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The Magic of Knitting

May 10, 2010

Count me as one adult who likes to get lost in the magic of the Harry Potter stories. I really love the vibe of Harry—it's relaxing for me, and I so admire J.K. Rowling's vivid, creative imagination.

The last time I watched one of the movies, I noticed all of the knitwear featured in the various characters' wardrobes. Possibly the most memorable knits are the initial sweaters knit by Mrs. Weasley; when I was working on my nephew Henry's H Sweater, I have to admit I had these sweaters in mind.

When I was looking through patterns for the upcoming knit-along, I came across an article in the Spring 2002 issue of Interweave Knits (you can get these on CD now!), all about "Mrs. Weasley's" sweaters! I thought you all might like to know the real, behind-the-scenes story. (I've edited it for length here, so check out the whole story on the Interweave Knits Collection 2002 CD.)

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KNITTING FOR HARRY POTTER

When Lucy Mackenzie got a message on her answering machine from Colleen Kelsall at the Leavesden film studio outside London in spring 2000, she had no idea why. The mother of two toddlers and the owner of Pride and Joy, a children’s handknit clothing company in southern Scotland, Lucy simply didn’t have time to call back right away. Maybe they want free sweaters for something, she thought nonchalantly.

When she did respond a few days later and the receptionist answered, “Harry Potter Productions,’’ Lucy’s nonchalance quickly turned to excitement. She is a huge fan of J. K. Rowling’s phenomenal novels about the orphaned boy who at age eleven learns he is a wizard and is taken to Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry.

As Lucy soon learned, Colleen was working for the film’s head costume designer Judianna Makofsky, and the two were hoping Pride and Joy could make a few handknits for Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone, the first in the seven projected films in the Harry Potter series—and they absolutely expected to pay for the sweaters. To start, they needed a sweater with an H on it for Harry, and a sweater for each of the four Weasley brothers with their initials—R for Ron, F for Fred, etc.

The hook: they needed two to three exact replicas of each sweater for a total of nearly 15 sweaters and they needed them all within three weeks. And the sweaters needed to look as though they were made by Mrs.Weasley, described in the book as a rather poor knitter. The yarn was Rowan Felted Tweed, chosen, according to Judianna, for its “primitive’’ felted texture and tweedy English look; the typeface for the initials was Engravers MT, which Judianna liked for its old-fashioned, sorcerer-like appearance. In designing costumes for the film, Judianna was always considering director Chris Columbus’s goal of crafting visual images that felt simultaneously realistic and magical.

Because the initial sweaters were meant to look as though they were made by a fairly unskilled knitter, Lucy instructed her knitters to "misplace" the initials high up on the chest and not to worry about mistakes, but she reports, "It's hard for a skilled knitter not to knit properly."

Today Judianna says, “Those lovely ladies from Pride and Joy are the fastest knitters I know.’’ And she explains that they needed multiples of each sweater for the child actors’ stand-ins and as insurance in case a sweater was damaged.

For Lucy and her company, the magic of Harry Potter continues—orders for Harry’s initial sweater and a vest worn by Neville Longbottom in the last scene of Sorcerer's Stone are streaming in via Pride and Joy’s website, www.prideandjoyonline.com.

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I can't think of a more magical way to spend a Friday evening than curled up on the couch with my knitting and a Harry Potter movie in the DVD player. What's your favorite movie to knit to? Let us know in the comments!

Cheers,


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Comments

Mary BethK wrote
on May 19, 2010 12:35 PM

My  8th grade daughter and four of her friends, who all like Harry Potter and knitting, started a Weasley Club.  Their first meeting, they brought food and drinks approximating those found in the books, planned their house scarves or socks, and watched the first movie. The meetings have varied over time, but it's great fun every time.

on May 14, 2010 6:57 AM

I actually can't sit down and watch tv or a movie unless I have something to knit on! even if I'm just swatching out new stitch patterns, I feel like I'm wasting time just sitting there. I finnished a whole baby blanket because of American Idol!

CrystalD@2 wrote
on May 11, 2010 8:14 PM

Well, any HP movie is great - those are why my daughters learned to knit - had to have house (Gryffindor, Slytherin, Hufflepuff, Ravenclaw) scarves!

However, I knit the most during NFL playoffs...2 games per day, both weekend days.

Yes, I watch them all but must have something to do since I don't usually sit that much.

And, we do watch movies based on Austen, Phantom of the Opera (love Emmy and Gerard) and The Holiday (my son is a single dad) often. We watch for handknits in lots of period flicks (Sherlock Holmes, GWTW) and those in The Golden Compass

are fabulous! I made a hat like Lyra's.

