Oct 3, 2014

Tanis Gray Interview

We all know Tanis Gray. Even if you don't know her name, you've probably seen her work in countless knitting magazines and books spanning the last decade or so. I'm so excited because Tanis has agreed to join me here on Knit Darling to answer some questions about herself and her new book, 3 Skeins or Less: Fresh Knitted Accessories.

Alexis (AW): I'm so glad to have you here on my blog. Thanks for stopping by!
Tanis (TG): Thank you for having me! :)

AW: Besides the lovely Momentum Mittens, which you designed yourself (pictured on the cover), what are some of your favorite designs from the book?
TG: So difficult to answer as I love them all! I love the color of Heather Zoppetti's stunning lace stole, the texture of Faina Goberstein's cropped top, the asymmetry of Judy Marples' shawl and the clever side panel in Sauniell Connally's tank top. I curate the collection to try and cover a lot of techniques and silhouettes so that each project has something about it that makes it special and interesting to knit.

AW: Your book has a lot of texture rich designs. What do you like most about this kind of knitting?
TG: Knitting is an investment not only in materials, but in time (something we never seem to have enough of!). When I knit, I want it to be interesting and a fun experience and to worth the time invested in making it. I want to enjoy each stitch and at the end have a beautiful, textured, fun-to-knit garment I can wear. Knitting is such a tactile experience and this takes it a step further by making it wearable art.

AW: The yarn used throughout 3 Skeins Or Less is particularly beautiful. As the former Yarn Editor over at Soho Publishing, you must have some very strong opinions about yarn. What were some of your favorites from the book? Can you tell me a little about the process of picking the yarn for so many projects?
TG: I have VERY strong opinions about yarn! Each yarn in this book was picked to not only show off the finished garment and to help it reach its maximum potential, but to be a joy to knit with. Certain yarns look good for certain garments (weight, texture, ply, fiber, etc) but that's only half of the equation. Color plays a huge role in yarn choice for me and I'm a big fan of hand dyed and indie yarns. I was the Yarn Editor for 4 years and during that time we did about 30 books and 20 magazines a year, with me choosing the yarns for all of those. I got pretty good at being able to visualize how a garment will look in a particular yarn and that training is an asset when putting together a collection for a book. An interesting thing about putting together a book is you also have to look at all the yarns as a whole, rather than project-by-project. Green is my favorite color, so I know I have to be mindful of not having too much green in a book. Yes, there are 25 projects in the book, but it also has to look cohesive as a collection.

AW: You've put out an unbelievable 3 books in a little more than a year, and still managed to contribute designs to a few other titles. Many of these projects must have overlapped. I can't imagine that you get much sleep! What is it like to juggle all these projects at once? What's next for you?
TG: I usually have 2 books going on at once, a constant stream of freelance, I just opened at Etsy shop selling handmade sewn knitting project bags, I teach frequently at my LYS and I have a 3-year old son I chase after all day, so yes, I'm a busy lady! I've always been really good at time management and I don't need a lot of sleep. I like to work at night once everyone is asleep and it's quiet and dark (my husband calls me a vampire!). I'll work into the wee hours then crash for a few hours and do it all again the next day. I always had a problem sitting still, so I'm happiest when I'm busy and creating. I'm working on the next book with Interweave and getting ready to go film my 3rd season of Knitting Daily in a couple of weeks. My teaching schedule gets crazy as it gets colder, so I'm at my LYS quite a bit lately as well.

AW: How does editing a magazine compare to editing a book like this? Do you like one more than the other?
TG: Both have positives and negatives and both are completely different experiences. I like that a book tends to stick around longer than a magazine and that it's more of a time investment. When you're in publishing you're always looking ahead to the next deadline and it's a little like being a hamster on a wheel. Working on books allows me to work with whom I want to, have a lot of control over the aesthetic and be more involved. When it's a book like Knitting Architecture, there's also a lot of research and writing, which I love!

AW: You are a very prolific designer having produced 350+ designs in your career. Where do you look for inspiration to keep producing at this unbelievable level?
TG: Living in Washington DC means there is no shortage of inspiration. It's a city so rich with art, architecture, interesting people, ideas and promise. Having a young child makes you look at things differently and my son has definitely influenced my work. My mom is a painter and took me to museums all the time while growing up in Boston. I do the same with my son. Art, music, history - these are all such important aspects to all of our lives.

It was a delight talking to Tanis, and I hope you'll check out her new book, 3 Skeins or Less: Fresh Knitted Accessories.


  • Scottie Hugghis
    almost 10 years ago

    I didn't know Tanis lived in DC. Its good to learn more about my favorite designers and how close we are since I live in Md. As they say, small world.

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