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Columbus Recap

If you’re like me and you’re a lover of architecture, you must go visit Columbus, Indiana.

I was thrilled to teach my first solo travel workshop and was hosted by the wonderful Nyra Miller at Knitters Nook. Indiana is so different from DC. I’ve been living in cities for so long, I forget what it’s like to drive everywhere, to live near people you grew up with and to know everyone. I don’t even know my neighbors (which is pretty typical for city living)!

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The wonderful customers and students of Knitters Nook made me feel like a knitting rock star and were so warm and welcoming that I’m hoping I’ll get to visit them again soon. I taught them knitted lace (lace on both sides), slipped stitches, beading and knitting, cabling, turned picot hems and chart reading. As always, when you get a bunch of knitters together, there’s a special feeling of camaraderie and sharing of tips and tricks that firms up my belief that knitting is one of the best things in the world. I enjoyed getting to know them all over the weekend and left feeling like a member of the family. They truly embraced me and the weekend was even better than I anticipated.

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Myself and Knitters Nook owner, Nyra Miller

And the architecture!!!!  Columbus is a city known for its architecture and that is a title well deserved. J. Irwin Miller, 2nd CEO and a nephew of a Co-Founder of Cummins Inc., the Columbus-headquartered diesel engine manufacturer, instituted a program in which the Cummins company paid the architects’ fee, provided the client selected a firm from a list compiled by Miller. The plan was initiated with public schools and was so successful that Miller decided to defray the design costs of fire stations, public housing, and other community structures. The high number of notable public buildings and sculptures in the Columbus area, designed by such individuals as Eero Saarinen, I.M. Pei, Robert Venturi, Cesar Pelli, and Richard Meier have led to Columbus earning the nickname “Athens of the Prairie.” Six buildings, built between 1942 and 1965, are National Historic Landmarks, and approximately 60 other buildings sustain the Bartholomew County seat’s reputation as a showcase of modern architecture. National Geographic Magazine once devoted an entire article to the town’s architecture. I wish I had more time to explore, but here are a few highlights from my camera…

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Loved the color of these exhaust pipes!

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The Miller House, my favorite thing on our architecture tour

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“Chaos” sculpture

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The landscape architecture at the Miller House was as stunning as the house itself!

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This huge sculpture reminded me of dinosaur vertebrae!

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I’d never get any reading done at this library – I’d be too busy staring at the amazing ceiling!

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“C” for Columbus bike racks all over town.

Thank you, Nyra and Columbus! I had so much fun knitting with you, teaching, learning about your city and immersing myself in your beautiful architecture! Hope to see you soon.

No Longer A Chrysalis

There’s a really interesting window at the Museum of Natural History.

We’re frequent guests there, roaming around the dinosaur bones, the giant (fake) Wooly Mammoth, the artifacts, bugs and (a favorite of my son’s) the huge, creepy octopus. I prefer the room with all the sparkly gems, with the guard who nervously watches the small children running around the Hope Diamond.

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© Eric Carle

The window I’m talking about is the butterfly window. Tucked in a corner behind the bug exhibit, this small area has butterflies in various states of their life cycle. Eggs, caterpillars, pupas (or chrysalis) and finally butterflies. Butterflies are a big deal in our house… Ever read “A Very Hunger Caterpillar” by Eric Carle? We always shout out “a beautiful butterfly!” when we get to the last page (I could recite that book for you, dear readers, we’ve read it so many times). We also have a butterfly bush in the backyard, whose big, purl flowers attract butterflies of all colors. Sometimes there are so many on the branches that it seems to vibrate.

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I recently got my hands on a hank of The Knitting Boutique’s Sassafras Worsted, a lovely blend of bamboo and merino, and a hank of Shibui’s Silk Cloud, a mohair and silk blend. Held together, you get a beautiful luxury combination of sheen with a slight halo. Yes, please.

