The logo I’ll be using whenever I’m going to write about EZ!

Good afternoon! Each year I try and develop a theme to use for my knitting designs … it may be a style of knitting (all cables … colorwork … garter stitch) or a theme (all folk knits … knitting from a region … historical items) or it may be a mishmash of it all.

This year, I’ve decided to go back to the beginning … how I got started designing at the ripe old age of 12 … and review what I’ve learned over the decades and maybe come up with some amazing new designs.

And the beginning starts with the doyenne of knitting – Elizabeth Zimmermann. EZ, as she is affectionately known by her fans and critics alike, has been my knitting inspiration since I was 9 and mom gave me the then-just-published book – Knitting Without Tears: Basic Techniques and Easy-to Follow Directions for Garments to Fit All Ages.

This book is a knitterly classic!

Every knitter should read this at least once … twice … or every couple of years! Seriously.

I had the good fortune to receive this book as a young, impressionable, new knitter who was self-taught and was devouring every book in the library (and my mother’s home library) that had anything to do with knitting. I was 10. I loved EZ’s chattiness … her unabashed obsession with all things “knitterly” … her willingness to talk the reader thru each any every facet of knitting.

I was in love … and haven’t looked back since.

Not everyone shares my fascination … bordering on idolatry … of EZ’s writings. I think the subtitle of this book: “basic techniques and easy-to-follow directions for garments to fit all ages” is a major reason why many knitters have never experienced EZ like I have … dislike her chattiness … can’t follow her directions, could care less about her fishing excursions with “the old man” etc.

But many miss the point:

  • This first of her knitting books is NOT a “basic book” … this is a philosophical treatise on the joys of knitting … and knitting well … and how your life is emboldened with creating from two sticks and a string.
  • The designs in her book are not MEANT to be followed slavishly – the whole point is that EZ is giving us all carte-blanche to knit the way we want to knit … to go beyond a simple design and work it the way we want to work it.

EZ was telling me it was ok to hold the needles the most comfortable way for me … as long as I was making the stitches correctly. She was telling me that I could change things up and adapt for my style as long as I remembered to check gauge and do the necessary math. She was telling me that being obsessed with knitting was perfectly normal … and should be applauded!

This first book, originally published in 1971 when I was 10, is a treasure trove of knitting tid-bits and proven remedies for purl-phobia, knitting in the round, working that first sweater and other foundational building blocks to become the best knitter you can be.

My goal, as I knit and design thru this year, is to use some of EZ’s tricks … her suggestions … her fixes for knitting’s little “challenges” … and develop designs that celebrate this amazing woman who changed my life and hobby into a life-long love affair with the creating from two sticks and a string. Thus, I will be re-reading EZ’s works:

  • Knitting Without Tears (1971) – re-read the entire book on New Year’s Day 2019; my current copy is the third or fourthcopy since Christmas of 1971!
  • Knitter’s Almanac (orig 1974 … and I still have mine that I got when I was 13! … and reintroduced in 2012 as a commemorative); I have both but the benefit to the newer version is the items are in color so you can really see what she is talking about in the text (also, many of the items have been re-knit in more “current” wool shades
  • Knitter’s Workshop (orig 1981 and reintroduced in 2013); I have the old, ‘type-written/b&w pictures’ version and the newer, “spiffier” version; the new version is paperback, uses lots of colored pictures and clarifications by EZ’s daughter Meg Swansen and is more to modern book-reading tastes. This lovely volume is based on a 13-part TV series that develops knitting prowess as you work each project.
  • Knitting Around (1989); this amazing volume is based on a 12-part video series that Meg and EZ put together to cover all sorts of knitted garments (socks, sweaters, coats, mittens); filled with gorgeous items and great tips, this book is also packed with “digressions”, bits about EZ’s growing up and married life. NO EZ fan should miss this one!

The final two books in the “EZ Lexicon” are both posthumously published but based on EZ’s writings:

  • The Opinionated Knitter – EZ’s Newsletters 1958-1968 (2005) – a facsimile reproduction of EZ’s $0.25 quarterly leaflet/newsletters (with clarification and back-notes from Meg Swansen); I do own some of her newsletters from the 1980s and 90s, which were then selling for $1.50 to $2.00 each.
  • Knit One Knit All – EZ’s Garter Stitch Designs (2011) – the humble garter stitch gets popped up a notch or two with amazing designs from EZ’s personal notebooks. Who knew garter stitch could do so much! The book also has a smattering of EZ’s watercolor prints, light and delicate and just glorious!

I will be referring to all these books over the next 12 months … a salute to EZ, whose death in November 1999, left this knitter saddened for the loss of a mentor who I never met in person but who influenced my knitting work for the last 40+ years!

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