My EZ notes: how it all started and where we’re going

2013: My EZ year in notes

2013: My EZ year in notes

As I’ve mentioned in previous posts (both here and over at the DHY blog), I have decided to focus much of my 2013 knit-reading on Elizabeth Zimmermann and her amazing knitting unventions and ideas. Each month of this year I will read one of her books (in publication order) as well as work at least one design based on her ideas.

Here is the list of books, in publication order, that I’ll be reading over this next year:

  1. Knitting Without Tears – 1971 — KWT
  2. My EZ collection of books and newsletters

    My EZ collection of books and newsletters

  3. Knitter’s Almanac: Projects for Each Month of the Year – 1974 — KA; there is a commemorative edition (which I just purchased) that is hard-cover and in color (and, IMHO, well worth the upgraded price) published in 2010
  4. Knitting Workshop – 1981 — KW
  5. Knitting Around – 1989 — KA
  6. The Opinionated Knitter: EZ Newsletters 1958-1968 – published posthumously in 2005 — OK
  7. Knit One, Knit All: EZ’s Garter Stitch Designs – published posthumously in 2011 — KOKA
  8. I also own a few of the semi-annual “Wool Gathering” – EZ’s newsletter with designs, book reviews and other fun tidbits. I have #31, #34, #38, #44, #45, #46, #48, and #49 — WG. [BTW, these past issues of Wool Gathering, as well as all the books listed above, are available thru Meg Swansen’s website.]

    Can you tell I’m a BIG fan of EZ and her knitting style?

    The very first knitting book I ever owned was a brand-new copy of the KWT … my mom gave it to me for Christmas in 1971. I had that copy for years, until it fell apart, and purchased a new edition about 10 years ago.

    KWT, the first published and my first exposure to EZ, was my read for January. I love her simplicity and directness, her opinionated-ness and her creativity. In this her first book, the reader gets a “license” to knit the way is best for the knitter. Whether you hold the yarn in your left hand (continental) or throw the yarn with your right (American/British) … as long as you are making the stitches properly, enjoying the outcome, and creating an item to fit, there is no problem. As a 10yo who was just two years into my knitting adventures, this was AWESOME to read. She described always knitting in the round and dared to say that seams are a pain and should be avoided! EZ was speaking to my knitting-heart.

    A couple of notes when reading EZ:

    • her patterns are chatty and not detailed in exact directions; much of her work is based on getting a good gauge and working with that to determine number of sts to cast on, bind off, or whatever. She gives you generalities to get you working on your own, to get you to become a thinking knitter.
    • EZ’s gauge on worsted weight is always 5 sts to the inch; when I knit with worsted on #7 or #8, I obtain somewhere between 4 and 4.5 stitches to the inch; I think 5sts in worsted is too stiff. I don’t need to change my gauge to fit EZ’s. Mine is fine as long as I remember to re-do the math based on MY gauge, not hers.
    • EZ was a thrifty woman — to keep costs down on her publications, they contain black/white illustrations and hand-drawn graphics. The only exception to this are the books EZ’s daughter, Meg Swansen, published posthumously (the OK and the KOKA books).
    • The picture quality is not always of the best and can be off-putting in this age of digital photography. Don’t let the archaic-ness fool you — these books don’t need fancy illustrations; just read, and I’m sure you’ll agree.

    • in the older books and Wool-Gatherings, fashion dictated a slimmer silhouette than current; also there is no shaping in her knits. By the time you’re done with even the very first book, you’ll have the tools to adapt any of her patterns to make them fuller and/or more shapely.
    • Design notes: I just finished a sweater for HamBone (14 and taller than I now) that utilized EZ’s rather cryptic description of a seamless, set-in sleeve. Tomorrow, I will post design notes about how I did the sleeve, using EZ’s instructions, to make a sleeve that not only looks good, it also fits nicely and I didn’t have to SEAM! LOVE it … and HamBone does too.

      So have you read any EZ? What do you think of her work and her unventions? How has EZ affected your knitting? If you’ve never heard or her, or never liked what she wrote, why? Can I help explain something. Leave me a comment and I’ll be happy to address these in a later “EZ Notes” post.

      Next month: Knitter’s Almanac: Projects for Each Month of the Year!

4 Responses to “My EZ notes: how it all started and where we’re going”
  1. Michele Follbaum says:

    Dear Mary,

    I am intrigued by what you write in this post, and I do own a couple of Elizabeth’s books (Knitter’s Almanac and Knitting Without Tears). I believe I started KWT last summer but never ended up finishing it. When I read what you wrote, though, I wonder if I am still too much of a beginner to really get into her just yet. I still believe that I NEED a very accurate and well-written pattern (sometimes the way a pattern is written just throws me for a loop! I am so thankful for my teacher to interpret for me, lol). I am just not good enough (read: just haven’t knit enough) to figure anything out on my own. It seems so, anyway.

    Anyway, I always love to see your beautiful things. I hope to be a pretty good knitter some day (I’ve been knitting regularly for about a year), but my progress seems so slow. You (and so many of Ginny’s Yarn Alongers) seem to move so quickly, finishing project after project! And getting lots of reading time to boot!

    God bless!

  2. Mary G says:


    First, don’t let my prolific knitting get to you — I’ve been doing this for over 40 years and sell my patterns and so I keep up a steady stream of knitting to keep the income (such as it is) flowing in to help support tae kwon do and other activities for the kids. I also knit all the time … on car rides (when I’m not driving), in the evening watching Netflix with dh, and throughout the day when I’m not teaching the kiddoes. This makes for a lot of knitting time. I also have knit so much I don’t need to look too often … and can “read” my knitting rather than keep going back to the pattern page. You’ll get there!

    As far as EZ … you have to read her with a sense of wonder and trust — she too had knit for a long time and so much of what she says is garnered from years and years of practical experience. Try re-reading it, not as a how-to but rather as a how-come book. Read it for the pure joy of reading some great quips by a fiber-fanatic. Enjoy it but don’t try and apply all her tips/techniques yet. Let them simmer in the back of your brain for a bit and soon you’ll find you’re ignoring the pattern and doing it your way (ala EZ!).

    Always know that I’m only an email/pm/FB post away if you have any questions or problems of a knitterly nature. I LOVE talking knitting!

    Blessings and hug,
    Mary G.

  3. Michele F. says:

    Thanks for your reply, Mary. My free time is split between reading and knitting pretty much — sometimes it is SO hard to choose! So, yeah, it takes me awhile to finish things. I do enjoy it, though! I will look to EZ once Lent is over! God bless you! Michele F.

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