by Jessie “VHJESS” Landivar-Prescott
How often do I scroll my hours away on Instagram? No more than any other person with obsessive tendencies. (Example, I am currently listening to “Something About You” by Level 42 on repeat as I write.) If today were the last day of my life, I wouldn’t have any regrets about it. Of the various social media platforms, Instagram has rerouted the drives of a lot of other nerds out there. I’m not the only one. The gutsiness that hiding behind a screen affords introverts like moi means that making Insta-friendships is more comfortable than it could possibly be IRL.
Scene: scrolling through IG and swinging from vine to vine until I’m at the profile of a person who seems like they’re dancing to the same beat as I am, possibly even the same song (Level 42?). My eyes opening wider because, based off of the pics in her feed, I’m having an “OMG, did we just become best friends?!” moment before I’d even had a chance to chat with her.
Yeah I know, I’m crazy.
Well, it was that “holy-smokes-she-seems-so-cool” feeling that led to meeting @CINEPEG aka Peggy Fagan on Instagram. Her profile reads, “MS Warrior. Love films. Love knitting.” I saw her posts of movie scenes paired with photographs of the arm warmers she knits with those same scenes on them. *SWOON* (Artisans are magic makers, I swear.) 95% of her choices are from my favorite movies, her skills are badass, and she’s so kind that I decided to chat her up because I needed to share all of it with you guys. Here goes our conversation.
VHJ: Hi, what’s your name and can you tell us what you do?
PF: I’m Peggy Fagan and I work in the box office at the George Eastman Museum theater called the Dryden.
VHJ: I read in your profile that you were diagnosed with MS and that led you to your passion for knitting. How did movies come into play in your designs?
PF: Knitting helped me cope with the MS diagnosis tremendously. It gave my hands and mind something to do while my body was so tired. At first, I mainly made other people’s designs. One day I think I just had it with knitting flowers, birds, cats, etc. Movies have been my passion since I was seven years old and I really wanted to make movie designs but I didn’t have a clue how to do it. All I knew was that Jack Nicholson’s face from The Shining was heavy in my head. One day on Ravelry [a social network platform where fiber artists converge to share ideas, projects, etc.] I found a pattern with Sigmund Freud’s face on it and was like, “Oh…it can be done!”
Five months later I made my first pattern of The Shining. I felt so proud and was like, “Okay, now I can get going on some films here.”
VHJ: What are your criteria for which scenes and films you will make patterns for? What are your some of your personal favorites? Fan requests?
PF: My criteria is usually my likes, but I’ve made several custom orders for people. I’d say 90% of my work comes from my likes. As for how I pick scenes, it all depends on what I can stencil into a readable image that hopefully you’d recognize from that film. Many times, images don’t read as well as you’d hope they would.
VHJ: In looking through your work there’s a large amount of David Lynch representation. Which begs to ask - are you a Lynch fan or were they made with customers in mind?
PF: Oh, my lovely David Lynch…huge fan! I saw Twin Peaks: Fire Walk with Me at 15 years old and it changed the movie experience for me completely. After reading a lot about him, I fell in love with his attitude towards art. He doesn’t question his work, it comes from within and he trusts what he does even if he doesn’t always know why he’s doing it. I’ve lived a lot of my life questioning anything that comes from me as if I wasn’t worthy enough. David Lynch is my sage for changing that.
VHJ: What is it about Lynch’s art and films that appeals to you?
PF: Watching his films are like watching moving paintings with a dream-logic sensibility. They make sense to me on a certain level, but not completely. Plus, I can watch his films over and over and find something new, something intriguing that keeps me thinking for days.
VHJ: What kind of work do you do when you’re not working the needles?
PF: When I’m not knitting, I’m usually making the actual patterns. I also work part time at the George Eastman Museum’s Dryden Theater for the free Senior Matinee shift. And, may I say, that watching movies with them is a real treat!!
VHJ: Are there any movies that you’ve seen at the Dryden Theater that have made it onto a pair of arm warmers?
PF: Yes, The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari and Gone With the Wind.
VHJ: The George Eastman Museum is a big destination spot for photographers and cinephiles alike. What can you tell us about it from an insider’s perspective?
PF: The George Eastman Museum is a treasure trove… good God, the vault! They are huge into the preservation of film. I believe Martin Scorsese owns a quarter of the films in that vault. Spike Lee owns a bit of the films in there as well. In the age of digital media, film and film projection are becoming a lost art. The people that work here want to preserve the beauty of film and keep its history alive. We are lucky to have directors like Paul Thomas Anderson and Christopher Nolan send us prints of their current films. These are just some of the last directors using film and they recognize us for our goals in film preservation.
It’s funny, I remember one of our curators making a joke that the largest film archive can be found at the bottom of the Pacific Ocean. It’s wild to think that people tossed their films away without care.
VHJ: Are there any movies about mental health issues that you’re a fan of?
PF: Well, good God yes! Girl Interrupted hit me hard. I think that there’s something so amazing and real captured in Winona Ryder’s performance that really got to me. Her journal entries and her scene with Vanessa Redgrave still give me goosebumps. The interchange of pain and anger is so real. Honorable Mentions for mental health movies go to Lost Highway and One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest.
VHJ: So, since summer is almost here, do you change out yarn types to accommodate the heat? Do you make other products?
PF: For summer months, I still make the same warmers with the same type of yarn weight.
I have always made other products (still do) but since I started making the arm warmers four years ago, I cannot seem to stop. So far I’ve made 187 patterns and knitted about 179 pairs and don’t foresee any signs of stopping anytime soon. It's like I’ve cracked a code that I’ve wanted to break into for so long.
VHJ: The impossible question, top five movies?
PF: Dear God that is impossible!!! Top five movies… let’s see. In no particular order:
Heathers - saw it in sixth grade, it introduced me to black humor.
True Romance - my first taste of the delightful world of Tarantino’s kick ass dialogue.
Twin Peaks: Fire Walk with Me - my introduction in David Lynch and his non linear approach to storytelling.
The Shining - I love a good scare and that film is everything great about horror. I have to admit that I find that Kubrick’s spin on Stephen King’s tale better than the book.
Labyrinth - this movie was pure magic for me as a child and now pure camp as an adult. David Bowie with a codpiece, singing and dancing with muppets in a Jim Henson film. It just doesn’t get better than that for me. PS - I hate these lists because there are too many movies to name!
VHJ: Where can people find you online?