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afrenchindublin via YouTube
afrenchindublin via YouTube

On Pins and Needles: 11 Famous Knitters

afrenchindublin via YouTube
afrenchindublin via YouTube

Knitting has experienced a bit of a renaissance in the past decade or so. But for some people, it never went out of style. From monarchs to maniacs, you might be surprised to see who knows their way around a pair of needles.

1. JULIA ROBERTS

Julia Roberts is known for her knitting chops—so much, in fact, that Tom Hanks involved her hobby when he made her the target of one of his on-set pranks. While they were filming the comedy Larry Crowne in 2011, Hanks rounded up all of the crew members and gave them yarn and needles. When Roberts walked into the room, all of them were hard at work knitting and purling.

You can see the prank in the video below, starting at 1:00:

2. JOAN CRAWFORD

Joan Crawford once devised a way to use her knitting against co-stars she disliked. When she was supposed to run lines with enemy Norma Shearer off-camera, Crawford reportedly broke out a pair of gigantic knitting needles and clicked them together loudly, working on an afghan. Shearer refused to speak to Crawford directly, asking director George Cukor if he would “kindly tell Miss Crawford her knitting needles are distracting?” Crawford could hear her, of course, but pretended not to. Cukor asked Crawford to apologize, but she declined. “I will not," she said. "I’ll send her a telegram.”

3. BETTE DAVIS

Another Crawford rival, Bette Davis, was also an avid knitter. There are many pictures of her knitting on set—and she managed to work on pieces during several films as well. Here she is knitting during Phone Call From a Stranger (1952).

Billie Sue Mosiman via YouTube

4. RYAN GOSLING

When Ryan Gosling was on the set of Lars and the Real Girl in 2007, he filmed a scene that involved hanging out in a room full of elderly ladies who were knitting. The scene took all day to film, so the ladies gave Gosling a few lessons when there was time to kill between takes. “It was one of the most relaxing days of my life," he said. "If I had to design my perfect day, that would be it. And you get something out of it at the end. You get a nice present. For someone who wants an oddly shaped, off-putting scarf.”

5. ELEANOR ROOSEVELT

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First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt wrote in her autobiography that she spent every spare minute knitting for the war effort, and indeed, she was often photographed with a pair of needles and some yarn. “She knit because she could not sit still," said Mary Ann Colopy, a national park ranger at the Roosevelt/Vanderbilt National Historic Site in Hyde Park, New York. "Her projects were very utilitarian, and would have been worn and then discarded.” The site has one of Roosevelt’s knitted pieces on display—an army green sweater made for Joe Lash, a friend in the service. A few years ago, Colopy discovered a couple of manuscript patterns among some of the First Lady’s personal papers. She had them translated, so you can knit the same mittens Eleanor Roosevelt did.

6. GRACE COOLIDGE

Roosevelt’s predecessor in the White House, Grace Coolidge, found it calming to knit, calling the hobby a “stabilizer in time of perplexity or distress.” She contributed many articles and knitting patterns to ladies' magazines during her time, including this one, which was originally published in the February 1930 Needlecraft Magazine of Home Arts. Coolidge’s version can now be found in the Lincoln Bedroom at the White House.

7. CHARLES MANSON

Being confined to a maximum security prison has given Charlie Manson time to learn new skills. He sometimes unravels his socks and knits them into dolls, but he also has access to yarn. In fact, he claims he lost one of his teeth when he used them to cut yarn.

8. KATE MIDDLETON

When Kate Middleton was pregnant with Prince George in 2013, she took up knitting—though it apparently didn’t go very well. “I'm really bad. I should be asking for tips!" she told a Glaswegian fan. Maybe she improved by the time Princess Charlotte was born last year.

