Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Wizard Knits: The Harry Potter Exhibition

If you are anywhere near Boston and have an interest in Harry Potter (or a child with an interest), do whatever is necessary to make it to the Harry Potter travelling Exhibition at the Museum of Science. Showcasing items, props, and clothing from the movies, the immersion-style rooms are transporting... magical in displays such as the dining hall which is complete with floating candles. Even if you can't enjoy the masterful book binding techniques, or experience joy in pulling up a shrieking mandrake, as a knitter you will find plenty to amuse.

The Weasley knit afghan was a favorite. The blanket is made of 7" squares in all different non-matching colors (some unevenly striped, some solid) and then sewn together with random orientation and finally stitched on some seams with black a crazy quilt. Of course the house sweaters were there, knit with darker grey yarn in a finer gauge than the one featured in "Charmed Knits." Ron's Ragg Raglan (a pattern given in the same book) was almost spot on in it's design, although the R in reality is an applique made from a plaid tan fabric rather than the red pictured.

My favorite sweater was the sweater Ron is wearing in this shot. The neckline was funky...knit as a V which at its base is narrow, then suddenly widens it's angle midway up the neckline, and over-sewn with a worn red canvas ribbon. Love it.

The highlight of the exhibit was in Hagrid's Hut, pictured above top. Behind where the photographer stood (and so not pictured), was a bookshelf containing Hagrid's objects. Inside were his books, glasses, etc...and behind it all was......YARN!!!!!!!!!!!!!! JK Rowling seems consistent in her desire to send a message to all knitters that Hagrid knits. The yarn is a rough and rugged dark brown bulky weight handspun single-ply wool ...not dissimilar from this one. If you follow my blog you'll know I wrote a piece of fan fiction based on the one sentence in her first book which indicated that Hagrid Knits. You can read it in my archives HERE.

Wednesday, September 30, 2009

End of Hurricane Season Sweater

This sweater is a happy reminder to all of those in the Gulf that we are wrapping up Hurricane Season without a SINGLE major evacuation in 2009. It is also, significantly, the end of my 10Th year of marriage (I was married on the day of Hurricane Georges...the only other mandatory evacuation of New Orleans other than Katrina in modern history). I have elected to celebrate the end of the season, with a child's sweater, bearing the international symbol of the hurricane. If you knew my third son, you would understand why the symbol is particularly appropriate worn on his precious chest. Here's to all you survivors...of New Orleans... of Hurricanes...of children.

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Plimoth Rock Plantation...and knitting!

My dear friend, Julie, and her beautiful boys visited us in Boston this summer. Thinking that a visit with a 9 year old and a 7 year old boy demanded some structure and an essay-worthy summer activity, I brought our clan of 5 boys (total) to Plymouth, MA for a day wandering through our colonial history. At Plimoth Plantation we were pleasantly surprised by a very modern retelling of the Colonial experience in America in an air-conditioned Hi-def theater before being released to walk the intrepid trails of our forefathers. We visited the original Plimoth Rock where Europeans were reputed to place their first thankful steps on American soil. We visited a Wompanoag community where one is not only not discouraged (as in the desert SW) but is encouraged to snap photos of their traditional ways. Most noteably, a Wompanoag woman who had given birth only 1 month previously was raising her son traditionally and was generously encouraging tourists to photograph their cohabitation on the site. Personally, if anyone had brought a camera within 20 miles of me 2 months post partum I would have slung it against the nearest wigwam. Further along, we visited the Pilgrim's settlement, where the kids enjoyed watching early animal husbandry with goats and sheep. On the site, Plimoth Plantation boasts an impressive collection of rare animals in its Nye Barn. "The animals you will see at the Nye Barn, as well as those in the 1627 English Village, are all older breeds that were common in past centuries, but have critically low breeding populations today." Notable to knitters are the San Clemente, Arapawa Island goats and the Wiltshire Sheep. You can support the recovery of these historic animals through the efforts of the Plimoth Scientists by clicking the following link (allowing you to donate AND get a cute stuffie for your closest and dearest kid): Adopt a Colonial Animal

Alternately, you could support the historic site as a whole WHILE supporting your own sick self-serving and ever-growing stash :-) by purchasing some of their absolutely YUMMY locally spun yarn!!!!!!!!!!! Here is what I got!
Or why not indulge yourself in one more sock never know when you might need it. My guess is that nobody appreciated warm woolen socks as much as the Pilgrims, so the pattern is likely pretty good.

