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Inspired by Architecture

Aug 21, 2013

I love to travel. I've visited many places in the US, Canada, and Mexico, and two years ago I took a big trip to Egypt. It was a thrilling experience, and I hope to go again someday. My favorite way to experience a new place is through the architecture. I love touring old houses, exploring interesting buildings, and visiting gardens (and knit shops!).

Byzantine Pullover
by Tanis Lavallée


Wrought Iron Tote
by Angela Hahn
Beaux Arts Cardigan
by Cecily Glowik MacDonald
This spring, I'm taking a trip to the East Coast to visit New York and Boston. I've never been to either city! We're going to tour the Gilded Age mansions in Newport, Rhode Island, too, and I can't wait.

When I can't actually take a trip, I'm a great armchair traveler. I watch Rick Steves on PBS, read travel books, and read fiction set in exotic locales.

I love to knit items that are based on places I've visited, too. I've knit the Koolhaas hat, based on the design of the Seattle Public Library, and the Caftan Pullover, which evoke Middle Easter designs. Both of these designs used interesting knitting techniques, too, as do many of the patterns in Knitting Architecture.

Now I can bring my love of knitting and architecture together even more in our new book Knitting Architecture, by Tanis Gray. Tanis has brought together all kinds of knitwear that was inspired by architecture from all over the world.

Architecture + Knitting

Have you ever stood in wonder, stopped dead in your tracks by a stunning building? How about by a beautiful sweater? We have dozens of museums the world over dedicated to architecture or apparel, but have you ever thought about how similar the two are?

I have always been fascinated by architecture. Something as simple as a large box in which we dwell can suddenly become a stunning, ultramodern structure, or be covered in ornate details inspired by movements in history, the climate, or a clever idea.

Similarly, designing knitwear starts with an idea, a blueprint or schematic, math, materials, and a little bit of inspiration. A hat on the person in front of us at the grocery store, a flower on the side of a barren highway, a masterpiece hanging on the wall of a gallery, or a historic building in the middle of a modern city are all inspiration for what we can create with our knitting needles.

My husband, Roger, works at an engineering and architecture firm in Washing ton, D.C., as the director of sustainability. On our first date, we talked about our work—our passions and hobbies.

I was struck by how incredibly different our paths and lines of work were, yet how similar the process was. The planning stages are the same (on much different scales), and the creative process and the taking and giving of ideas as we try to make the designs work can be difficult. In the end, we are both helping an idea come to life.

I hope this book inspires the designer and inner architect in all of us. Dream (and knit) to the limits of your imagination. That's what the designers in this book have done, and it is what makes our craft abundant with possibilities.

—Tanis Gray, from Knitting Architecture

I was lucky enough to get to visit Taliesin West, Frank Lloyd Wright's architecture school and winter residence, in Scottsdale, Arizona. I absolutely love the style of architecture, called Prairie School.

Spinning off of the Arts and Crafts movement, the Prairie School designers wished to start a new era of architecture that was distinctly American. Designer Katharina Nopp was inspired by another Frank Lloyd Wright creation, the fabulous Fallingwater House in Western Pennsylvania.

Fallingwater Hat by Katharina Nopp Fallingwater House by Frank Lloyd Wright

The most recognized example of the Prairie School of architecture is Frank Lloyd Wright's Fallingwater (above right), with its overhanging eaves, long horizontal planes, flat roofs, and complete integration into the surrounding landscape.

The twisted ribbing and texture of the alternating stockinette and reverse stockinette sections of the Fallingwater Hat create plateaus in multiple directions, much like the structures of the Prairie School style of architecture.

I am in love with this book. The designs stand on their own, but add in the design inspiration from architecture around the world, and they make up a fabulous collection of meaningful knits.

Get your copy of Knitting Architecture today and start knitting a souvenir from one of your trips!


P.S. Leave a comment and tell us about the fabulous trips you've taken and any yarn adventures that were included!