9. QUEEN ELIZABETH II

Kate could probably turn to her own grandmother-in-law for tips—after all, the Queen has been knitting since she was only Princess Elizabeth. During WWI and WWII, knitting was more than just a hobby—it was a way to show patriotism. Because soldiers needed sweaters, gloves, hats, scarves, and lots of socks to prevent trench foot, women were encouraged to spend their spare time knitting items to send overseas (as evidenced by this propaganda poster). Princess Elizabeth and her sisters were photographed knitting on numerous occasions, likely to set a good example for other children. The Queen Mother also practiced the hobby, but didn’t remember it so fondly: She once recalled that WWI was just endless “knitting, knitting, knitting.”

10. GRACE KELLY

Kelly once attempted to knit a pair of socks for Clark Gable as a Christmas present. They were filming Mogambo (1953) at the time and were on location in Tanganyika in Africa. As often happens with knitters, Kelly didn’t quite finish the gift in time for the holiday—so she improvised. “I stole a pair of his own socks,” she told The Saturday Evening Post’s Peter Martin. “Each day I stole something else from him. On Christmas Eve I filled one of his socks with his own things and hung it up. It was a silly gesture, but he liked it. I am very fond of Clark.”

11. RINGO STARR

If that whole “Beatle” thing hadn’t worked out for him, the Fab Four drummer could have fallen back on knitting. Starr was quite sickly as a child, and learned how to knit during a hospital stay. “That was the sort of thing you could do in a bed,” he explained to Rock Cellar Magazine.

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10 People Who Have Misplaced Their Oscars
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Winning an Oscar is, for most, a once-in-a-lifetime achievement. Unless you’re Walt Disney, who won 22. Nevertheless, owning a little gold guy is such a rarity that you’d think their owners would be a little more careful with them. Now, not all of these losses are the winners' fault—but some of them certainly are, Colin Firth.

1. ANGELINA JOLIE

After Angelina Jolie planted a kiss on her brother and made the world wrinkle their noses, she went onstage and collected a Best Supporting Actress Oscar for her role as Lisa in Girl, Interrupted. She later presented the trophy to her mother, Marcheline Bertrand. The statuette may have been boxed up and put into storage with the rest of Marcheline’s belongings when she died in 2007, but it hasn’t yet surfaced. “I didn’t actually lose it,” Jolie said, “but nobody knows where it is at the moment.”

2. WHOOPI GOLDBERG

In 2002, Whoopi Goldberg sent her Ghost Best Supporting Actress Oscar back to the Academy to have it cleaned and detailed, because apparently you can do that. The Academy then sent the Oscar on to R.S. Owens Co. of Chicago, the company that manufactures the trophies. When it arrived in the Windy City, however, the package was empty. It appeared that someone had opened the UPS package, removed the Oscar, then neatly sealed it all back up and sent it on its way. It was later found in a trash can at an airport in Ontario, California. The Oscar was returned to the Academy, who returned it to Whoopi without cleaning it. “Oscar will never leave my house again,” Goldberg said.

3. OLYMPIA DUKAKIS

When Olympia Dukakis’s Moonstruck Oscar was stolen from her home in 1989, she called the Academy to see if it could be replaced. “For $78,” they said, and she agreed that it seemed like a fair price. It was the only thing taken from the house.

4. MARLON BRANDO

“I don’t know what happened to the Oscar they gave me for On the Waterfront,” Marlon Brando wrote in his autobiography. “Somewhere in the passage of time it disappeared.” He also didn't know what happened to the Oscar that he had Sacheen Littlefeather accept for him in 1973. “The Motion Picture Academy may have sent it to me, but if it did, I don’t know where it is now.”

5. JEFF BRIDGES

Jeff Bridges had just won his Oscar in 2010 for his portrayal of alcoholic country singer Bad Blake in Crazy Heart, but it was already missing by the next year’s ceremony, where he was up for another one. He lost to Colin Firth for The King’s Speech. “It’s been in a few places since last year but I haven’t seen it for a while now,” the actor admitted. “I’m hoping it will turn up, especially now that I haven’t won a spare! But Colin deserves it. I just hope he looks after it better.” Which brings us to ...

