Show knits together one-of-a-kind fashion and charity

Whether it’s called the Knitted Garments Fashion Show or a tongue-in-cheek “couture party,” the runway show taking place at Whidbey Wonders next Saturday is probably something nobody would want to miss.

If for no other reason, it’s a rare chance to meet Paul and Naomi Magnusson, a long-time Whidbey couple who’ve spent decades of their lives perfecting the art of knitting – and raising it to cult status. Paul, the more audacious member of the power-knitting twosome, has been known to create head-to-toe outfits, such as a full camouflage suit made of Lopi wool yarn from the fleece of Icelandic sheep. Of course, he modeled it himself in a jungle-like forest of canopied trees.

Paul is also the creator of an acclaimed pattern giving step-by-step instructions for knitting an anatomically correct human heart complete with valves and chambers. From there, he went on to design a knitted hip replacement.

At the Knitted Garments Fashion Show in Clinton, which takes place on Nov. 9, models will hit the runway wearing garments from the lifetime collection of limited-edition pieces by both Paul and Naomi, who have been knitting since about 1945. Though the couple has taken home many awards for their fashion designs, including multiple blue ribbons from the Whidbey Island Fair, the majority of the pieces being showcased during the event have never been seen in public before.

Carl Magnusson, son of Paul and Naomi and himself an artist and host of the Burning Whidboy Art Show, was reluctant to give away the surprises in store for the evening.

“It’s real hard to convey the beauty of my dad’s pieces, and I’m trying to keep a little mystery,” Carl said.

Fans and collectors of Paul’s works hope for a glimpse of classic designs such as his “Jesus robes,” which are full-length garments with a hood and no seams. His signature afghan pieces, which will be on display (and potentially open to bidding at the auction) gained notoriety during his period of knitting for the “Afghans for Afghans” project.

As a long-time devotee to afghan blankets and shawls, it was a natural outreach for him to join dozens of knitters across America in supplying hand-knitted and crocheted blankets, sweaters, vests, hats, socks and mittens to provide warmth for displaced Afghanistan families. The Magnussons were substantial contributors to the collective 4,080 items distributed by Afghans 4 Tomorrow.

Paul often reaches back into history and culture for inspiration, noting that his sweaters have many similarities to techniques used by the Cowichan Native Americans in British Columbia.

Whidbey Wonders is no stranger to fiber arts, with the shop representing more than 50 Whidbey Artists, including ones working in fiber goods, clothing and crafts. Works by the Magnussons are sometimes available, along with Hug products from Whidbey Island’s New Day Farm and a plethora of textile creations by the likes of Fiber & Flame, Weaving Works, Amazing Coats, Day Fiber Creations and Whidbey Island Shopping Bags.

The entire island has seen a rise in the economy and art of wool-based products, fueled in part by the growing number of alpaca and sheep living in pastures and farmlands across Whidbey. Abundant Earth Fiber in Clinton even runs a small-batch fiber mill and fiber lab and posts wool podcasts online.

At Create Space in Langley, knitters of all levels, from beginners to experts, get together on Thursdays from 2-5 p.m. for the Knit Happens project. Everyone joins in the making of colorful communal blankets for those in need. The Whidbey Weavers Guild based in Coupeville brings together a passionate mix of 165 weavers and allied artists working in spinning, felting, dyeing, surface design and basketry.

Carie Elder, owner of Whidbey Wonders, invites everyone to come out for the party celebrating the lifetime work of Paul and Naomi.

“It’s going to be an exciting evening of over-the-top designs and impeccable knitting,” Elder said. “The Knitted Garments show stretches and re-imagines the world of yarn and textile.”

Carl Magnusson explains that the idea began as a party to honor his parents, and it essentially remains that way. However, as interest blossomed and the concept evolved, Paul agreed to sell some of his pieces in a silent auction to raise money for the Magnusson Benefit Fund.

Doors open at 6:30 p.m., the runway show begins at 7:30 p.m., and it’s time to hit the dance floor with DJ Hallpass by 8:30 p.m.. There will also be live music by Friends in Space, a Whidbey band produced by Ashley Erickson. Attendees are encouraged to wear costumes of their own imaginations, with knitted designs particularly welcomed.

The party and fashion show takes place on Nov. 9 at Whidbey Wonders and The NuNu Space at Ken’s Corner, 11042 SR 525 Suite 128, Clinton. For more information, call 360-341-5129 or email

Photo provided by Carl Magnusson                                Longtime Whidbey Island knitter Naomi Magnusson models her own knitted creation in France during the 1970s.

Photo provided by Carl Magnusson Longtime Whidbey Island knitter Naomi Magnusson models her own knitted creation in France during the 1970s.