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Inspired by this stunning yarn combination and the butterflies in our backyard and at the museum, I designed the No Longer A Chrysalis Cowl. With one hank of each yarn held together, the background of reverse stockinette truly makes those butterflies pop. A fun knit with wrapped stitches, pulled up stitches, increases and decreases makes this a great knit for anyone who loves butterflies.

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Download the No Longer A Chrysalis Cowl pattern here.

 

Come Away With Me…

I’m pretty excited to announce my first travel workshop!

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If you find yourself in the Indiana/Ohio area, I hope you’ll come join me at The Knitter’s Nook in Columbus, Indiana!

They say…“July 19th & 20th, 2014 We would like to invite you to attend our Architecture Knitting Retreat. We are excited to welcome designer Tanis Gray and her books Knitting Architecture and Capitol Knits to our shop and Columbus, Indiana. This retreat features classes taught by Tanis, a retreat-exclusive pattern inspired by Columbus, two guided tours (Columbus, Indiana Architecture and the Miller House and Gardens), an amazing dinner party with book signings and more. This inspirational weekend will be “unexpected and unforgettable!”

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I’ll be teaching the E Pluribus Unum Cowl from Capitol Knits, Featherbelle and my Bird’s Nest Shrug from Knitting Architecture.

What I’m most excited about this workshop is the marriage between knitting and architecture, two things I am very passionate about. Columbus is a HUGE treasure trove of architectural gems! Did you know that  the American Institute of Architects rank Columbus 6th in the nation in architectural innovation and design? How inspiring is that?!

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My brain is already overflowing with inspiration just looking at images from this beautiful city!

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Oh, Fair Isle inspiration!

05de3ce6b48f9d3d960cb44d1ea9fcbcLeave me here with a good book, good music and good knitting!

Stop by The Knitter’s Nook to sign up at 3623 25th Street, Columbus, IN 47203, call 812-657-7669 or visit their website here.

Inspire….Learn…. Create…. Knitters Nook in Columbus, Indiana is the place to be! Hope to see you there!

 

 

My Grandmother’s Sewing Box

I’m not sentimental about a lot of things.

Sure, I have that cool rock I found in Florida when I went there on a particularly great trip, pictures of my son cover the walls in my office, a drawing made by his tiny hands is on my door and a few trinkets scatter my house that someone special gave me. I know some people like to hold onto everything and that’s ok. I get it. I’ve just never been that person.

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Myrt

 

Perhaps it comes from years of packing and moving, from knowing that when it comes to crafting, yes, I have a lot of yarn, a lot of fabric, a lot of notions, so I don’t keep a lot of other stuff. When you’re a freelance designer, you tend to not make a lot of things for yourself. When I find myself with “free crafting time” I make things for family and friends. For me, the look of joy when they open it and seeing them wear what I made for them is infinitely better than knitting something for myself and tucking it away in my drawer. The idea of “here, I made this for you and you can wear it whenever you’re cold, whenever you need to know I’m thinking about you, whenever I can’t be there and you need a hug, wrap yourself in this and know that I love you and I care about you, no matter what,” makes me forever grateful that crafting runs deeply through the branches of my family tree.

Crafting spans generations. We make things with love, we wrap them up and give them to someone. If you take care of things, they can last years and years and knowing that the sweater I just made for my son may someday be worn by his child? There’s something pretty darn special about that.

I’ve written about my grandmothers on my blog before. They were both crafty women who lived through a difficult time. I was lucky enough to have one until I was 12 and the other until I was 16, but I still regret not knowing them as I am now – an adult, a mother and a crafter. How I wish I could talk to them, learn from them, have them show me a better way to do _____. I think about them often, especially when I’m sewing or crocheting.

