Knitting Knews: Knitting Mr. Rogers’ Iconic Sweaters

Excerpted from New York Post article by Raquel Laneri, 11/21/19.

A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood, the biopic about the iconic Fred Rogers, has just been released to critical acclaim, and I’m so looking forward to seeing it. Who else could have been cast as Mr. Rogers except Tom Hanks, another well-known nice guy? I never really thought about Mr. Rogers’ famous zip-up cardigans until this evening, when I read an article that popped up in my news feed, all about the knitter who was selected to make identical copies of them. One of his red ones is actually in the Smithsonian now. All of them were Christmas gifts handmade by his mother.

Anyhow, meet Yasmin Esmek, a talented tailor who helps create costumes for operas, Broadway shows, ballets, and other productions.

Ms. Esmek now lives in New Jersey, but grew up in Germany, where she learned to knit as a child. She studied knitwear design at NYC’s Fashion Institute of Technology. She also had her own line of knitwear featured at Barneys. When she agreed to recreate some of Mr. Rogers’ sweaters, she first researched his work in children’s TV and thoroughly familiarized herself with his signature look. Her first task was to locate some appropriate yarn, making a trek to my absolute favorite yarn store, Webs of Northampton, MA. After making up swatches from the many yarns she considered, she and the costume designers chose a cotton, and determined which particular sweaters to replicate. Ms Esmek would knit 6 cardigans, 2 in red and 1 each in mustard yellow, purple, teal, and green. She made them all over the course of nine weeks in 2018. Two were made on a machine, to represent those that Rogers bought after his mother had died.

Can’t wait to see A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood, as much to check out those cardigans as to watch some evocative acting performances! Thanks to the Post and writer Laneri for their fascinating story.

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