Featured Product

Knitting Architecture eBook

Availability: In Stock
Price: $24.95


Study knitwear construction, form, function, and more with Knitting Architecture, a collection of 20 designs that celebrate architectural themes.


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ali10kat wrote
on Aug 24, 2013 5:55 AM

This year's visit to Shetland was yarn heaven! The colours of the yarn are inspired by the amazing natural features. I was knitting my first steeked cardigan - and planned the next! it was such a joy to buy one ball of many colours to knit samples and work out the combination I wanted and then go to Jamieson's spinning sheds  to buy those I wanted for the final version.

IDGem wrote
on Aug 22, 2013 1:24 PM

I have to vote for the Aran sweaters of western Ireland.  I was there one summer and it was so cold that we used this as an excuse to stock up on sweaters.  Needless to say, I have quite a collection.  One of these days I'll get brave enough to knit my own.

KimW@2 wrote
on Aug 22, 2013 7:40 AM

Enjoy your trip to NY this spring!  While there, walk across the Brooklyn Bridge and bring a knitted item to tie onto it; although I had visited NYC many times due to my proximity to it while growing up, I had never walked the bridge until this summer, during our family vacation, as the kids had never been.  We were so pressed for time that I, unfortunately, did not have time to visit any LYSs there (which may be a good thing as I have _quite_ a few projects on the sticks).  However, while walking across the bridge during that heat wave in July, I noticed a particular spot on the bridge within easy reach on the walking side of the line where other passers-by had left all manner of things:  string, hairbands, a bra, a belt, and of course knitted items.  Leave your mark without vandalizing (some people uncreatively merely used a Sharpie)!

on Aug 21, 2013 9:01 PM

A fabulous trip to New Zealand was made even better by sheep, fiber, and yarn:

Yarnbombing in Devenport, possum yarn blends, Agrodome (20 breeds of sheep AND shearing), sock knitting machines in Hokitika, and finally - three days in Ashburton - home of Ashford Handicrafts.  I brought home fleece, fleece, fleece, yarn & more yarn, and an inkle loom, and experience got from a session of blending with a drum carder.

on Aug 21, 2013 3:01 PM

When you go to Newport, consider getting the multi-house ticket and see several of the mansions.  It might take all day but they are all different and worth the time and price.

If you ever get the chance, Iceland is an interesting country.  It was Danish for many years so the pastries are good but the food is expensive because everything is imported.  I bought yarn in a small shop in a small town in the northeast corner of the country; they sold everything from car batteries and tires to fishing equipment and food.  I was glad I bought it there because the selection was limited.   The next day we were in a much larger town and the all purpose store sold all the same things plus furniture and clothes.  They had a whole wall of Lopi yarn and the color choices were overwhelming.  Finished sweaters were available inexpensively everywhere, even the airport, but I was happy to come home with yarn.

CharlotteB wrote
on Aug 21, 2013 2:40 PM

This Brooklyn, New Yorker, former Bostonian, is excited that you are visiting the East Coast.  New York City has so many fabulous yarn shops that if you try to see them all, you may miss the other sights.  Of course, you will go to Lion Brand and Schoolhouse and String as well as Purl and there are so many others.  While you are in Manhattan, stroll down 6th Avenue from 38th street to about 34th street to take in the button, bead and ribbon district.  I know that you will be inspired!

Visit Lion Brand Yarn Studio on a day when the union Square farmer's market  is open.  They are just a couple of blocks apart

My husband and I have traveled a lot but two places stand out for me. .  One, Eastern Turkey, where is shopped with the last of my Turkish currency and just plunked it on the counter.  The salesperson began pulling skeins and I left happily with quite and assortment.

The second, the Falklands where we visited a farm and selected beautifully naturally dyed skeins which I knit into an amazing Aran pattern sweater.  