In short, a summer adventure need not be entirely devoted to the kids interests...goodies for knitters can be found everywhere. Here's to getting the kids out without being ENTIRELY self-sacrificing!

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Chapter 3 3/4: Hagrid Knits

I went to see the most recent Harry Potter (The Half-Blood Prince) with my sons this weekend and was once again surprised to love it unquestioningly. Notably, I rejoiced at the inclusion of Dumbledore's interest in "knitting patterns" which he reveals upon emerging from the bathroom holding a knitting magazine he hopes to borrow. Though I suspected that J. K. Rowling was a knitter based on Mrs. Weazley's magical knitting needles and her annual fabulous knit gift for the children, my suspicion was confirmed by Dumbledore's admission.

During a reading of the first Harry Potter book to my sons years ago, I came upon a single sentence which implicated Hagrid as a knitter. My boys leapt at the reference ("Hagrid KNITS?!?!?!?") and so I created my own chapter (chapter 3 3/4) to further detail Hagrid's hobby. I wrote this essay in hopes of inspiring my own sons to see knitting as a non gender-based activity...perhaps by sharing it with young boys you know we could inspire our own magic in the knitting world.

Hagrid tossed another slab of meat to Fang. With an audible snap, the large dog caught the meal in mid air and swallowed it whole.

“Y’ be needin’ a little extra tonight…I’m goin’ to be out,” Hagrid muttered to his companion as he rifled through the pile of belongings on his desk.

July 31st. Hagrid reflected on the day. Harry Potter’s birthday. Could it have been 12 years already since the night he received the terrifying call from Professor Dumbledore to go fetch the baby. 12 years since the night he first held the tiny Potter orphan in his (literally and figuratively) giant hands. He remembered the night as though it was just recently. He recalled plucking the infant safe from his crib amidst a scene of carnage and destruction – the remains of the child’s parents only feet from his unscathed crib in the wake of the fateful visit from He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named. That night he swaddled little Harry in a blanket and tucked him inside his moleskin cloak, holding him tightly with one arm (though not too tightly, being careful not to crush the tiny infant), and sped on Sirius Black’s enchanted motorcycle to meet Dumbledore on Privet Drive…as directed.

Years had passed since that night, and the boy’s fame grew with every passing year since their intersection had resulted in Voldermort’s vanishing from the wizarding world. Even if Hagrid hadn’t felt Harry’s birthday seared into his memory, he would never have been able to forget its passing since the entire wizarding world now celebrated the date…as they celebrated Harry and his greatness in vanquishing the Dark Lord.

This birthday, however, was different from the preceding ones. This year, Hagrid had received the “OK” from Dumbledore to visit the boy again…on official business, of course. Hagrid nearly kissed Dumbledore’s pointy shoes, so overjoyed he was with the news that he was to deliver the Hogwarts letter of acceptance to the boy he had rescued from that unforgettable scene. On hearing the details of his mission, however, Hagrid’s enthusiasm began to fade. The Dursleys (that Muggle family which had been caring for the boy since he was orphaned and unwittingly hiding him in their thick mediocrity from the wizarding world) had squirreled him away to a remote rock in the middle of the sea off Cokeworth. Barring the use of magic, there would be no easy way of getting to such a place

“Not to worry, Hagrid,” Dumbledore reassured him, “flying would be permissable under the circumstances.” Hagrid breathed a sigh of relief. Since his expulsion from Hogwarts under suspicion of raising unpermitted creatures, Hagrid had not been allowed to practice magic. Not such a bad thing, really, since he had struggled as a student to begin with. Still, at times like this, even mediocre magic came in handy. Only in emergency situations did Dumbledore life the restriction against Hagrid practicing magic. the last time being the night of Harry’s rescue.

