The Story Behind Thesaurus…


I’d had the idea for Thesaurus kicking around in my head for a long time now—heck, from just about the time I started designing fabric, I’d just been waiting for the right place or time to finally make it. So, when I was asked if I would like to do a project in conjunction with Quilts for Kids, everything began to fall into place.


Thesaurus itself actually started about five years ago, with a print suite I designed for my soon-to-be-born daughter: Some Really Long Words Every Child Should Know. These prints illustrated some of my favorite long words, words that are now some of my four-year-old’s favorite bits of vocabulary. I love how she uses those words as starting points for stories and to make sense of her world: “Why are you walking around me, Bee?” “I’m circumambulating you…”

But Thesaurus has another side, one that really made me want to do it in connection with Quilts for Kids. Shortly after Bee was born I became catastrophically ill; I spent most of my time in a semi-paralytic state. I could only move for short periods of time, my heart was slowing down, and I couldn’t even read because my eye muscles had grown so weak. As the months went by my world became smaller and smaller. Luckily I eventually found a diagnosis, and with treatment have returned to something like a normal life, but that experience of being stuck in bed day after day has left an imprint.


For a chronically ill child the world can become a very small place, as so many things that most take for granted become impossible. For such a child, stories can take on an enormous role; where actual experiences are limited, an imaginative world grows. There are so many ways to find stories now: books, TV, games, online communities, but I remain an enormous fan of just making stories up, and that is where Thesaurus comes back in. While ordinary words are important, they rarely set the imagination going; we take those basic words for granted. A man with a mustache is not so exciting, but I can tell you a thousand tales of a whiskerando. A bit of horripilation (when the hairs on the back of your neck stand up) makes every spooky story better. A zumbooruk (a camel-mounted canon) makes any battle more exotic.


I designed Thesaurus as a prompt for stories, for imagination, and for investigation. If one kid gets into butterflies because the word lepidoptery (the study of butterflies) is so cool then I’ll be exceedingly happy. But the real goal of Thesaurus is to bring children and adults together under a quilt to talk, to spend time together, to make up stories and share new words. While I designed this collection with Quilts for Kids in mind, I hope this collection might in some small way serve as a prompt for more families to spend a little extra time with some wonderful words, some new stories, and each other.

Click here to see more pics of Thesaurus, or head on over to the Andover site to see the whole collection


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15 Responses to The Story Behind Thesaurus…

  1. 1
    Emily says:

    I love this more than big words can express.

    • 1.1
      thomas says:

      Thank you. This was a really personal collection for me, even if no-one else would guess it. Actually, that is pretty much always the case with my fabric designs…

  2. 2

    Hearing your intimate reason for creating this collection makes it all the better. I’m especially happy to see the word defenestration — it’s one of my favorites. I even made a mini art quilt based on it:

  3. 3
    Diane says:

    As a former first grade teacher,mi love your fabrics and think they certainly will spark a love of wonder and learning. Great job!

  4. 4
    Cecilia says:

    These are wonderful! I love the colors and the “long” words! My 3 year old granddaughter loves new words and this would make a great quilt for her. Thank you for helping the Quilts for Kids, it is a great project.

  5. 5
    Hilary says:

    I love the reasons behind your creation of Thesaurus…I think we have a responsibility as parents to introduce wonderful words to our children. One of the best compliments I ever received as a parent was “you use such big words with your children”.
    I know it was worth it as they have all grown up devouring books and regularly swipe each others books to read on the train to work – one of them would rather buy a book than a meal!

  6. 6
    Jane B says:

    I love this fabric and it goes perfectly with our very wordy family. We used to look up word origins to entertain our kids and some of my daughter’s earliest reading was sounding out long dinosaur names. Great memories. She is all grown up now, but I bet she would still love a quilt with these wonderful words.

  7. 7
    Joanna says:

    I am super excited about this collection. My son has an amazing and somewhat obsessive love of letters and words. It started when he was a toddler and fell in love with all things letters. He would even race past greeting me to get to the letter magnets on the fridge. Sometimes it was even a little concerning, but over time we discovered it was just his “thing”. As he’s grown, the love has expanded to words. He loves exploring rhymes and synonyms and ranks spelling as his favorite subject. So, this fabric is perfect for him. I’ve already shown him the collection and he’s a huge fan. I’m working on the quilt plans and once I figure out the basic design, we’ll sit down together and figure out what words I’ll applique onto it. It should be so much fun.

    Thank you for designing the perfect fabric for my son.

  8. 8

    […] they gave me two and a half years ago, it has become clear to me that it is time for me to move on. Thesaurus will be my last collection with Andover, and I obviously hope it does really well; there is so much […]

  9. 9
    MarciaW says:

    Thanks for adding your explanation behind the story of Thesaurus. It should be part of the product sheet literature provided to shops who purchase from Andover. Best wishes for a successful move to a new phase in your career, and your family’s life.

  10. 10

    […] design at Drake University from 2002-2007 before moving to upstate New York to start a family. Thesaurus, Thomas Knauer’s latest fabric line for Andover Fabrics, debuted in spring of 2013. More on […]

  11. 11

    […] that is the really hard question. I assume there will be more and more fabric.  I have a new collection called Thesaurus that came out in spring. It was designed for a joint project with Quilts for Kids. I have a running […]

  12. 12
    amylouwho says:

    My husband is always threatening to defenestrate the kids out the window. Maybe telling stories under a quilt would be a better plan. hehehe Great collection, great story!! Thanks for sharing.

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