Enjoy the trip

Ruth Ann R. wrote
on Aug 21, 2013 11:05 AM

When we visited Ireland ten years ago there were several opportunities to buy handknit sweaters.  Apparently there is quite a cottage industry in Ireland where women knit sweaters at home  that are in turn sold in stores.  They were beautiful.  I also ended up in a yarn shop in Bath, England because I had forgotten to bring stitch markers (there was lots of time to knit on the tour bus).  Often, when I use these markers, I think of Bath - and indeed, our entire tour of the British Isles.  Wool sweaters on pink-cheeked babies (we happened to be there during their coldest summer on record, this northerner loved it), hillsides full of sheep, yarn shops everywhere!  Love!!

mizdelmonico wrote
on Aug 21, 2013 10:38 AM

@RebeccA:  I visited Boston over 25 years ago when a dear friend lived there. The Mapparium was the highlight of my trip. I still think about it after all these years!

RebeccaA wrote
on Aug 21, 2013 9:59 AM

Dear Sandy,

Congratulations on your upcoming trip to the East Coast.  I lived in Boston for 8 years and LOVED it.  You may have heard about "snobbish" Bostonians, but don't you believe it.  You will find them very polite and helpful on the whole, especially if you get lost -- and you probably will.  Not to be discouraged, Boston is an easy city to get turned around in.

A couple of suggestions that are off the beaten trail are:  (1) The Boston Library (Main Branch on Boylston Street facing Copley Square); and (2) The Suffolk County Courthouse.  

The old section of the Library is worth seeing for its lovely courtyard AND some charming miniature dioramas of Tales from the Arabian Nights and Alice in Wonderland.  Of course, its interior is worth seeing for its own sake.  Naturally, Copley Square has two beautiful architectural jewels of churches:  Trinity Church on Copley Square and New Old South right across the street from the Library.

The other "off-the-beaten" path building is the Suffolk County Courthouse, which is right downtown (Government Center on the Blue Line is the closest, but Park Street on the Red Line is also a close stop).  Inside you can find statues portraying personifications of Justice, such as "Law," "Equity," "Punishment," "Reward," "Temperance" (my personal favorite), etc.

Other guidebooks will give you the usual tourist recommendations such as the Freedom Trail, which has good sites to see, but I thought I would voice my recommendations.

Other things worth seeing:  The Museum of Fine Arts (you could spend a year in this one easily, but check out the section of the Wall of Babylon with its golden lion and glazed blue brick); The Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum, which is near the Museum of Fine Arts, despite having many of its art treasures stolen, has the most beautiful courtyard in the world.  See it if only for the courtyard.

My last recommendation for you is the Christian Science Center.  First off, do not be intimidated.  Christian Scientists are "cool" and will not attempt to proselytize you.  Their publishing center has the "Mapparium," a large stained glass globe of the earth, that one can walk into.  This is the only one of its kind in the world.  Another exhibit contains a Gutenberg Bible.

Naturally, I could make other recommendations, such as the Fogg Museum in Cambridge (gorgeous Pre-Raphaelite paintings to inspire you) and the nearby Museum of Natural History (beautiful glass flowers) -- both within walking distance of Harvard Square -- but I know you are a busy woman.  Have a wonderful trip and make sure to tell us all about it when you return.

MirandaF wrote
on Aug 21, 2013 8:41 AM

When my husband and I first moved in together, we took a trip to san Francisco to celebrate-he'd never been there, and I'd been there a million times. Its always so beautiful. However, we did not bring a camera case or anything to hold batteries except the glove box. While looking for a solution I whipped up a little golden crossbody pouch with leftover goldenrod yarn I had in the car, and a large button we got from my aunt. This bag Came to be known as the "golden gate pouch" and has since come on many adventures  with us.

mizdelmonico wrote
on Aug 21, 2013 7:53 AM

Ten years ago, I traveled to a writer's workshop in Duluth, MN. I expected to be inspired by the workshop, however, my passion for knitting was ignited when I stumbled across Yarn Harbor. What a lovely name for a yarn store!  Bright, airy, spacious!