Meet the man behind the crochet animals from Diamond Heights

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“I didn’t really do it for the neighborhood,” he laughs mischievously, “I really did it for myself.”

Huib Petersen. (Courtesy of Huib Petersen)

Petersen is on during the day Jewelry designer with an extraordinary gift for beadwork. His passion for needlework began as a small child who grew up in Holland. When he was six years old, his grandmother showed him how to crochet on his fingers. At this time he also taught himself to knit by watching his mother make clothes. “She didn’t want to teach me because I was a boy,” explains Petersen. “But because I looked at my mother from this side, I did everything the other way around. I started everything mirrored. And I’ve been doing that ever since. “

It takes Petersen up to a week for a single animal, but he indulges in the time-consuming work. In the evening he creates the animals while his husband informs himself in films and TV programs. “My husband’s relaxation is sitting in front of the television,” says Petersen. “My hands have to do something, otherwise I’ll be very bored. I can’t sit still. “

Although Petersen doesn’t design the animals from scratch but uses patterns from Revelry and Etsy as a starting point, one of the things that make his zoo so appealing is the childlike joy it brings to each of its creatures. When the meek doer notices during our walk that a wolf he has made has slumped sideways on its branch, he laughs. “Well, that’s fine,” he says. “Wolves are a bit crooked anyway. You can’t trust them. “

Left: A crocheted sloth with googly eyes hangs upside down from its tail on a branch.  Right: Blue, red, pink, and purple crocheted crabs sit on the side of a branch.
A group of Petersen’s tree creatures that were caught shortly after a rain shower.

At this stage, some of the animals are more weathered than others, and some have disappeared altogether. (“They are gifts to the city, and the city takes them with it every now and then,” shrugs Petersen.) However, he makes sure that his menagerie is looked after as well as possible. It repositions and re-attaches older, sliding animals. He relocates those attached to dead trees. And it temporarily moves everything that is outside of houses that are currently being painted or renovated. Like the rest of the neighborhood, he sees the animals as a “little treasure hunt”.

For years, the animals at Diamond Heights were simply a quirk of the neighborhood that was mostly enjoyed by the residents. But during the shelter’s extended arrangement in 2020, people from other parts of the city began hiking to visit the animals. They were a fun addition to the teddy bear hunts that many families have already seen. And they were a much-needed distraction from the day-to-day stresses of the pandemic.

Left: A bright green-yellow-purple octopus sits on top of a tangled succulent plant.  Right: An orange-yellow octopus is sitting in a tree, its long tentacles stretching across the trunk.
Two of Petersen’s octopuses hanging out in Diamond Heights. (Huib Petersen / Rae Alexandra)

Even if you spend a little time in the area, it becomes clear that the adults at Diamond Heights like the animals almost as much as the children. The first time I stopped to take a picture of one – a silly sloth hanging upside down by its ankles – a man walking by stopped and led me, completely unsolicited, to a tree further up the street. “You have to see the monkeys!” He grinned.


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