TraceyB wrote
on May 11, 2010 10:49 AM

Movies are OK to knit to (I miss a lot )-  I prefer to knit to Sports,  I almost got an entire sweater back completed during a marathon of Football playoffs.  Now it is baseball season and as is approriate my favorite team is the Red Sox!

on May 11, 2010 8:08 AM

The Chronicles of Narnia; the Lion, the Witch, & the Wardrobe (2006) is the best for knitwear- not only were the girls' adorable cardigans and the boys' fair isle vests handknit, but also the boys' fair isle socks and the girls tights and Lucy's sweet little sage green beret. The yarns were handspun because the filmmakers could simply not find an accurate replica of the wool used in the 1940s. Lord of the Rings is always a source of inspiration (if I get anything done inbetween the suspence!) and so is Penelope, in which the costumes and art direction are so fabulous- along with a great story- it's a real treat every time I watch it.

SherryP wrote
on May 11, 2010 6:48 AM

I'm a dedicated Harry Potter knitter! I haven't had the nerve to do one of the sweaters, but I specialize in scarves and socks!  I belong to the HP knit group on Ravelry, though I can't put my needles down long enough to post there. There's also a book  "Charmed Knits," all of patterns by fans recreating the knitwear seen in the movies.

jennantonnix wrote
on May 11, 2010 4:54 AM

I often knit while watching movies -- I keep at least one simple project on the needles, like a garter-border baby blanket, so I won't miss anything.  Romantic comedies, mysteries, I love them all -- but The Princess Bride is my favorite, followed closely by any Mel Brooks movie, because I know exactly what's coming, and I can tell my son "what they just said" whenever he misses a plot point.

AmyR@2 wrote
on May 10, 2010 9:01 PM

I knit to TV shows more often than movies, and my absolute favorite thing to knit to is Project Runway.  It just seems appropriate somehow.  My favorite movie to knit to is Hairspray, followed by Mamma Mia.  Last but not least is bad 80s sci fi-- the cheesier the better!

Rjray7 wrote
on May 10, 2010 6:14 PM

Knitting while watching a good movie is a real treat.  I prefer romance or almost any "feel good" movie.  And if I shed some tears, all the better. The Hallmark Channel movies are great for knitting!

MyleneL wrote
on May 10, 2010 5:42 PM

I too love the Harry Potter movies.  They are so "enchanting"...  I think one of my faves is Under the Tuscan Sun.  I also watch Pretty Woman, Forrest Gump, You've Got Mail, Pride and Prejudice (the new one) and the classic Anne of Green Gables of course.  I saw that someone else wrote that and I had to add it.

Good movies you've seen over and over again are like a warm hug that make me smile.  What better way to spend an evening - good flik, cup of your favorite tea and KNITTING.

Mylene

mrslowry wrote
on May 10, 2010 5:13 PM

And here I thought I was the only one! My son wants a sweater "Just like Harry's" and "It should be easy mom, just copy Ron's!" (my son's name starts with R as well). I love the permission to not be a perfect knitter! I keep trying to tell myself that it adds "character" to my work! If I have a project that I want to bulldoze through I put on movies with sequels, so Harry Potter keeps me company a lot, as does Lord of the Rings, Men in Black, and if I'm really nerding out (or have a LOT of knitting) I have 12 Star Trek movies on the shelf!

on May 10, 2010 5:05 PM

How to Make an American Quilt! It's like Divine Secrets of the Ya-Ya Sisterhood but with quilting, so I feel special as a woman and as a crafter.

sally@48 wrote
on May 10, 2010 2:39 PM

For knitting my H.P. movie of choice is , The Sorcerer's Stone

DonnaF wrote
on May 10, 2010 2:27 PM

Whenever I have an unexpected, or impulse driven, day off from work I pop any one of the first six Harry Potter movies into the DVD player and knit away.  I have no problem watching them over and over.  I'm looking forward to having the whole set of eight H.P. movies so I can have a marathon session with my knitting.

Jen17 wrote
on May 10, 2010 1:40 PM

I have watched my favorite "The Notebook" several times while I'm knitting, until I can't read the pattern through my tears!!

Helene RL wrote
on May 10, 2010 1:30 PM

I enjoy knitting to romantic movies or fun mysteries, especially ones from the golden years of Hollywood. Let me suggest "Random Harvest" and the Nick and Nora Charles "Thin Man" series.

Of course, if you watch a movie as long as "Gone with the Wind" or "Dr Zhivago" you could have a pair of socks completed by the closing credits.

on May 10, 2010 12:37 PM

My only regret while reading Harry Potter, was that I couldn't knit at the same time.  A

little 'magical' help would be wonderful.  I am an advid reader, and knitter.  Deciding which of the two to do is a problem.  (listening to books on tapes, just doesn't do it for me.  The readers usuaally put me to sleep !) But I am always looking for a movie to watch while knitting.  The lifetime movie channel usually wins, or sitting down for the hour that my soap is on.  I try not to miss 'Days'. But seriously Kathleen I wish I had your job.  One can always dream.  Thanks for one of my very favorite knitting magazines.