Thus it was that Hagrid found himself blustering around his hut, preparing for his departure. It was a bit of a trip, so Hagrid expected to be away from his comfortable little hut on the Hogwart’s grounds for at least a day and a night. Fang would be fine if fed a few extra pieces of meat. He would need to wear his moleskin coat as the small rock on which Harry was cloistered was at present under assault by a torrential rain and windstorm. The key, perhaps most importantly, he must remember the Gringott’s key. The letter. Some sausages…sustenance for the trip.

He had the essentials…all but one. It would be a long night in that dank cabin on the rock. If Harry needed to sleep before their journey, he had better pack a little something to keep him busy. Reading was out…he gave that up once he was expelled (apart from the guides he read on care and feeding of his magical creatures whenever he met a new challenge, and the Daily Prophet- though that was hardly worth reading any more with all the dodgy reporting). Fang was good company, but not much of a conversationalist at night and so, Hagrid had taken to knitting. It was a hobby that came in handy since, being a giant, and being forbidden to magically create clothes, it was difficult to obtain tunics and sweaters in his generous size. Knitting would be perfect to pass the time tonight.

Hagrid’s desk was as cluttered as the pockets of his black overcoat. With consternation he searched through the piles amassed atop the great desk. Pieces of flint, feathers, twine, a rusty pulley, acorn caps, a few Knuts…all sorts of objects that may come in handy to a grounds-keeper. Still, he couldn’t find his knitting needles. It shouldn’t be hard to find them…they were, after all, size 000 (anything smaller than 00 felt like toothpicks in his massive fingers).

Ah-ha, he at last recalled – in the umbrella stand, just where he had left them. He gathered a couple hanks of bulky canary-yellow homespun and stuffed them into a pocket with his scribbled notes on dimensions for the griffin’s saddle blanket. Ready, but for one final item…the cake. Hagrid stooped to open his refrigerator and, stuffed behind jars of frogs and pounds of meat, his oversized hand located it – the large, sticky chocolate cake he had purchased for the occasion. As requested, the Hogwarts baker had inscribed, “Happy Birthday Harry” with green icing. Hagrid placed the cake carefully into a box and stuffed it not-so-carefully into another pocket and strode out the door.

This short story was inspired by a two sentences from the touchstone novel by JK Rowling, Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone. In Chapter 5, she writes, “Hagrid took up two seats and sat knitting what looked like a canary-yellow circus tent. “Still got yer letter, Harry?” he asked as he counted stitches.” The illustration was adapted from the wonderful illustrations in the book by Mary GrandPre.

Sunday, May 24, 2009

Brimfield, Spring 2009: The Good, The Bad, and the Just Plain Absurd, Part II

This year's trip to Brimfield was a windfall for vintage knitting patterns. As I pointed out in my last post, one of the characteristics of Brimfield is that one generally finds a lot of "bad" and "absurd" mixed in with the good...taken all together, the lot was rich and satisfying. Here are a few of my favorites:

The Good:
  1. For Babies-

2. For Boys:
3. For Dogs:

4. For Men:
5. For Women:
...Who love New Orleans, or Fleur-de-lis...just invert the 3-point motif...(I'll do it just to prove it works)...LOVE the wavy very modern columns!
And finally,
the BAD...or at least, pretty ABSURD:
...Cute, but I think I'll use the tassels and pom-poms for my curtains...
No flipping way will my boys EVER wear this... I don't care HOW cold it gets in New England!!!
So, if you like any of the patterns, I wouldn't dream of charging money for them...
but I WOULD like you to compose a short rhyme (a poem requirement...though readers KNOW how I love poetry...would apply too much creative pressure) expressing your appreciation for the pattern requested. Please leave said rhyme in the comments section, along with your email address, and I will happily forward you the requested pattern.
What's new is old...what's OLD is NEW!!!
I apologize, gentle reader, for the jumbling of photographs. Despite repeated attempts to make this post lay out properly, it continues to rebel. I trust that you will be able to sort out which knits are for dogs and which are for men and boys :-)

