Thursday, January 22, 2009

Wednesday Wonders #3: Elizabeth Zimmermann

Yeah, it's Thursday. I was really sick yesterday. But today I bring you a tribute to someone you should all be in awe of, the lovely and talented Elizabeth Zimmermann. I'm inspired to write about her today, because I made a post to the Zimmermania blog, where knitters who love her patterns share what they have made, and talk about her techniques. There are lots of other forums to discuss this famous knitter on, and lots to read about, some of which I'll put in the links section of the post.

OK, raise your hand if you haven't heard of EZ (as she is called). You can put it down now, 'cause I can't see you. Ha, Internets humor. You can read about her in any good history of knitting book, and you'll see her referred to often in discussions of top-down knitting, socks, hats, oh, practically everything! This English woman who moved to the US with her German-born husband and eventually set up a mail-order yarn business in a schoolhouse in Wisconsin is one of the world's biggest influences on modern knitting. And I am eternally grateful.

Rather than give you her history, let me just list a few ways she has influenced my own knitting and designing. You can tell me yours in the comments, if you'd like:

  • I feel free to change any written pattern, and am not ashamed if my inspiered modification isn't perfect--I just see if I can do something else with it, or chuck it and start again. I know EZ did a lot of that!
  • I am not ashamed that I don't like to sew seams in sweaters. And I know how to make them without seams. Oh my, her ideas, along with Walker's Knitting from the Top Down, saved me from a life of never knitting sweaters! Of course, she helped me learn to make nicer seams, too.
  • Her humor has gotten me through many a low moment--I'd keep all her writings just for the shining individuality that comes through.
  • She was one of the first to bring knitting to the mass media. I'm sure she'd have loved blogs! Her typed newsletters were amazing, and I wish I'd been old enough to subscribe (or to order her yarn back then, when all I could find was acrylic at the five-and-dime store). And she calmly bravely went on television and showed the whole world how she did so many interesting projects. (You can buy many of these videos today, just check the Amazon link below.)
  • She was a smart person who found knitting interesting and worthy of study, not just "women's work" to be dismissed. As a feminist, this impressed me a lot. It helped me take pride in my own work, even when people said I looked "like a little old lady doing that." (Of course, EZ looked exactly like the granny you'd imagine, sitting there knitting on her doily, only EZ was busy doing math many scientists would be impressed by!)
  • She was a loving wife and mother who was kind to her children and taught them the value of work well done. That's as important as the knitting stuff in my book.

I know I could do a lot more with this wonderful woman, but this is just how she affected ME, and some of the things I was thinking about while making those Baby Surprise Jackets (of which I gave the second one to Jen last night! Bye bye ladybugs!)


EZ's Books on Amazon
Schoolhouse Press
Bio on Wikipedia
Zimmermania blog


  1. I love your tribute to one of my favorite women.

    We faithfully watched her program in b&w on PBS in the 1960s when our kids were little. I was thrilled to find her books two years ago when I resumed knitting and then to realize her fame and influence had continued to grow and grow.

    I own all of her books and some of the DVDs. From her I've learned to use my own common sense when knitting and to feel comfortable "unventing" and experimenting.

    And I'm so glad her daughter Meg is carrying on this noble work.

  2. Suna, Saw your BSJs on Zimmermania blog. We are thinking of relocating (retiring) to Austin. Have you lived there very long? How is the knitting community? My husband is a baseball fan and we are looking for apartments in the Round Rock area. Am planning on making a trip to that area sometime in February. Thanks. Marcia (

  3. Thanks for the memories, emjh, and Marcia, I'll send you an email later this evening or tomorrow with details, but I think you will love the Round Rock knitting community! (And the Round Rock Express, of course)


Suna says thanks for commenting--I love comments!