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my son’s quilt

I’ve gotten heavily into quilting lately. Summer is a time for fun, for new things, for adventure. I made my son a bright quilt covered in Dr. Seuss (which he chose) fabric from our trip to Lancaster. He loves it and I have visions of him dragging it to college with him someday (my husband says I’m crazy). I have a little sewing box I’ve been using that’s nothing special – just a boring box that holds my sewing notions. When my grandma Myrt passed away, my dad had the foresight to save her sewing box for me. It sat in the attic for years, waiting patiently to be filled once more with the tools of our trade. It sat there while I finished high school, while I attended RISD, while I moved to New York and began a life for myself.

A few years back my dad gave me that sewing box. It’s just as I remember and so her. Pale pink shot through with gold thread, spacious inside, a plastic tray for bits and bobs. For years I kept it in my office, knowing it was there but feeling like it was still hers – that I wouldn’t, couldn’t, shouldn’t fill it with my stuff. I continued to use my crappy little sewing box, knowing that her box was there, just waiting for me.

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Earlier this week I glanced at her sewing box and knew it was time. I waited until today, after I dropped my son off at his little preschool morning camp, my husband was at work, the dog was asleep and the house was silent. I took my time, I cleaned up her box, emptied out my old one and began the transition of filling hers up. There were a few things of hers still in there… the afghan pattern she was “famous” for, covered in her notes, the pattern so worn it was held together with tape, some embroidery floss, some rusted out embroidery hoops and a pack of needles. It was an incredibly emotional experience, knowing that her hands were the last ones that had touched the box, tucked needle packs into the little pouch, put the bobbins in the little plastic tray and latched the lid shut. Such promise fills this box… The promise of future projects, thoughts of projects past, ideas forming in  the crafting part of my brain, memories of a grandmother and granddaughter.

Myrt raised 3 boys, my dad being the youngest. She was a talented crocheter and sewer with a brilliant mind and a kind heart. It took me so many years to realize that she would have wanted me to use her sewing box, to make it my own, even though it will always be hers. I have so few things of hers and it makes me think… Is this all that will be left of me when I’m gone? Some knitting needles and an impressive yarn stash? Will someday I have a granddaughter who will happily inherit my “stuff” and continue on the tradition of creating and making? Will she sit on her floor as I did this morning, tears running down her face as she places her sewing things in this very box and think of the time we had together, knowing it was not enough?

Myrt has been on my mind a lot lately, as I sit at my sewing machine at night when the rest of the house is asleep. I like to think she’s sitting at the table across from me, sharing advice on how to raise boys, how to be a better crocheter and how best to organize her sewing box. My dad says I’m a lot like her and I think of her, as I stitch away.

Thank you for your sewing box, Grandma. I promise to pass it down to the next crafter in our family.

 

Travel Crayon Roll

I was never bored as a kid.

Even back in the dark ages when I was a child and we had one family computer (and the pixels on that computer were about a big as my fingernail), research for school papers was done at the library with a good amount of time spent combing through the card catalogue, we used a phone that was attached to the wall and if you wanted to send someone a note, you’d write them a letter with actual pen and paper, crayons and a blank sheet were my method of choice on how to pass a rainy day. Yes, my brother and I had a Nintendo, there was a TV in the living room and a handful of friends lived within walking distance of our home, but set me down in front of a box of crayons and a blank pad of paper and I’d be happy for hours. That’s still true today.

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Being a parent nowadays is an experience full of wonder and whimsy, but also a bit strange. I see my 3-year old operate my iPhone with ease. He’d rather do a puzzle on the iPad than with actual pieces on the floor. When a DVD ends we don’t have to wait and rewind it to watch his favorite part again. While this makes me feel old and (only slightly) regret all the time I mocked my own parents for being “old school,” I love that if I give him crayons and paper, he’s content. Why are these such magical objects?

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On nice days if no friends were around and I was banished outside until dinner, I’d grab my little bag with my drawing materials and disappear into the woods, drawing bugs and plants, clouds, trees and whatever else my imagination could drum up. My mother is a painter, so art materials were never in short supply and being creative was encouraged. I went through boxes of crayons and pads of paper like it was my job.

