Ten Pop Culture Knit Picks

Hi there – Emily here!

When it’s cold and snowy and all-too-wintery outside, all I want to do is stay in my warm apartment and knit cozy things. Sweaters, blankets, scarves, socks – even cute little hand-made stuffed animals – all make January seem more cheerful. As I’ve been sitting around knitting this week surrounded by mounds of fluffy purple, orange, and particularly gorgeous blue wool, I got thinking about my favorite knitting media.

Pop culture is filled with knitters. From clever ladies…

…to ruthless ladies…

…to particularly intelligent dogs…

a whole lot of modern pop culture depicts characters who like to knit. Knitting fulfills a lot of different rhetorical functions in pop culture: sometimes it signals old-time-y comfort; sometimes, when characters take the time to make things for each other, it’s a marker for close personal relationships; sometimes it’s purely practical — or even somewhat laughable. But regardless of the thematic importance of knitting in particular examples of media today, some knitting-centric pop culture just makes me just long to buy more yarn and start a new project. So this week, I want to reflect on some of my favorite pieces of knitting media. (For the purposes of this list, knitting media does not include pop-culture-INSPIRED projects, although a quick search of tumblr, pinterest, or etsy will serve up truly overwhelming amounts of those.) Here, then, are some of my favorite pieces of pop culture that make me want to knit:

1. Doctor Who – There are few pieces of pop-culture-related knitwear more iconic than Tom Baker’s impractical but awesome ten-foot-long scarf. Also, knitting a ten-foot-long scarf seems like the perfect project to undertake while getting sucked into binge-watching the classic BBC show about a time-travelling alien traversing the cosmos with his friends and companions. Who needs practical garments when you have more than three decades of silly science fiction to catch up on? (Amy Pond’s delightful Christmas sweater deserves an honorable mention for awesomeness.)

2. Pushing Daisies – Holy Zooey Deschanel’s ukulele, Batman! We’ve mentioned before just how extraordinarily adorable and twee Pushing Daisies is. Pie shop owner Ned can bring the dead back to life by touching them, and throughout the show he teams up with private investigator (and stress-knitter) Emerson Cod to use his particular gift in order to solve murders. Emerson Cod avoids knitting in public but, as the Narrator notes, “he often left the house with the needles in his pocket, should the opportunity to rib-stitch a ski cap present itself.” That is a sentiment with which I can wholeheartedly sympathize.

3. Gilmore Girls – Okay, we admit that we’ve been talking A LOT about Gilmore Girls ever since it showed up on Netflix this fall. But season seven has a whole episode based on a town-wide knit-a-thon. “Knit People Knit” celebrates the joy of getting together with your friends and lots of skeins of yarn for an afternoon of crafting which manages to be simultaneously lazy and productive. It’s glorious.

4. Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood – At the beginning of each episode of the iconic children’s television show, Mister Rogers enters the room, takes off his sport coat, and puts on a cardigan sweater. Each of those sweaters was hand-knit by his mother (and one now hangs in the Smithsonian). Fred Rogers’ sweaters look comfortable, warm, and made with love. In turn, the act of changing into the sweater at the start of each episode signals an entrance into the gentle, whimsical space of Mister Rogers’ neighborhood.

5. Breakfast at Tiffany’s – In the 1961 Audrey Hepburn film based on Truman Capote’s novella, Holly Golightly is a naive society girl — and a charming but perhaps inept knitter. When her neighbor / love interest Fred comments upon her current knitting project, she confesses:  “Actually I’m a little nervous about it. Jose brought up the blueprints for a new ranch house he’s building. I have this strange feeling that maybe the blueprints and my knitting instructions got switched. I mean, it isn’t impossible that I’m knitting a ranch house!” While I imagine that few of us have ever managed to switch a ranch house for a sweater, Holly’s concern about her ability to recognize her knitted product is certainly a familiar feeling! I recommend putting on Breakfast at Tiffany’s to feel better about your own knitting prowess the next time you turn your yarn stash into one big nest of tangles.

6. Outlander – Since it came on the air in the summer, the new Starz drama about a World War II nurse who finds herself in eighteenth-century Scotland has attracted some very well-earned attention for its gorgeous knitwear. Claire’s sweaters, shawls, and shrugs look just as cozy and inviting as does her Highlander lover.

7. The Hunger Games – Suzanne Collins’s dystopian YA novels and the films based off of them might not seem like the most obvious pick for cozy, warm knitting media, but have you SEEN Katniss’s cowl/scarf/shawl/sweater/wrap thing? It’s the perfect one-shoulder accessory for the kick-ass lady archer in your life.

8. Penelope – Christina Ricci plays Penelope, a woman cursed to have a pig’s snout for a nose in this whimsical romantic comedy. Penelope has been hidden away all her life for fear that she will be reviled for her looks. So when she decides to experience life and venture into the “real” world, she wears a particularly stunning scarf to cover her face. Although the film hinges on her coming to accept herself and leave off her scarf (and, you know, fall in love with James McAvoy), the scarf itself is rather fabulous, and I can imagine few afternoons better than one spent knitting yourself a Penelope scarf while watching Penelope over again.

9. Firefly – In a mid-season episode from the beloved one-season Joss Whedon show about a ragtag group of space cowboys (more or less), dangerous mercenary Jayne Cobb receives a package from his mother: a homemade hat and a letter. The hat isn’t actually a particularly attractive garment but it’s the thought that counts when Jayne pulls on the hat, inspiring countless Firefly fans to do the same. After all, as the ship’s pilot, Wash, observes, “Man walks down the street in that hat, people know he’s not afraid of anything.”

(Emily’s birthday gift to her sister last year. It’s a cunning hat.)

(Emily’s birthday gift to her sister last year. It’s a cunning hat.)

10. Harry Potter – The wizarding world is rife with knitwear. Albus Dumbledore reads knitting patterns while recruiting Defense Against the Dark Arts professors, Hermione Granger knits clothing for house elves, and Molly Weasley is stunningly amazing enough to produce a sweater for each of her seven children (and Harry!) every year for Christmas. You know you want a Weasley sweater. And a Hogwarts scarf. And a house elf tea cozy / hat.

Happy Knitting!

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