Mary Maxim

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Over the years, I’ve created PowerPoints for many deeply unsavory reasons – to push pharmacological products using sketchy ‘data’ published by the parent company, as part of half-assed attempts on educators’ parts to get hip with technology and liven up rote classroom presentation (one of the few chunks of high school, along with forced learning to type without looking at our hands, that actually had real-world applications), to reinforce big business mentalities I did not believe in. Each of which falls under the standard use of PowerPoint, a program designed with the twofold goal of ‘snappy corporate presentations’ and ‘useability by the computer illiterate’.

In spite of, or rather because of the inherent weirdness at this intersection of Business and Flair, the program’s potential for pure art has been explored by several artists, most notably David Byrne’s E.E.E.I tour. I was going to say ‘accidental’ or ‘ironic’ art, but all that’s ever needed to turn something practical into art is to remove the practicality.

Which brings me to my recent, happier experiences with PowerPoint – created for a friend’s yearly salon of presentations on whatever we wanted, far from the boundaries of desks or logic, these slides were fun to create. No templates! The pure joy of random transitions! Finally using all the sound effects your supervisor expressly forbad! Unfortunately after the small gathering was over, the presentations languished on my computer. No more! I finally figured out how to time slides and export to a movie file, so that you, The Reader, may benefit from my research.

Admittedly quite a bit is lost in translation – no transitions, only one audio track and no sound effects, no me rambling on about a particular subject while accidentally skipping three slides ahead – but I’ve tried to make up for it with a dip into my recently acquired well of 50s instrumental tracks. Enjoy!

Mary Maxim: A Wearable (Mostly Canadian) History from Rarer Borealis on Vimeo.

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My casual Ebay search for vintage patterns came to a screeching halt when I came across Mary Maxim’s Junior Casuals (Vol. 28). Oh sure, laugh at me for exaggerating the sheer freakiness of this particular volume, but you too will know the horror.

“Oh, is the little baby afraid of a widdle book of knittOH MY GOD HE’S STARING INTO MY SOUL!”


Crimson the Clown’s dragging that little girl straight to the sewer drains.

As if a creepy clown grasping a child’s hand with an all-too-knowing glance plastered right there on the cover weren’t warning enough, further terrors are found within:

“Gee this one looks ok…oh dear Lord. What…what is that behind them? Did I just see it move?!” You may have, but I bet they never did.



This manages to out-creep the rabbit TV show from David Lynch’s ‘Inland Empire’.





What dusty storeroom was this 1930s black cat costume dragged from? Who thought this would be a ‘charming’ character for children to display sweaters next to instead of seeing the void in the crouching figure’s eyeholes?



It’s saying something when a child leaning on an extremely intense extra from ‘Born to Boogie’ is the least scary image in the batch.



Even Pedro the Donkey screams in mute horror!


What’s interesting is, terrifying costume and prop choices aside, these are vibrant, charming photos. The saturated pastels, extreme foreground framing, composition, and acres of shiny blonde hair make every image look like a living illustration from the era.







All images via Ebay user tundi151.

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This week’s pattern is a jaunty little meta-sweater displaying engagement in the very activity the sweater is intended to be worn doing. The pattern’s a bit easier to follow than that sentence.

Intarsia knits are always a bit annoying to work but make up for it in pure 8-bit joy of wear- the awkward blockiness of the images charms enough to get over a thousand dangling strings tangling themselves as you go along. Mary Maxim patterns are the most well-known (that is, well-known among knitters, i.e. not at all among the general population), but there’s also Bouquet, Knit-O-Graf, and the looser search term ‘cowichan’, referring to the style of knitting developed by the Cowichan people of British Columbia.

A few choice examples:

Funnily enough, I found a reinterpretation of the same chart from this week’s pattern in a sweater for sale on ebay:


Let’s hit the slopes!

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