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When we’d travel, especially on airplanes, drawing was more difficult. Confined to the small tray table space (and forget it if you dropped a crayon – you wouldn’t see that again until landing) and often shoved between the adults in the dreaded middle seat, having a place to stow the markers or crayons was imperative. With this in mind, I designed the Travel Crayon Roll, a roll-up case easy for small hands to operate. With plenty of space for an entire rainbow of crayons, a thick stitch ensuring none will poke out and be lost forever and extra long cord ties for wrapping around the case and tying it shut, this is the perfect knit for any kid.

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Knit using one skein of Cascade’s Pinwheel, I loved the rainbow color change combined with the thick star stitch. While I hope my son gets this dirty and covered in marker and crayon, I also want the option to wash and dry it easily, so this 100% acrylic makes perfect sense. With over 20 pretty great color options (the more color, the better!) I don’t think you can really make a wrong choice. The best thing? I weighed my finished project and I could get 3, that’s right, 3 crayon rolls out of 1 skein! 440 yards for a worsted? Insanity!

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I’m a big fan of technology, but a much bigger fan of creativity. If you’re undertaking Handmade Holiday for 2014, NOW is the time to start knitting! Why not knit a few of these up, buy crayons in bulk and give them out to the littles ones? Put away the iPads, the laptops and the video games. Long live creativity!

Download the free Travel Crayon Roll here.

Lancaster Hoodie & Giveaway!

UPDATE 6/25/14: Congratulations to winner Kate M! Check your email, Kate M!

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Traveling is difficult with a young child. Sleeping is an issue, a weird bed, a new place, new sights, sounds and people. We’re fond of “mini trips,” a 2 or 3 day excursion not too far from the house so we’re not gone for too long. We recently went to Lancaster, Pennsylvania, home to delicious pretzels, Amish folk, lots of animals and some really beautiful scenery. I knew we’d have about 6 or 7 hours roundtrip in the car, and the husband likes to drive so that means I get some knitting time in. I grabbed a design I had done all the math for and was ready to cast on…

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mini road trip knitting

We had a great time in Lancaster, visiting quilting shops, wooden toy shops, eating pretzels, drinking homemade root bear, taking Callum to Dutch Wonderland and checking out the LYS. If you find yourself in Lancaster County, head over to the Lancaster Yarn Shop, situated nicely right in the center of the town of Intercourse. I picked up some locally spun, natural yarn and a hank of something special you’ll hear more about later this summer.

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Lancaster Yarn Shop owner Wendy Ellis and I

I am spoiled to have a great local hand dyer, Shalimar Yarns close by over in Maryland. I had some lovely Missy Bulky on hand and knew it was destined for a top down, raglan style child’s hoodie with some fair isle around the midsection. small_sweater1 What I like about this yarn is it’s a bulky, so it knits up fast and beautiful on US 10s. I love the subtleties you can only get from a hand dye and the contrasting colors of blue raspberry and tequila sunrise look great together for either gender. small_sweater2 Topped off with an elf-style hood and chunky buttons easy for small hands to manipulate, this is a cute hoodie for everyone! Sized from 6 months all the way up to 12 years, the wide size range ensures you’ll find the fit you need for all shapes and sizes. small_sweater5Being a top down raglan, you start at the neck, work your way to the end, finish off the sleeves then do the hood last. How adorable would it be to make matching ones for siblings? As always when knitting for kids, if they are old enough to help, let them pick out the colors for the hoodie or the buttons. They’re more likely to wear it if they had some input. Get started now for that “back-to-school” hoodie for the fall!small_sweater7 Named after the county we visited, the Lancaster Hoodie is available for download here.

As always, let’s do a giveaway, shall we? Answer this trivia question (open to readers worldwide) to be entered to win a digital copy of the pattern: About how many Amish people are there living in the US currently?

