet dreams died for good when I was 16 and had knee surgery, but I will always love the movement, the feeling conveyed with a simple flick of the leg, the sheer grace and beauty of it and the commitment of the dancers to their art and bodies.


I designed the Coppelia Cowl originally for the 40th anniversary of Webs. Delighted to be invited to be part of a fantastic group of designers, I knew I wanted to design a lace cowl that reminded me of my many years of ballet. This stunning lace pattern is for lace knitters ready to step their game up. Bringing to mind swirling tutus, pink satin ribbons and movement, it has no resting rows and is an exciting knit!  Redesigned in a DK weight, the purple version is knit in Sweetgeorgia Merino Silk DK in Mist, with the pink version knit up in Madelinetosh Merino Light in Byzantine.


Named for my favorite ballet, Coppélia concerns an inventor, Dr Coppelius, who has made a life-size dancing doll. It is so lifelike that Franz, a village swain, becomes infatuated with it and sets aside his true heart’s desire, Swanhilde. She shows him his folly by dressing as the doll, pretending to make it come to life and ultimately saving him from an untimely end at the hands of the inventor. It premiered on 25 May 1870 at the Théâtre Impérial l’Opéra, and is one of the most popular ballets of all time.


The Coppelia Cowl is now available to all. There’s a little bit of dancer in all of us, so wear your cowl with a skip in your step!

Coppelia can be downloaded here.


Get Your Sheep On!

I saw this article accompanied by stunning sheep photos and can’t stop looking at it! I wanted to share it with you, dear readers!

by Lina D. 

When you want to photograph clouds but there aren’t any in sight, we suggest trying to find your nearest herd of sheep. Flocks of these cute, fluffy and useful creatures can add an interesting element to landscape photos, but they’re also pretty enough on their own.

Sheep have earned a reputation as dumb and foolish animals because of their flocking instinct, but they are actually quite intelligent, performing as well or even better than monkeys and rodents in certain mental tasks. They exhibit facial recognition, long-term memory, a knack for quick learning, and some have even exhibited intelligent problem-solving capabilities. The best thing about sheep, however, is that, if you count enough of them, you’ll fall asleep ;)


Image credits:


Image credits: Graham Smith


Image credits: Regina Dispade


Image credits: Marcin Sobas


Image credits: Marcin Sobas


Image credits: Tran Liethung


Image credits: Klaus Leidorf


Image credits: Roza Vulf


Image credits: Orhan Kose


Image credits: Vida Dimovska


Image credits: Coolberie


Image credits: Marcin Sobas


Image credits: Jonathan Brown


Image credits: Florent Courty


Image credits: Anna Cseresnjes


Image credits: Dzung Viet Le


Image credits: Peter Konig


Image credits: David Butali


Image credits: Dariusz Paciorek


Image credits: Marcin Sobas


Image credits: Mihai Doarna


Image credits: Alin Stoianovici


Image credits: spin360


Image credits: Marcin Sobas


Image credits: Jerry Webb

Some BIG News!

This past summer my son was in camp and suddenly I had 5 mornings a week with 3 hours each day TO MYSELF for 8 WEEKS. Don’t get me wrong – being a mom is the best job in the world and my son is amazing, but as someone creative, sometimes I miss being able to make a huge mess on the table and not worry about the bits of metal, glass, etc being grabbed by tiny hands, or spreading my paints out all over the floor or getting involved in a project that I know I will work on 24/7 for a few weeks and my patient husband doesn’t mind just stepping around it.

my birthday quilt

my birthday quilt

To suddenly have 15 hours a week to do with what I pleased, I knew exactly what I wanted to do with those hours. I dusted off my sewing machine, found a few quilt patterns, researched fabrics and hatched a plan. What resulted at the end of the summer was 3 quilts done (one for me for my birthday, one for my son, one for a friend going through a very difficult time) with another cut and ready to be pieced for my husband. I LOVE quilting. The puzzler part of my brain adores the meticulous process of cutting and piecing, matching colors and fitting all those bits of fabric together to form a functional, beautiful object to keep you warm. It’s reminiscent of knitting, but the fabric is already made, rather than having to knit the fabric in the first place.


After camp ended, my sewing craving wasn’t satiated – oh no. Instead it was ramped up x1000 and all I wanted to do was sit in front of my machine and sew late into the night. I’ve never been a big sleeper – I just don’t need a lot and have had a sleep disorder for years and years. I use this to my advantage knitting late into the night while watching TV on my computer, but instead of reaching for my needles, I found myself gravitating towards my sewing machine. After coming to the conclusion that we don’t need 57 quilts in our tiny house, and seeing my favorite project bag I bought years ago on Etsy suddenly fall apart, I decided to make myself a new bag.


Most knitters have an obsessive personally – I’ve noticed this over years of teaching – and I am no exception. I was so pleased with my project bag that I couldn’t stop at just one. I started making them by the dozens. Everywhere I went with my bag people asked where they could get one and if they could buy the one I had from me. Why are my knitting and crochet project bags better than the rest? Made with 100% designer cotton fabrics, my bags are fully lined with coordinating fabric, are machine-washable, roomy enough for a big project, and one-of-a-kind.  Unlike other bags, I use fabric drawstrings instead of cheap nylon cording. There are no plastic toggles or zippers for your yarn to get stuck or snagged in – my biggest pet peeve regarding all the project bags I’ve bought from other people over the years.


With the encouragement of a good friend, my husband cheering me on and long, sleepless nights to sew my way through, I hatched a plan to open an Etsy shop by October 1, starting with 110 bags. The result? TanisKnits project bags!


I hope you’ll head on over to my new shop and find something to your liking. Keep your knitting happy and safe in a TanisKnits project bag!

Visit my new Etsy shop here.


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