More ‘Knitting Magic” from Insight Editions

Feb 20, 2022

Posted by: Amanda Kirk

Book Reviews, Books, Fun – Crafts, News, Review

I love this book! When the first official Wizarding World knitting book, Harry Potter: Knitting Magic, was published in 2020, the patterns were so apt, adorable, creative, and impressive that I did not think it could be outdone. But author Tanis Gray, whom Leaky interviewed to hear about her inspiration for the first Knitting Magic pattern book, has indeed outdone herself in this second edition, which includes patterns inspired by Fantastic Beasts. I hope there will be a third! Yes, we Potter knitters are insatiable! But I am getting ahead of myself.

I am not a gushy person by nature, more akin in demeanour to that dour Scotswoman Professor McGonagall, but I love nearly everything about this book. Even the Acknowledgements are charming, with lines like “a Grawp-sized thank you to…” and “I Dumble-adore you” used to express the author’s gratitude to those who helped her with what must have been a delightful but monumental task of soliciting, selecting, testing, describing, and editing the patterns for this collection of magical knitwear.

The physical book is identical to the first one, a sturdy hardback that feels substantial, with glossy colour photos and clear, organised text, charts, and schematic diagrams with both imperial and metric measurements. The charts are in colour. Yes. The charts are in colour! This is such a useful feature that I cannot now bear the thought of using a chart without it. Alas, the two-colour hat I am currently knitting uses cryptic symbols for the colours. Maybe I will colour it in myself, now that I have seen the difference it makes. Knitting charts are already enough like deciphering ancient runes that anything done to ease the strain on one’s tired eyes/mind is a salvation. Looking back at the first Knitting Magic book, it had some coloured charts as well, but somehow the feature did not jump out at me then in the same way that it does now.

As in the first book, there is a list of yarn company websites to source the yarns used in the patterns, as well as a more thorough list of abbreviations in a less painfully tiny font. The glossary is, again, a nice touch as it explains knitting terms such as short rows and stranded colourwork, and various types of cast-ons and bind-offs. My only complaint would be that illustrations would have been very helpful here. Based on my experience as an editor, I expect images were considered and left out for space limitations. I understand that but it limits the usefulness of the instructions in the glossary. I, at least, would need pictures to understand most of them. A series of short YouTube video tutorials or online diagrams to accompany the book would fill this lacuna.

Stills from the films, quotes, and “Behind the magic” tidbits are scattered amongst the patterns. My favourite is the info that the snow in the Great Hall was produced digitally, which explains why it never lands on the students or the house tables. I guess the days of a crew member hidden in the ceiling shaking down soap flakes are long over.

There are 28 patterns, same number as in the first book, divided into four sections.

The first section gives us patterns for stuffies. The initial book featured a Cornish Pixie, Fluffy, and Hedwig. I do not think that knitted Hedwig will ever be surpassed but this round of Knitting Magic contains a Niffler, complete with pocket for hiding his hoard of stolen shiny objects. He is cleverly constructed, and making him will introduce you to a variety of useful knitting techniques, if you are not already familiar with them, including Kitchener stitch, short rows, I-Cord, and picking up live stitches. I might use a bead or eyes from a craft store rather than the yarn eyes if the Niffler is not being made for a small child who could ingest them. Pickett is our next knitted creature, who has cleverly concealed pipe cleaners that enable him to be posable. This section is rounded out by a trio of round-headed dolls representing Harry, Ron, and Hermione.

The second section features replicas of costumes from the films, starting with Newt Scamander’s vintage house scarf. Newt was a Hufflepuff but you can customise it for your own house. The marled yarn gives the broad stripes a subtler look than the modern house scarves. My only quibble is that it claims to use a jogless striping technique but the jog is visible in the photo of the sample. Ron’s earflap hat is next, followed by a hat Ginny wore in Goblet of Fire. Both patterns are good for evoking their respective characters but they share the problem that the costume designer for the films made the Weasley kids’ wardrobes deliberately ugly as a reflection of Molly Weasley’s bad taste and the family’s economic constraints. In contrast, the Hogwarts Quidditch jumper and Tina Goldstein’s cloche hat are film replicas that work as attractive and flattering items of clothing independently from the story.

The penultimate section is the biggest, with 16 apparel and accessory patterns. It includes the playful and cosy Hogwarts Express cowl, a pretty scarf full of the creatures from Newt’s magical suitcase, and a pullover adorned with Honeydukes’ sweets, all in stranded colourwork. Accessories in house colours include ribbed fingerless mitts and house mascot hats. My favourite pattern in this section is the Marauder’s socks. I’m also partial to the Hogwarts castle cowl. But I’m afraid my appreciation for spiders does not extend to wanting to wear a scarf adorned with an Acromantula motif, yet I think it is a wonderful pattern nonetheless. Other patterns in this section are also inspired by magical creatures, including owls and Occamys. Some patterns showcase artefacts from the films such as Horcruxes, dirigible plums, the Elder Wand, and even Gigglewater from the Prohibition era speakeasy in Fantastic Beasts. Auror Kingsley Shacklebolt inspired a Nigerian-themed hat pattern, and Professor McGonagall a Scottish-themed cape. This cape would be on my favourites list if it were covered in Celtic knotwork rather than a diamond pattern.

The final section includes bags and decor. Hermione’s beaded bag is sensibly constructed, lined, and lightly beaded. This pattern is a bit of a sore point with me because nearly a decade ago I was invited to submit a pattern to an unofficial Harry Potter knits collection and I did not finish my bag in time, mainly because it had, I am not kidding, over 9,000 beads, which had to be pre-strung and ended up tangling the yarn so badly that the mess is still lying around ignominiously as a UFO.

Professor Trelawney’s carpet bag is well-done and would probably work, with the optional lining, as a knitting project bag. The colourwork pattern is cheerful, with hearts and flowers. The “Dobby is free” mini socks are meant to be strung on a garland but I would be inclined to make them for a small child, or, if you feel like doing a little math to size them up, for an adult.

A cheery Christmas tree skirt features a repeating motif of trees, owls, and snowflakes. It sparkles with beads in the trees and as the eyes of the owls. (An intrepid knitter might add some to the snowflakes as well.) It is mercifully knit in the round, so no seaming is involved. If this tree skirt were a Howler, it would shriek “Heirloom!” You have plenty of time to knit one for your own tree before next Christmas, and even to knit several to give as gifts. If I have children or grandchildren someday, they will each be getting one. 

Harry Potter: Knitting Magic – More patterns from Hogwarts & beyond is available from Insight Editions for $29.99.

The Leaky Cauldron is not associated with J.K. Rowling, Warner Bros., or any of the individuals or companies associated with producing and publishing Harry Potter books and films.