A winner will be chosen at random on Wednesday.

Malcolm’s Blanket & Giveaway

UPDATED 6.18.14: Congratulations to Nancy, Jamie and Sophiesgirl for winning a copy of Malcom’s Blanket! Check your email for further instructions…

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As you read this dear readers, I am winging my way across the country to the Interweave Studios to film a DVD. More on that in a later post, but look up and wave as planes pass over you! I’m on one of those knitting sleepily and drinking caffeine like it’s going out of style.

I’m excited to share this new pattern with you because it’s been a long time in the making.

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Malcolm (Photo by Tovah Moreno-Blank)

Many of you know about our harrowing birth story with our son who just turned 3. Callum was born 2 months early with a host of problems after an emergency c-section. He was kept in the NICU for a month and it was touch and go every day. I look back on that month spent in a windowless room, growing immune to the beeps and alarms, the rushing of footsteps and the fluorescent lighting as I sat next to my son in his isolate incubator awaiting text results, not being able to hold him more than 20 minutes a day. I’d walk through the lobby and see the happy moms who got to take their children home after giving birth and want to find a corner to go and scream at the top of my lungs. Like many things in life, unless you’ve been in that situation when your world is crumbling, you have no idea what it feels like.

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I met Honey while teaching. Teaching is a funny thing… You go into it with a bunch of students, you share an experience, you bond over knitting and you hope to see them in another class and watch their skills grow and grow. Every now and then you meet someone super special and you have an instant connection. I suppose all friendships are like that, but when I’m in “teacher mode” I’m so focused on making sure everyone is happy, they’re comfortable and they’re getting the technique to think “hey, I could be friends with this person outside of class.” Honey took a number of classes with me and I liked her right from the get go, especially when she invited me over to knit and watch Game of Thrones. A woman after my own heart.

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When Honey told me she was pregnant I immediately started flipping through the baby patterns stored in my brain wondering what I would knit her. I was even more excited to learn that she too would have a son and she was moving right down the street from us. She had taken a lace baby blanket class with me and struggled to finish, so I knew I would knit her that pattern.

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I wouldn’t wish our birth experience on anyone, so when Honey texted me to tell me that she was having a similar situation with her son coming 6 weeks early, I sprinted to my LYS, bought some Lorna’s Laces Worsted Superwash and Knit. Like. The. Wind. I have never knit a blanket so fast, and while I knew things would be dicey for a while, just as they were with us, I wanted her to have it for Malcolm in the hospital. Knitting says so much on its own – I am thinking about you and your family. Someday we’ll look back on this and think “how the heck did we survive that?” I’ve got your back for whatever you need. I will do whatever I can to help you get through this. You will be ok. He will be ok.

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Many months later, I’m happy to say that Malcolm is thriving (and so cute!). I like to name projects after people who are important to me, and always name something after a friend has had a baby in honor of them. This is a special case because Honey and I were in the trenches together, sharing a similar birth experience. Meet Malcolm’s Blanket, an elegant, heirloom-style baby blanket named after Honey’s sweet little boy. Knit on US 7s and using 5 hanks of gorgeous hand dyed Zen Garden Serenity Worsted (a merino, cashmere and nylon superwash blend) in Blue Hawaii, this is a great project for anyone expecting a little one. The pattern has a good rhythm and makes for good TV or travel knitting. Walking through the woods to photograph it with my son running beside me gathering rocks and bugs, it reminded me just how far we’ve come. I look forward to the day when Callum and Malcolm will run and play together.

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In honor of Callum’s recent 3rd birthday, I’ll be giving away 3 copies of the Malcolm’s Blanket pattern (open to residents worldwide). Leave a comment on the blog answering this trivia question: The name “Callum” is of Gaelic origin and means what? Bonus points if you know what his middle name “Finnegan” means.

Three winners will be chosen at random on Wednesday.

Download the pattern here.

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