Wednesday, 28 April 2010

Knitting & Crochet Blog Week - Wednesday: One Great Knitter

This blog entry carries straight on from my post yesterday.

The One Great Knitter who inspires me is Elizabeth Zimmermann (there is lots of stuff on the Internet, I like this article remembering her). I have her Knitter's Almanac and I enjoy the mix of very different projects.

I have made the 'Hurry Up/Last Minute' sweater, the December project. Because it is to be knitted at 10 stitches for 10cm it is meant to be a really quick project.  I needed 12mm needles! Knitting this became a bit of a weight lifting exercise too, even on circular.

I cast on on 31 December lat year. Imagine my amazement when I was done three days later! Well, make that three and a half days to be scrupulously honest. But it was very quick. I love the way the wishbone pattern works and gives your torso a lovely shape even if you are a bit bustier. It is a great pattern! I would make this again as well but would start to decrease slightly earlier for the shoulders because the Wendy Viva yarn I used stretches quite a bit row-wise (if that makes sense) and therefore the sweater hangs just a little heavy from the shoulders. Decreasing a little earlier (3-4 rows only?) and then over a few more rows should easily take care of the problem.

What I love about Elizabeth Zimmermann's way of writing is her voice that you can hear in her books: I love it that she writes about how she developed her patterns, some stuff about her life, and that she then gives her 'pithy directions' to follow if you do not wish to re-read the longer description. She coined the phrase 'to unvent' something which I believe stands for not actually inventing a thing because it was probably invented by someone else long ago (nothing truly new under the sun) but that she unvented it: as if unearthed and re-discovered. It is an interesting phrase.

I also have her 'Knitting without Tears' but have not studied it in detail yet - the few things I caught sight of, when glancing through it, are all concepts and techniques I know about. It would have been useful to have had this book when I picked up knitting again late last year - after a break that possibly lasted about ten years or so. Those ten years back I had put down the project at the time, just for a bit, and didn't come back to until February this year. The result was the Black and White top I blogged about in March. I would not have been able to carry on with this raglan seamed top at all ten years ago. I was making up the design as I went along and got stuck on the underarm shaping. It was Elizabeth Zimmermann's Wishbone sweater project (Hurry Up/Last Minute sweater) that put me back on track: I just had to cast on three inches worth of stitches for the bit under the arms, and off I went! It meant no further problem or delay and I could finish this top in a few weeks.

I love to learn new things and knitting (or any kind of craft) is very rewarding when you want to discover and try out new things: there is so much to learn! And you can keep going as much or as little as you like. Elizabeth Zimmermann's writing encourages me to try things I don't know how to do yet. I feel encouraged to try my hand at designing more items, and to look out for techniques I hadn't even heard of a few months back. I am very likely to buy another one or two of her books and will definitely be looking out for further patterns by her.

Fridica blogged about a little dress which came out extremely gorgeous! This also an Elizabeth Zimmermann pattern (the February baby sweater project from the Almanac!).


  1. Aw, thank you for the mention! :) I had a suspicion you would be writing about Elizabeth as your great knitter :)
    Gosh I'm barely having the time to read through any of the posts in the blog week, damn this being the busiest week of my life, with so many wonderful posts around!

  2. Great article on her! I will always think of her top-down raglan concept when I hear her name. That's what got me going on a hoodie I made up for my daughter a couple of years ago. Such a smart way of doing it.

  3. Top-down raglan sounds great. It is a brilliant concept. I did a short-sleeved cotton top that way but I haven't tried a proper long-sleeved jumper or cardigan yet. I will at some stage. A hoodie sounds really good too!

    There are too many very interesting blog entries this week - I'm sure I will be dipping in and out of the various subjects over the coming months: it'll be really good reading material for a good long while!

  4. I've loved EZ for years - my copy of Knitting without Tears was autographed in 1975. She truly was empowering back in a time when there was so little in the way of knitting resources.

    And have you read Knitting Around? It's such a fascinating combination of knitting and autobiography.

  5. A signed copy: I am so jealous! It must have been very difficult to pick up any advice if you didn't have someone to ask in person. I am so grateful about the possibilities the Internet gives us nowadays (e.g. Ravelry but so many other sites as well). I wouldn't have learnt half the things I picked up in the last five months in five years, I'm sure! And such a wonderful medium for exchange and communication!
    Thank you for commenting, I will look out for Knitting Around!
    PS: I changed my profile pic since posting my last response.