Monday, May 18, 2009

Brimfield, Spring 2009: The Good, The Bad, and the Just Plain ABSURD: Part I

Ah, Brimfield in Spring...Part One of an Annual three-part adventure held in highest esteem by artists, historians, junkies and junk addicts across the country. For 6 solid days (beginning at 0-dark-thirty), devotees flock to Brimfield, MA for the largest assemblage of antique dealers in the country...6000 tents filled to the brim with "one person's trash." The appeal for me is the promise of finding that unrecognized "diamond in the rough," unrecognized by its host, waiting to be discovered. Sustained by this optimistic pipe-dream, I can spend hours rifling through boxes like these...despite the rains of the May show and the oppressive heat of the July show. And though one could claim that the promise of treasure can be found in many shopping venues, one is considerably less likely to be downright shocked/surprised while scanning the racks of Filenes's, and unlikely to be suddenly thrust on a trip down memory lane while in Bloomingdale's. Brimfield is not just the opportunity to instead brings to mind the great Western, "The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly"in which rough gunslingers compete with oneanother in search of burried confederate gold. To adapt to the specifics of the Brimfield experience, I will call it, "The Good, The Bad, and the just plain Absurd." Here is my pictorial summary of those three categories from the May show this year:

The Good:

Despite the absolute certainty of rain during the May show, both my travel companion and doyenne, artist Jenn Mason, and I BOTH forgot our rain gear. This kindly concessions dealer took pity on us and gave us two garbage bags, with a little artful adaptation became wonderful rain ponchos...and we became, "The Bag Ladies."

Two favorite ladies combine their Concord Shops at Brimfield and create the most magical tent on the fields. Cary Goodrich of Thoreauly Antiques and the proprietress of Nesting on Main assemble this not-to-be-missed dream scape where I acquired the vintage sheep cigarette cards shown at the head of this blog entry.

I found this little vintage ad in a newspaper entitled Good Literature printed in's fun to see.

Here are the buttons I found at the group from someone who knew the value of these old crochet buttons to a handicrafter (Nifty Thrifty Dry Goods...has every vintage button you could covet...but not inexpensive), and one group in the bottom of a junk drawer (which cost me 50 cents.

Beautiful pins proving (once again) that the simplest concepts often result in the most beautiful creations. These were being sold at Dusty's (THE source for vintage tablecloths)...a friend of hers has been making them out of old wool ribbon that she ties and wraps. Couldn't be prettier.

And the vintage knitting find of the show...This collection (again, found in a drawer) of antique British Knitting pins in their original case!


Brimfield is where all old bad bridesmaid/prom dresses... and washing machines go to die an ugly death...

Falling into the "bad" category is this basket crafted from a dead armadillo...fruit anyone?

And it was a big day for pregnant female are two that were particularly bad...

....and finally,

The Just Plain ABSURD:

OK, I'm not sure I can come up with a scenario where an amputee would be hopping around Brimfield looking to buy a prosthetic leg....

And this little guy...I can't think of a purpose for this yard dog...unless it's like a scarecrow for moles and groundhogs...but it surely doesn't count as ART.

And finally, my favorite absurd find of Brimfield, the mid-century Porta-Sauna...Individual size, in a stunning shade of Aqua...I had been LOOKING for one of those!

Stay tuned for Part II...the Good, the Bad, and the Just Plain ABSURD of vintage patterns found at the show!