Posted in Thoughts and Ideas

Harry Potter and the Knitting Needle of Secrets

OK, not quite. Though I would love to read that book. But while re-reading the Harry Potter books over summer, I’ve noticed that quite a few characters enjoy their needlework. And amidst Charms, Potions and Defence Against the Dark Arts lessons, these knitters have a lesson or two of their own to teach us about our favourite hobby. So sit up and take notes.

Molly Weasley

‘I told her you didn’t expect any presents and – oh, no,’ he groaned, ‘she’s made you a Weasley jumper.’

Harry had torn open the parcel to find a thick, hand-knitted jumper in emerald green and a large box of home-made fudge.

‘Every year she makes us a jumper,’ said Ron, unwrapping his own, ‘and mine’s always maroon.’

The most prominent knitter of the Harry Potter series is Mrs Weasley. A most remarkable woman in many ways, every Christmas she manages to churn out eight so-called ‘Weasley jumpers’ – one for each of her children, and one for Harry, who has become a member of the Weasley family in all but name. Harry’s first Weasley jumper is emerald green, presumably to match his eyes.

(Sidenote: I couldn’t find Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone earlier, so I used my Latin and German editions to find this information out. And then I found the quotation on the internet, which I probably should have done first. Any excuse to explore Harry Potter in Latin. The Romans, it would appear, had no concept of fudge, and therefore no word for it. What sad, unfulfilled lives they must have led. I wonder what Cornelius Fudge is called in Latin?)

Ron is seen above to lament that his Weasley jumpers are always maroon, but his mother shows no lack of imagination or ability when it comes to Harry’s hand-knitted Christmas presents: she knits him, among others, a jumper with a picture of the Gryffindor lion on in his third year, a green one with a dragon on in his fourth, and one adorned with a large Golden Snitch in his sixth. Her obvious and considerable talent is made all the more impressive when you consider that she appears to prefer hand-knitting these garments, instead of using magic:

‘We danced to this when we were eighteen!’ said Mrs Weasley, wiping her eyes on her knitting. ‘Do you remember, Arthur?’

This gobbet from the Half-Blood Prince seems to imply that she’s hand-knitting everything – otherwise, why would she have the work in her hands to wipe her eyes on? How she manages to create eight mini-masterpieces completely by hand every year, especially when the means for making her task considerably lighter lie quite literally at her fingertips, I will never know, but she serves as a source of knitting inspiration for us all.

Hermione Granger

Hermione develops knitting as a hobby during her fifth year, when she dedicates much of her spare time to creating hats, scarves and socks for the House Elves of Hogwarts. Her first efforts are somewhat shy of perfection – they are described as ‘two misshapen woolly objects’ when she first shows them to Harry – but Hermione, as is her way, doesn’t let this deter her in the slightest. She is confident that her magical prowess can help her along the way:

I’m a really slow knitter without magic but now I’m back at school I should be able to make lots more.

Hermione, unlike Mrs Weasley, prefers to use magic so that she can knit with greater speed and therefore produce far more hats for the House Elves. And, after a while, the garments really do seem simply to knit themselves:

Harry glanced over at her; she was sitting with Crookshanks on her lap and chatting merrily to Ginny as a pair of knitting needles flashed in midair in front of her, now knitting a pair of shapeless elf socks.

Sadly, the socks are still ‘shapeless’. But does Hermione give up? By heck she doesn’t. She carries on diligently knitting away, and slowly but surely improves her technique, until she can tell Harry:

I’m getting better, I can do patterns and bobbles and all sorts of things now.

Hermione Granger is truly a lesson for us all in perseverance and determination.

Rubeus Hagrid

Hagrid took up two seats and sat knitting what looked like a canary-yellow circus tent.

Hagrid was loosely inspired (if I remember correctly) by a man J.K. Rowling saw on a train, who was a massive, hairy biker-type, but was knitting away calmly. She loved that combination of tough and sweet that we know and love in the Hagrid she gave to us. How appropriate then, that Hagrid is seen here knitting away on the train, while taking Harry to Diagon Alley for the first time. I don’t know what this canary-yellow garment turns out to be, but you can bet it’s fabulous. Hagrid can teach us that there is no need to conform to stereotypes or societal expectations – just let your hair down, run through some fields, knit, purl, knit. You do you, Hagrid. You do you.