6. COLIN FIRTH

Perhaps Jeff Bridges secretly cursed the British actor as he said those words, because Firth nearly left his new trophy on a toilet tank the very night he received it. After a night of cocktails at the Oscar after-parties in 2011, Firth allegedly had to be chased down by a bathroom attendant, who had found the eight-pound statuette in the bathroom stall. Notice we said allegedly: Shortly after those reports surfaced, Firth's rep issued a statement saying the "story is completely untrue. Though it did give us a good laugh."

7. MATT DAMON

When newbie writers Matt Damon and Ben Affleck took home Oscars for writing Good Will Hunting in 1998, it was one of those amazing Academy Award moments. Now, though, Damon isn’t sure where his award went. “I know it ended up at my apartment in New York, but unfortunately, we had a flood when one of the sprinklers went off when my wife and I were out of town and that was the last I saw of it,” Damon said in 2007.

8. MARGARET O'BRIEN

In 1945, seven-year-old Margaret O’Brien was presented with a Juvenile Academy Award for being the outstanding child actress of the year. About 10 years later, the O’Briens' maid took the award home to polish, as she had done before, but never came back to work. The missing Oscar was forgotten about when O’Brien’s mother died shortly thereafter, and when Margaret finally remembered to call the maid, the number had been disconnected. She ended up receiving a replacement from the Academy.

There’s a happy ending to this story, though. In 1995, a couple of guys were picking their way through a flea market when they happened upon the Oscar. They put it up for auction, which is when word got back to the Academy that the missing trophy had resurfaced. The guys who found the Oscar pulled it from auction and presented it, in person, to Margaret O’Brien. “I’ll never give it to anyone to polish again,” she said.

9. BING CROSBY

For years, Bing Crosby's Oscar for 1944’s Going My Way had been on display at his alma mater, Gonzaga University. In 1972, students walked into the school’s library to find that the 13-inch statuette had been replaced with a three-inch Mickey Mouse figurine instead. A week later, the award was found, unharmed, in the university chapel. “I wanted to make people laugh,” the anonymous thief later told the school newspaper.

10. HATTIE MCDANIEL

Hattie McDaniel, famous for her Supporting Actress win as Mammy in Gone with the Wind, donated her Best Actress Oscar to Howard University. It was displayed in the fine arts complex for a time, but went missing sometime in the 1960s. No one seems to know exactly when or how, but there are rumors that the Oscar was unceremoniously dumped into the Potomac by students angered by racial stereotypes such as the one she portrayed in the film.

An earlier version of this post ran in 2013.

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15 Wonderfully Wise Quotes From Judy Blume
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Evan Agostini, Getty Images

Judy Blume was the queen of the YA novel before the concept even existed, inspiring generations of passionate fans—and a fair share of dissenters—in her nearly 50-year career. Here are just a few of our favorite thoughts about books, writing, and life from the iconic author, who turns 80 years old today.

1. ON BEING ONE OF THE MOST BANNED AUTHORS OF THE 20TH CENTURY

“I’ll tell you what I make of that—that censors, those who want to censor, they don’t come after books until they know that kids really like them, and once kids like a book, it’s like, ‘There must be something wrong with this book, because why do the kids like it.’ You look at the banned books and you’ll see that they’re popular books with kids.”

— From a 2012 interview with PBS

2. ON THE EFFECTS OF CENSORSHIP

“But it's not just the books under fire now that worry me. It is the books that will never be written. The books that will never be read. And all due to the fear of censorship. As always, young readers will be the real losers.”

— From Blume's official website

3. WHY SHE WORRIES ABOUT KIDS THESE DAYS

“Yes, I was a great daydreamer. You know what I worry about? I worry that kids today don't have enough time to just sit and daydream. I was a great pretender, always making up stories inside my head. Stories and stories and stories, but I never told anyone.”

