Monday, October 26, 2015

The Crosby Questionnaire: Tanis Gray

But enough about me, dear hearts. So many wonderful designers have been taking up our yarns that I feel it's time to talk more about them. Therefore, please settle back in your armchair, sedan chair, hammock, ricksha, deck chair, barstool, canoe, or camp bunk and enjoy The Crosby Questionnaire.

Our first guest is Tanis Gray, the celebrated author of such books as Knit Local: Celebrating America's Homegrown Yarns and Capitol Knits. She has published more than 350 knitting designs, appears regularly with Vickie Howell on "Knitting Daily TV," and is the proprietress of It exhausts one merely to think of it.

I am frantically grateful that she was able to spare a few moments to chat.

Where were you born?

New Jersey.

Where do you live now? And for how long?

The Washington, DC metro area, for six years.

What place that you’ve lived would you call your favorite? 

I grew up in Boston and I loved living there. The sense of American history and being by the ocean is a wonderful combination. The seasons are so beautiful there – the leaves changing, the snow, the sunshine. Washington, DC is similar in temperament and the feeling of historic importance, so I feel very at home here.

Do you enjoy travel? 

Definitely! It’s so important to see how other cultures and people live, what they eat, and how the light changes in different parts of the world. Local customs are fascinating, and it makes you appreciate so many things you may never have known about otherwise.

Where have you been that you long to see again?

I spent a semester in New Mexico when I attended RISD studying art and spirituality of the southwest. Once a year you took a shortened semester to study something that had nothing to do with your major (in my case, Animation), so that’s where I decided to go. There’s a place called Plaza Blanca, or “White Place” in Abiquiu, near where Georgia O’Keeffe had her studio. It’s otherworldly–giant white rocks that look like frozen, dripping sand contrasted against bright blue skies… It defied time and any sense of self, I can’t describe it. Simply beautiful. I’d love to go back someday.

What new place do you dream of seeing?

Number one on my travel bucket list is to stand in the snow and watch the Northern Lights, knitting in one hand, a mug of hot chocolate in the other.  I love the idea of this more desolate part of the world having this incredible light show in their skies. I have lived in a city almost my whole life – I long for skies with no light pollution, stars winking back at me and nature putting on a good show.

What three things do you never travel without?

Like most knitters, I always pack my knitting first. Generally I pack too much and would never be able to finish all that I bring, but better too much than too little. I would go crazy without! I also always pack floss and my Kindle.

What is your favorite part of a trip away from home?

If I’m traveling without my son and husband, coming home is always great. I always appreciate what I have when I have my guys waiting for me with hugs and kisses when I get back. If we’re going as a family, I love the anticipation of the adventures we’ll have, straying from our plans to do something unexpected and learning and seeing new things. We camp and road trip a lot and always roll back home having learned so much.

What do you like least about being away from home?

I have had a sleep disorder my entire life, so being away from my bed, my pillow and my white noise machine is tricky.

How did you come to be entangled in the world of yarn?

I started knitting when I was eight and never looked back. After freelancing at Martha Stewart and working in film and television in the art department for years, I worked at Vogue Knitting for four years before we left New York City for DC. I started teaching frequently, started my own independent pattern line, writing knitting books, being on "Knitting Daily TV" and managing social media for a few yarn companies. I enjoy being involved in so many different facets of our knitting community!

Have you any pet peeves or pet joys about the knitting process?

Sometimes I start off a design with perfectly laid out plans. I’ve sketched, I’ve swatched, I’ve done my math, written my pattern, and drawn my chart. Then suddenly when I start knitting, something happens and I have a whole new design on my hands.

Sometimes it’s a great thing, sometimes it needs to be frogged and started again, sometimes I’m happier than I would have been if I stuck to my original plan and sometimes I just go with it and see where the yarn takes me. I suppose that can be both a pet peeve and a pet joy.

Occasionally my ancient pug, Mercury, gets stuck in my yarn and that always makes for an interesting untangling process.

You designed a wildly successful cowl, Bad Kitty, using our yarn. I feel there must be a story behind this pattern. Spill it, my dear.

I was hanging out with a friend recently, binge-watching Outlander with her as she was cat-sitting for her parents. It’s been a while since my cat Igby passed away, and I haven’t had to fight the (always losing) battle between woman, cat, and yarn for years. After leaving her house and spending the next few days picking cat hair out of my yarn, the idea for the Bad Kitty cowl was hatched.

The colors are inspired by Delftware, the traditional blue and white pottery commonly seen coming out of Holland since the seventeenth century. I liked the contrast of hard, cold and very old pottery against the super softness of the silk and superwash merino blend, the slight halo and sheen provided by the yarn and the tongue-in-cheek image of a bad kitty.

I’ve worked with Carpet Bag before and it knits up beautifully, creating an ideal drape and warmth. As soon as I finished working with it the last time, I knew I wanted to work with it again.

Thank you for being a part of our big, wide world, Tanis.

Dear readers, to see more work by Tanis Gray and read her simply marvelous blog, visit And do please join us again the next time we present The Crosby Questionnaire.