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Knitter from Waterford involved in two Oscar-nominated films

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Waterford — It's a yarn about knitting, a leading costume designer and an Oscar win Feb. 9, and one of the supporting characters involved in the real-life drama was Diana "Dee" McCurry, a Waterford High School and Eastern Connecticut State University graduate now living in Massachusetts.

As McCurry tells it, she has worked for the past two and a half years at Another Yarn, a shop in a strip mall in Burlington, Mass., owned by Teresa McGonagle. One day last spring, soon before the filming of "Little Women" started in the area, a movie representative called out of the blue to ask the owner whether she could handle a few dozen items knitted from old patterns and era-appropriate yarn required for some of the scenes.

"It was very exciting," said McCurry, daughter of Waterford residents John and Pauline DiFederico and a part-time store manager.

McCurry said McGonagle worked day and night for several weeks to produce key items, including several scarves and a wrap-around shawl worn by actress Emma Watson in one of the scenes, required by "Little Women" costume designer Jacqueline Durran.

"It was a very short turnaround," she said.

Durran and her assistants all came to the shop to consult with McGonagle, McCurry said, and the store owner and costume designer spent much time emailing pictures back and forth as well as shipping material samples to one another to get the look just right.

When the movie came out around Christmastime, McGonagle rented out a local theater for a showing, inviting her employees and customers to enjoy the experience, many knitting as they watched.

Then came the Oscars, just over a week ago. The store was closed on the Sunday, but everyone associated with it had a rooting interest in Durran winning the award for costume design, which she did.

"We were all watching, and it was very exciting when Jacqueline's name was called," McCurry said. "It would have been fun to see them winning all the Oscars."

Though McCurry didn't have a direct hand in the costumes associated with "Little Women," directed by Greta Gerwig, she did get many of her pieces into another Oscar-winning film, "1917." Durran was so pleased with the shop's work for "Little Women" that she also hired McGonagle to make knitted pieces for her next project, the World War I-era movie that later was nominated for several awards, including best picture and best director, neither of which it won.

McCurry said she, McGonagle, other store employees and even skilled shop customers spent dozens of hours knitting fingerless mitts, scarves and balaclavas, ski-mask-like hats worn under helmets during WWI. The material used in the Sam Mendes-directed film also had to be precise, and the shop sourced English wool in keeping with the times: thin, coarse, with muted, "war-like colors," she said.

Later, after pieces were shipped to England, "They weathered it to look like they went to war," she added.

When she saw the movie a few weeks ago, McCurry said, "We saw a lot of our handiwork," though some of it was done by other knitting shops considering how many pieces were required.

Both of the movies needed items within a few weeks, though the shop had a bit longer for "1917" than "Little Women," she said. She noted that "1917" was not nominated for a costume-design Oscar, though it did win for best sound mixing, best visual effects and best cinematography.

"'Little Women' was the one we were most excited for," she said.

And best costume design was its lone award.

Added shop owner McGonagle in a statement on LinkedIn: "Such a privilege to be a local yarn shop and knitter and be able to contribute, even in a small way, to the efforts of making this wonderful movie."

l.howard@theday.com

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