Linda, in Elkhorn, WI

iscolebrook wrote
on May 10, 2010 12:04 PM

The e-mail address for Pride and Joy should be

www.prideandjoyonline.co.uk

Great site when you find it!

katlynn_tay wrote
on May 10, 2010 12:00 PM

I'm more of a crocheter (I buy knitting mags to drool over, and dream about someday manipulating two needles in such a skilled fashion), but I still have favorite movies to watch while doing my craft.  I love "The Day After Tomorrow" and "Deep Impact" and other similar apocolyptic movies.  Nothing makes me feel warmer on a cold Alaskan winter's day than watching OTHER people freeze while sitting in my living room stitching away on an afghan or scarf or sweater, thinking that should the apocolypse ever hit, I'll have plenty of warm things to keep those around me toasty through the disaster.

JennieVH wrote
on May 10, 2010 11:17 AM

I don't have a favorite (although I have been enjoying watching TV shows from Netflix), but I have learned the hard way that I just CANNOT watch anything with subtitles, and still knit. It's too hard! I either make mistakes or get no knitting done.

CindyH@46 wrote
on May 10, 2010 11:11 AM

The second movie also had a special story.  The Rowan yarn was no longer available so they approached a Scottish mill, New Lanark, to spin the yarn for the sweaters.  What is so special about this?  Well New Lanark is an 18th century mill on the River Clyde and a World Heritage site.  It treated it workers well with free school, fair priced store,  adult education, and sick days.  It is a special, magical place to visit.  In 2007 I picked up the yarn and a Mrs. Weasley sweater kit.

I believe the sweaters were actually knit in Italy.   New Lanark continues to sell yarn spun in its antique equipment in its gift store and on lin.

ebmosier wrote
on May 10, 2010 11:06 AM

Just about any movie set at winter or Christmas, for some reason...and historical dramas, as well as older movies from the 30's. Some of my favorites are the 1994 Little Women, Harry Potter, the original King Kong, It's a Wonderful Life, Star Wars, the original Frankenstein and Dracula...just about anything, really.

sharim630 wrote
on May 10, 2010 10:56 AM

My favorite movie to knit to is "The Jane Austin Book Club".  A wonderful movie that includes knitting, beading, Jane Austin books, and a bunch of wonderful women!

Cindy@211 wrote
on May 10, 2010 10:56 AM

My favorite movie to knit to is Chicken Run.  Just can't help being fond of a knitting chicken who handily has scissors in her kit to  help save the day!

JoanR@2 wrote
on May 10, 2010 10:48 AM

Check out "Lightning Bolt Family" ~ a sweater pattern in Interweave Knits winter 2001/2002 page 64 ff)..."Inspired by the Harry Potter books..." the sweater, "for muggles,"  has a lightning bolt motif on front and back.  This was the first project of mine a few years ago after years away from knitting.  It''s got its share of mistakes but I love it and always receive many compliments. The designer, Lorraine Lener Ciancio explains at length  Harry Potter's inspiration for her magical design!!

Angiejude wrote
on May 10, 2010 10:10 AM

There's a group of us in Ravelry called The Harry Potter Knitting and Crochet House Cup, started by Onica Hanby (our Headmistress), that have been knitting Harry Potter related items for a while.

It resembles Hogwarts and we are all either students or faculty. We have "classes" such as Herbology, DADA, Ancient Runes, History of Magic, etc. where we have monthly assignments that can sometimes be Potter related, but they are always knitted, crochetted or spun assignments full of magic.

We divide ourselves into the four famous houses too, with Prefects and Heads of House.

This has made us finish our knitting, get to know other knitters and share our love of all things Harry Potter.

I really loved your article. Hopefully, you can visit our group at this link: www.ravelry.com/.../hp-knitting-crochet-house-cup

xoxo,

Angiejude

Meghan@4 wrote
on May 10, 2010 10:02 AM

my favorite movies to knit to are Jane Austen movies, the newest rendition of Persuasion is my favorite followed by Pride and Prejudice and Mansfield Park. If Hubs the Great is around we'll watch Stardust over and over and over.. loads of knitting time :)

knp411 wrote
on May 10, 2010 10:01 AM

I love to knit to Harry Potter, Pride and Prejudice, and anything I've seen a lot of so I won't miss anything!

ennadoolf wrote
on May 10, 2010 9:44 AM

One of my faves to knit to, is Anne of Green Gables by Sullivan Films with Megan Follows as Anne.  I also have the book on cd, read by Megan Follows, so often listen to it as well.

Anne

http://ennadoolf.etsy.com

RobertaH@6 wrote
on May 10, 2010 9:41 AM

"It's a great knitting movie" -- we use that phrase regularly in my house!  I can't really one favorite, because it all depends on my mood at the time, but any of the Harry Potter films would be on that list -- along with Star Wars, Indiana Jones, other action movies, and several that are not quite mainstream, like "Ferris Bueller's Day Off", "Juno", "Big Fish", "The Black Stallion' -- there are so many!

KellieN wrote
on May 10, 2010 9:33 AM

I like to knit to familiar movies so I won't miss things when I'm looking down at my work. I too love the HP's as well as these favorites:  The Secret of Roan Inish, The Princess Bride, Star Wars, Emma, Raiders of the Lost Ark, On a Clear Day, and lots of others.