spring sweater: inspired by elizabeth zimmermann

i recently ordered two of elizabeth zimmermann’s books on knitting.

if you’re not familiar with elizabeth zimmermann, she is an iconic figure in the knitting world. a knitter, a teacher, a designer, a writer. many who knit have referred to her books for guidance, tips and inspiration over the years.

i came to know elizabeth zimmermann later in my knitting life. i feel lucky to have had knitting introduced to me when i was young, by people in my life who held my hands (literally and figuratively) and passed on this ancient technique.

and though i only recently took up knitting again with any earnestness, it came relatively easily to me, i think, because of my previous exposure to it.  i still consider myself a beginner and have a lot to learn, but i think it would be difficult to learn from scratch as an adult and i admire anyone who tries to do so.

i turned to elizabeth zimmerman’s books in particular because there are SO MANY new knitting books on the market. so many. and excuse my bluntness, but a lot of them are fluff, cashing in on the recent resurgence and popularity of this craft. i wanted to read some books that had substance, not just pretty shiny pages. (though to be perfectly honest, i enjoy pretty shiny pages too and flip through them admiringly while at the bookstore…but just like candy, there isn’t much to them and i’m left craving more.)

i think elizabeth zimmermann’s books are substantial in content. i find that her words and approach are natural, warm and have endured through the years like a well-knit garment.

i like how she explains the construction of garments, rather than just throwing cryptic charts and symbols our way. her percentage system, for example, shows the proportions of stitches that make up the average sweater of any size. she simplifies overwhelming techniques. teach a man to fish? forget it. she teaches us all how to knit a fisherman’s sweater in any size using any wool and needles that we want.  the process of knitting is approached both mathematically and creatively. she encourages us to think, not just follow patterns blindly.

the knitter’s almanac is a book filled with projects for each month of the year. you follow elizabeth as she knits up creations through the seasons. in february, she shares some baby things. one of them is a sweet little sweater for a newborn.

in the commemorative edition i purchased, there is a pattern for an adult version of this baby sweater, created by pamela wynne.  i summoned up the courage through zimmermann’s words to experiment in my knitting. i attempted the same sweater, but in a size to fit my daughter who falls between those ages, about a size 8 to 10.  i used the adult pattern, but went down a few needle sizes and used a finer yarn (a 4 ply, rather than the recommended thicker worsted weight yarn).

i’m very happy with how it turned out.

there are those buttons i mentioned

it hangs and fits beautifully. (there are more photos on my ravelry)

to the sadness of many in the knitting realm, elizabeth zimmermann passed away in 1999. her words continue to inspire others, and her patterns and techniques live on, on knitters’ needles everyday. including my own. isn’t that a neat thought?

“Really, all you need to become a good knitter are wool, needles, hands, and slightly below-average intelligence. Of course superior intelligence, such as yours and mine, is an advantage.”  ~ Elizabeth Zimmermann, Knitting Without Tears.

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23 Responses to spring sweater: inspired by elizabeth zimmermann

  1. Tara Benwell says:

    Wow, what a beautiful tribute and book review. I wonder if I’ll ever get back to knitting? That purple sweater is perfect! Like I say to some of my online English learners…are you sure you are a beginner? Jackson got her first knitting needles for Christmas. After my dad’s wife taught her the basics, I was ashamed that I couldn’t fix her mistakes and longed for my mom and grandma to be back at my side picking up the dropped stitches. Still, it’s nice to know knitting needles made the wish list this year.

  2. Halima says:

    This is so very lovely Ana. Those buttons are such a nice compliment to the purple, great choice! I also like the nubbyness of your yarn, it adds a nice textural aspect.
    Every time I think about doing some lace type of knitting like this my fingers curl-up in protest – the truth being I’m no sure if I could handle it. You are so right about EZ and her teaching style, it ‘frees’ you do that which you may think impossible.
    Knitter’s Almanac is on my list to own soon, I have the book “Knitting Workshop” and rented the DVD from the library once – it was great to see her in action.

  3. Jess says:

    that is beautiful!!

  4. Sheri says:

    What a nice homage to Ms. Zimmermann. The sweather you made for your daughter is gorgeous. The buttons are perfect : )

  5. Sheri says:

    Umm…sweater.

  6. googiemomma says:

    how beautiful! i’m constantly in awe of your incredible skills. that is a true heirloom sweater.

  7. Nancy S says:

    That sweater is fantastic! When I make something that I really like I tend to keep moving it around to whatever room I’m in so I can remember that I really made something that cool. I would be carrying that sweater everywhere if I had made it.

    There are so many craft books on the market now and most of them are pure fluff. I go to the bookstore and get stacks and stacks of craft books, sit down and go through them looking for more than pretty pictures. I want instruction, projects and different takes on the same old thing. Once in awhile I will find a book with some real substance and then I will spend the money on it. This doesn’t happen as often as it should. Thanks for the review! You are making me wish I was a knitter.

    • imadeitso says:

      hey nancy, it sounds like we have similar expectations from books. if you have any other suggestions for craft/art books, let me know.

      and i think i might make this one for myself. that way i can be justified in carrying it around everywhere i go ;) but really, i love the pattern.

  8. Victoria says:

    That is a gorgeous sweater! Your daughter is a lucky girl – I love the sleeves and neckline!

    I remember my grandma teaching me to knit when I was small, around 8 or so. I knitted a tiny scarf for my Lamb Chop doll. :) Unfortunately my knitting ended there, and I was never really inspired to pick it up again. It’s good to know where to go if I ever do though – I love that quotation and the end of your post!

  9. Dvora says:

    It came out beautifully. The buttons are a great touch.

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  11. Jo Chopra says:

    Oh, what a sweet review! How sad that Elizabeth doesn’t get to read it (though maybe there’s internet in heaven?). It’s beautifully written and photographed and your sweater is such a tribute to her inspiration and your talent. Lucky daughter!

  12. Corey says:

    TL;DR but ohmygosh your knitting is inspired! I knew you must have had something big on the needles since you’ve been so scarce. I bet your sweet Zazzoo loves it!

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  14. Julie says:

    I just ordered those two books! I’m really a beginner… the only book I have (which has helped me) is the For Dummies book. I also have a book on knitting baby clothes, but a bit too difficult for me. Your knitting is beautiful.

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