We were so thrilled to recently receive a copy of Tanis Gray's "Capitol Knits." We love Tanis' lovely designs in the book (and her other work as well) and thought a guest blog and giveaway would be lots of fun. In light of the upcoming election, it's nice to put politics aside, and focus on the beautiful monuments that make our capitol city such a wonderful place to visit and in Tanis' case, live. Not only that, it reminds us of the rich history that has shaped our country into what it is today. Here is what Tanis had to say about Capitol Knits, designing, and living in our nations capitol:
JBW- Can you give us a super quick (2-3 sentences) description of Capitol Knits for our readers who might be new to you and your work?
|The Capitol Shawl, full view|
Tanis- Capitol Knits is inspired by the
city I live in, the nation’s capital, Washington,
DC. There is so much history and inspiration
here and it’s like living in a history book. I
wanted to combine my love for knitting and
my love of this city into a collection of
patterns, historical facts, interesting tidbits
and beautiful photos.
JBW- You give a great description of how your love for Washington DC inspired you to create this book in the forward, can you re-cap that for us here?
Tanis- It’s impossible to not be inspired by DC. The incredible architecture, what goes on here day-to-day, the people, the art, the foliage and the museums… It’s all part of our country’s beating heart and I’m lucky to have that be my backyard.
JBW- Do you have a favorite design (or designs) from the book that you’d like to highlight for us? What makes this design(s) your favorite?
|The Lincoln Cardigan|
Tanis- I love the Lincoln Cardigan. Cables, lace, ¾ sleeves and top-down cardi construction are some of my favorite elements in a sweater. The Lincoln Monument is a favorite of many and where it’s situated, the history of both the building and what happened there is breathtaking. It’s also very special to me because that was the last thing I shot for the book. My model and I were up at 4:30am, trekking through the darkness to be there for sunrise, lugging cameras, knitting and clothes, freezing. We had it to ourselves and it was magical. It’s always so crowded and you could hear a pin drop when we were there. We stood on the same spot where Martin Luther King gave his “I Have a Dream” speech and soaked up the history, the silence and what we had accomplished together in making this book. My model is a good friend of mine and having her there on the journey with me made it even more special. It was one of those mornings I’ll remember forever.
|Lincoln Cardi, back view|
JBW- According to your blog, it seems you’ve been
working in the knitting industry for quite a while. How did
you find your way into this industry?
Tanis- It was a pretty crooked path. I went to RISD and
majored in Film, Animation and video. I had always had the
goal of working for Pixar, but life can be funny and pull the
rug out from under you. I’d always been very crafty and got
a job freelancing for Martha Stewart and animation for
HBO’s Family Channel. I moved to New York City, began working in film and television in the art department, met
my husband and decided that leaving for work at 5am and getting home at midnight was not sustainable. I got the
job for Yarn Editor at Vogue Knitting, worked there for 4
years until my husband took his dream job in Washington,
DC and now here we are.
|Constitution Hall Scarf|
JBW- What made you want to start designing knitting patterns?
Tanis- My mom taught me how to knit when I was 8. I got very into knitting mittens and everyone I ever knew got at least 1 pair from me. We refer to this as my “mitten period.” Eventually, I learned how to tweak a pattern, make my own designs and knit exactly what I wanted. It was empowering. When I started at Vogue Knitting, my boss, Trisha Malcolm, encouraged me to design my first sweater and the rest is history.
JBW- As a designer and author do you have any advice for those folks out there who are just starting to design on how to make a living doing what they love?
Tanis- It’s a tough industry. The arts have always been under-appreciated and sometimes the submission process can leave you wondering if you should give up. I always tell people that your design wasn’t rejected because it was bad, it may not have fit into the story the Editors are trying to tell, or the technique wasn’t what they were looking for. You have to keep going, keep trying, keep learning, and keep exploring. I still take classes in knitting every now and then because you never know what you’ll learn. I think once you lose you thirst for knowledge; you simply cannot grow any longer as a designer and person.
|E Pluribus Unum Cowl|
JBW- Have you ever had a celebrity moment as a
designer? What was that like? (Or, if not, have you seen
your designs being worn on the street randomly? Tell us
Tanis- I’ve seen my designs on both the streets of New
York and DC on random people and knitted up in shops
as shop samples. Anthropologie is famous for knocking
off knitwear designs and they’ve “borrowed” a few of my
pieces. I really like when people do KAL (knit-a-longs)
with my designs because that’s what makes crafting wonderful. Knitting together with your friends in a group, chatting and stitching, all working on the same project
either together or online. Crafting is a global community
JBW- What is next on the horizon for you as a designer?
Tanis- I have a few books up my sleeve coming down the pipeline and I’ll continue to do the social media for a few yarn companies and freelance for the knitting magazines and books. The knitting world is so small and I love being part of it and watching what’s coming up. I also want to get knitting needles in my son’s hands as soon as he is able.
|Library of Congress Hat|
JBW- Do you have any fun “behind-the-scenes” photos we could use for the blog post?
Tanis- I live in a tiny apartment in the city with a husband, son and pug. My “studio” is any available space! No photos!
JBW- And now for the lightening round! Where did you grow up?
Tanis Gray-I grew up south east of Boston in a tiny little town called Norwell, right near the ocean and on the North River.
JBW- What time do you start work?
|National Gallery Shawl|
Tanis Gray- I have a toddler, so we’re pretty
much up with the sunrise and the day
begins. The second he’s down for a nap I
sit down and get as much work done as possible. The same goes for when it’s his bedtime and I get most of my work done at night.
JBW- Tell us about your previous life—you
know, before knitting…
Tanis Gray- I worked at Martha Stewart
briefly before she went to jail, then did
some animation for HBO Family and found my way to film and commercials working in the art department. That was fun but the hours are brutal and it’s very much a man’s world.
|Summerhouse Hat and Mitts|
JBW- What is your favorite non-knitting hobby?
Tanis Gray- I love sewing and aspire to be great at it. Maybe someday! I also really enjoy cooking.
JBW- A little known fact about you?
Tanis Gray- I have had a sleeping disorder my entire life. People always ask me how I manage to get so much done, especially with a little one running around, but when you don’t need much sleep, it’s amazing what you can accomplish!
JBW- Your favorite book?
Tanis Gray- I love The Story of Edgar Sawtelle by David Wroblewski. It’s one of those books that you either love it or hate it.
JBW- Biggest accomplishment?
Tanis Gray- Being a mom was always something I had dreamed and hoped for. It’s even better than I could have possibly imagined.
Thank you so much to Tanis for the interview! Be sure to check out her knitting adventures via the following social media outlets:
Ravelry Page: http://www.ravelry.com/designers/tanis-gray
Facebook Page: https://www.facebook.com/tanis.gray
Twitter Feed: https://twitter.com/tanisgray
If you would like to win a copy of Capitol Knits, please leave a comment on this post telling us what project from the book you would knit first. I'll choose a winner at random and announce it in this coming Friday's Blog post. Good luck!
Hope you all are having a great week!
PS. I apologize for the wonky formatting of this post. Blogger just changed their formatting and it's a mind-boggling learning curve. Hopefully all will return to normal soon! Thanks for your patience! :)