Dobby

Yes, Dobby. Here we have a knitter who isn’t even human. Screw your boundaries. But Dobby wasn’t always a knitter – he didn’t even own clothes in the past, of course. A passion for socks, however, seems to have taken root in him ever since he obtained Harry’s sock at the end of the Chamber of Secrets, and when we meet him again in the Goblet of Fire, he’s sporting a fine pair of socks:

One of these, Harry saw, was the black one he had removed from his own foot and tricked Mr Malfoy into giving Dobby, thereby setting Dobby free. The other was covered in pink and orange stripes.

Pink and orange stripes? You go, Dobby! He later explains his sock passion further:

Socks are Dobby’s favourite, favourite clothes, sir!…I has seven now, sir…but, sir…they has made a mistake in the shop, Harry Potter, they is giving you two the same!

I think that an odd sock pick’n’mix would be an excellent business idea, and I’m sure Dobby would agree. £5 for 200g of socks in a variety of colours and patterns, and you’d never have to dress your feet like identical twins again. But Dobby didn’t make his socks, nor does he plan on making any of his other clothes:

Dobby is going to buy a jumper next, Harry Potter!

Oh Dobby, Dobby, Dobby. Have you not yet discovered the joys of handmade? Better value for money, more satisfying, tailor made to your own desires, more ethical…but never fear. A spark has ignited in Dobby, and by the time Christmas rolls around, he present Harry with a very special gift:

‘Dobby is making them himself, sir!’ the elf said happily. ‘He is buying the wool out of his wages, sir!’

The left sock was bright red, and had a pattern of broomsticks upon it; the right sock was green, with a pattern of Snitches.

I seriously think Dobby has the potential to be a hit fashion designer in the wizarding world. These socks sound awesome and I would pay good money to display them proudly on my feet. Harry’s reaction is somewhat lukewarm – I would have been far more enthusiastic to receive hand-knitted socks with broomsticks and Snitches on! Such a complex design so early on in his knitting career is mightily impressive, too.

We next meet Dobby in the Order of the Phoenix, where he has become a sort of model for Hermione’s line of House Elf couture:

His large, pointed ears were now sticking out from beneath what looked like all the hats Hermione had ever knitted; he was wearing one on top of the other, so that his head seemed elongated by two or three feet…the elf was also wearing several scarves and innumerable socks, so that his feet looked far too big for his body.’

Dobby, you absolute style icon. There is so much we can learn from him. Firstly, you do not have to be human to be a passionate knitter. Secondly, odd socks are one of the great joys of life. And I think we could all do with a lesson in fashion from our favourite House Elf.

Albus Dumbledore

‘I? I see myself holding a pair of thick, woollen socks.’

Harry stared.

‘One can never have enough socks,’ said Dumbledore. ‘Another Christmas has come and gone and I didn’t get a single pair. People will insist on giving me books.’

It seems that Dobby’s passion for socks is at least equalled, if not surpassed, by Dumbledore’s. I mean, this mirror shows your heart’s greatest desire. And I know that Dumbledore didn’t actually see socks in the Mirror of Erised, but still, they must have been pretty high up on his mind to have said this in the first place. And I’m pretty sure that I would see woolly socks in the Mirror of Erised. That or cake.

So, Dumbledore loves knitted socks, but does he make them himself? Something he says to Slughorn in the Half-Blood Prince would certainly imply so:

‘No, I was merely reading the Muggle magazines,’ said Dumbledore. ‘I do love knitting patterns.’

The greatest wizard of all time loves knitting patterns. Which settles the matter once and for all, in my opinion, and provides us with the most important lesson of all.

Knitting is cool.

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Author:

Hello! I'm Hannah and I'm a Classics undergrad at Cambridge. I spend most of the time which I should be spending on my degree crocheting and sewing instead.

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