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Knitters create replicas of all the presidents

Collection on display May 4
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A group of knitters has been hard at work stitching together facts about each American president, resulting in small, detailed miniatures of 44 presidents – and Mitt Romney, just in case.

Students of Linda Pietz, who teaches knitting at the Placer School for Adults and Auburn Recreation District, started the project in September. Their task was to create each president, not only in accurate physical appearance and dress, but also to include things that represented something unique about each man.

“I’m just blown away at what people came up with,” Pietz said. “Lyndon Johnson’s holding up his shirt, so you can see his appendix scar, and he’s holding a beagle by the ears.”

Johnson incited the ire of many animal lovers when a picture was published showing the president holding his dog, “Him,” up by the ears while talking to reporters at the White House. Other quirky trivia facts portrayed by the dolls include a sky-diving George Herbert Walker Bush, who jumped out of a plane to celebrate his 85th birthday, and a towel-wrapped, rubber-ducky-holding William Howard Taft, who was so large that at one point he got stuck in a White House bathtub.

“We learned a lot in the process,” said knitter Leslie Rogers, of Auburn. “When you picked a president, if you didn’t know much about him you had to research and find out what was interesting.”

Pietz knitted two presidents near to her heart, Zachary Taylor and James Madison. She is related to both. She also created the “knit Mitt,” so that the collection will be complete if Romney is elected president this year.

Rogers said the actual knitting took only a couple of hours, but much more time was spent researching. Challenges the knitters encountered included the fact that many early presidents were photographed only from the waist up, and in black and white. The knitters also had to come up with the clothing and body designs on their own.

“There are no patterns for this, so you really have to think outside the box,” Rogers said.

Weimar resident Bradley Duck was just starting on Andrew Jackson’s foot at Thursday’s class, but had completed Franklin Pierce, who has tears running down his face.

“He had a really hard time as president,” Duck said. “He had ‘Bloody Kansas,’ he had John Brown, his son was killed the month after he was elected president, in front of him on a train ride. His vice president died, his senator died, his best friend died, and I figured that’s probably why he wasn’t a very good president.”

Pietz said several husbands, including her own, helped out with the creation of the dolls. Mark Pietz built the soapbox on which Benjamin Harrison stands. Another made a wheelchair for Franklin Roosevelt.

The dolls will be entered into the California State Fair, and the knitters have been in contact with several presidential libraries to see if they might want to display the dolls.

“We’re hoping to get these displayed, because I think people would enjoy seeing them,” Pietz said. “I know for the students, they really didn’t know a lot about a lot of these presidents. And they really have learned a lot, and I’ve had presidential trivia – it has been not only knitting, but history.”

Reach Krissi Khokhobashvili at krissik@goldcountrymedia.com. Follow her on Twitter, @AuburnJournalAE.

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See for yourself

The presidential doll display in its entirety will make an appearance at 9:30 a.m. Friday, May 4, when “Good Day Sacramento” will film a segment about the project at Auburn Needleworks, 839 Lincoln Way, Auburn.