— From an interview with Scholastic

4. ON BEING A WRITER

"Everybody who writes fiction draws from their own life, but if it ended there, it would be very boring. When I talk to kids and they say, 'How do you become a writer?', well, I don't know that you become a writer: you just are. I always had stories, they were always there inside my head."

— From a 2014 Interview with The Guardian

5. ON WRITING

"Writing saved my life. It saved me, it gave me everything, it took away all my illnesses.”

— From a 2014 Interview with The Guardian

6. ON THE CREATIVE PROCESS

“I don't understand the creative process. For years I would say one thing when kids would ask where I got my ideas. Because I was forced to think up something even though I don't really know. And now I'm just saying to people, 'I don't know. I don't understand how it works. How do I know?'”

— From an interview with January Magazine

7. ON DEALING WITH REJECTION

"It's all about your determination, I think, as much as anything. There are a lot of people with talent, but it's that determination. I mean, you know, I would cry when the rejections came in—the first couple of times, anyway—and I would go to sleep feeling down, but I would wake up in the morning optimistic and saying, 'Well, maybe they didn't like that one, but wait till they see what I'm going to do next.' And I think you just have to keep going."

— From a 2011 interview with NPR

8. ON YA AUTHORS AND BOOKS

“[My husband] George and I listened … to the first Hunger Games and we loved it. And we couldn’t wait to get my car and come home. And when we came home, I’m not sure if we’d quite finished, and we sat in the car until we finished. I did not read any of the others. I had no interest in Twilight. But I did see the first movie.”

— From a 2014 interview with Lena Dunham through KCRW

9. ON THE PROS AND CONS OF TWITTER

“I like it. It’s a tremendous—I don’t want to say waste of time, but it also … what can I say? I enjoy reading the people I follow and discovering new people. It’s a lot of fun. I get a lot of laughs from it. And it connects you; it’s nice.”

— From a 2013 interview with Vanity Fair

10. ON GETTING KIDS TO READ

“Whatever gets them excited about reading is good! If you want them to read my books don't tell them so. Maybe just leave around a paperback with a new cover and say, 'I'm not sure you're ready for that.'"

— From a 2013 Reddit AMA

11. ON HER LITERARY INSPIRATIONS

“I was so inspired by Beverly Cleary's funny and wonderful books. And also, Louise Fitzhugh's Harriet the Spy. And E. L. Konigsberg's first book, Jennifer Hecate. And my favorite books from when I was young, the Betsy-Tacy books.”

— From an interview with Scholastic

12. ON "MARGARET" AND TEENAGED JUDY

“Margaret is fiction, but based on the kind of twelve year old I was. Growing up, we did have a club like The PTKs. And Margaret's interests and concerns were similar to mine. I was small and thin when thin wasn't in. I was a late developer and was anxious to grow like my friends. Margaret was right from my own sixth grade experience. I wanted to tell the truth as I knew it.”

— From an interview with Scholastic

13. ON HOW BOOKS HELP US COMMUNICATE

“I’ve never really thought in terms of taboos. I think that books can really help parents and kids talk together about difficult subjects. I’ve always felt that way. The parent reads the book. The kid reads the book and then they can talk about the characters instead of talking about themselves. You know there’s a connection even if you don’t talk about it when you read the same books.”

— From a 2014 interview with Lena Dunham through KCR

14. ON THREE THINGS THAT WOULD SURPRISE US ABOUT HER

“I’m phobic about thunderstorms. Writing is incredibly hard for me. I’m not the world’s best mother, though kids always assume I must be. And I love a good cupcake. (I know, that makes four things, but I’m hungry and wishing I had that cupcake.)”

— From a 2012 interview with Smithsonian Magazine

15. ON REVISITING OLD CHARACTERS

"I don't want to rewrite anything. My characters are who they are. For years, people have written and asked me to let Margaret go through menopause. And it's like, 'Hey guys! Margaret is 12 and she is going to stay 12. That's who she is.' No, I don't want to rewrite any of them."

— From a 2018 interview with NPR

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