Modeled after the famous TV program called Inside the Actor's Studio, The Designer's Studio is the place where you will meet a well-known designer and read about her/his designing style, philosophy, most favorite techniques, publications, and many other interesting details of the creative world of knitwear designers. Our guests will be answering a set of 15 questions (the same for every guest) and you will have the opportunity to leave the comment or your question after the interview is posted. We will try to keep up with your questions. This is a very exciting project and I hope you will visit here often and will not miss any of the interviews posted here.

Faina Goberstein.

August 19, 2010


Tanis Gray is the former Yarn Editor for Soho Publishing (Vogue Knitting, Knit Simple, Knit.1, Debbie Bliss magazines, and Sixth & Spring Books) and is the co-editor of Knit.1. Tanis is a designer and an author. Her designs graced the cover of a few issues of Vogue Knitting and other publications. In her recent book 60 Quick Knits Tanis compiled 60 designs that are made out of Cascade 220 yarn. Tanis loves different knitting techniques and she is using them with style and elegance. Her modern and fashionable designs are loved by knitters around the world. Here is her interview for The Designer's Studio.

1. When did you start knitting (crocheting) and who taught you?
I started knitting when I was 8 years old. My mom was knitting me a mauve mohair sweater and of course, I wanted to do what she was doing! She started me off with simple garter but I quickly grew hungry for more. We would vacation in northern new Hampshire and go to a fabulous yarn shop run by a women who looked like she had been there for 1,000 years and had this old, white dog who would follow her around the shop. She put me on DPNs immediately and had me knitting mittens the same day. So began the mitten period. I knit little else for a few years until she convinced me to start my first fair isle sweater when I was 11. My friend in college taught me to crochet when we were freshman. Our dorm was drafty and I wanted to make an afghan.

2. When did you begin publishing your designs?
I started working for SoHo Publishing in 2005 and did my first design for them within a few months of being hired. I continue to do design work for them today but have branched out to other publications as well as self publishing some projects online.

3. What is your most favorite knitting (crocheting) technique?
I went to RISD and have always been very involved in the arts. My mother is a painter and pastel artist so color and texture were always a big part of my life. Fair isle and cabling are my favorites, followed closely by lace. The more complex, the better.

4. When you are thinking about some new design, what inspires you the most? Is it different every time? Could you give us some examples on inspiration for some of your designs?
It entirely depends on where it will be published. If it's for a specific story in a magazine, I start to research what I can about the subject matter. Living in Washington DC, I visit many museums and am surrounded by some amazing architecture. I have friends who work at the Smithsonian or in other museums and find myself constantly inspired by just visiting them at work. A small turret on a building or the arch of a staircase, a painting or lamp can inspire. My mom and I have this saying... "Keep your eyes open." It's amazing what you can be influenced or inspired by by just looking. I read voraciously, so most of my self published patterns get their names from something I've read and many times the ideas for the projects were hatched while reading.

5. What does your studio look like?
My "studio" is the kitchen table, especially if I'm working on a book. I'm hyper organized so it's very tidy. Life is so much better when everything it organized! My knitting comes everywhere with me, so you can find me knitting on the subway, in line at the supermarket, in the dentist waiting room, on a plane home to Boston to see my parents... My walk-in-closet houses my stash and I keep that in huge plastic bins organized by weight, then sub-organized by color.

6. What is your most favorite place to knit (crochet)?
I have a sleep disorder that prevents me from going to bed before 3 or 4 am. I love to camp out in front of my laptop when it's very dark out, my husband and pets are all tucked in and asleep and the world is calm. I knit at the table and watch streaming video by the glow of the Capitol dome light and my laptop screen. It's my magic hour. Fun knitting is saved for the hours of 12-4am.

7. Do you spin your own yarn?
I know how to use a drop spindle and I'm dying to spin, but I feel like that's a can of worms I cannot allow myself to open right now.

8. Do you belong to a knitting group?
No, but most of my friends knit so we always end up knitting together at some point. When we go to the movies together we all sit down and immediately pull out our knitting.

9. Are you in touch with other designers and how do you communicate with the knitters who knit your designs?
Yes! As mentioned previously, many of my friends are knitters and most of them I met while working at SoHo Publishing. It's so much fun to geek out over new knitting needles or a great new knitting book and have the other person know exactly what you're talking about. I'm a huge fan of communicating via the computer, so I email a lot, communicate through Ravelry (especially with people knitting my patterns), Facebook and texting. I'm not a huge fan of talking on the phone and I refuse to get involved with Twitter.

10. Where can we see your published designs?
I've been doing a lot of work lately with SoHo publishing, Knitting, Knitscene and various yarn companies. Everything is more or less up on once it's published. I also have a website called Tanis Knits.

11. Do you teach classes? If yes, where do you teach?
I LOVE teaching. It's always interesting to me if designers like to teach or not. I teach a lot at Fibre Space in Alexandria, VA, Looped Yarn Works in Dupont Circle in Washington DC and Stitch DC, also in Washington DC. I especially enjoy teaching the beginners or people trying new techniques for the first time. Having been an Animation major at RISD, I have infinite patience. I think everyone should knit and if I can help them along and spread the joy-great!

12. What would you like to tell knitters who are timid and do not believe they are skillful enough to knit some of your designs?
How do you know unless you try? I get so many students who already admit defeat before even casting on. With some prodding and confidence boosting, they always leave with a finished project. You can do it! The only way you get better is by pushing yourself. You may have quite a knack for lace but how would you know that without trying?

13. What are your plans in the near future?
I'm finishing up my second book for SoHo Publishing and doing scads of freelance work. I've been doing more speaking engagements that get me into a new environment, which is always great. I have some plans for some e-book endeavors and something in the works that I can't talk about yet, but it's got me very excited.

14. Can you share with us some of your latest designs?
I've been doing a lot of lace recently since my last Vogue Knitting cover with the lace shawl came out. I'm working on stuff right now that won't be published until the winter, so there's a lot of fair isle and cabling, my 2 loves.

15. Would you like to add anything about yourself?

I truly love knitting. Each stitch has made me a more confident knitter and one willing to take chances. Sometimes designs don't work and they can't even be salvaged. That keeps me going and reminds me that knitting is always surprising. It's such an important craft and I wish it was taught in all schools. It teaches confidence, the joy of finishing something, hard work and builds match skills. It's so important to pass this wonderful craft on.

FG: Tanis, thank you very much for telling us so many interesting things about you as a designer. I agree with you that knitting must be taught to people and it brings to us so much more than just a finished project. It is a journey. I can't wait to see what you are up to with the projects you could not disclose to us. Good luck with them!

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