Thursday, October 26, 2006

The Opinionated Knitter

There's an interesting thread running on Knitter's Review wherein folks are, in that remarkably civil manner unique to knitters and buddhists, debating the merits of Elizabeth Zimmermann as a writer, teacher, and designer. I've been following it with some fascination, since while I bow down to EZ as a genius of geniuses (I mean, right up there with whoever first figured out that a lobster was something you could break into and eat), it took me a long time to appreciate her. Some 30 years ago, as a frustrated attempting to self-teach knitter, I picked up a copy of Knitting Without Tears figuring I'd find the hand-holding granny I'd never had. I just wanted someone to tell me exactly how to untangle those two sticks and a hunk of string. However, EZ's disdain of blind followers shamed me into casting the book aside in...well, tears. I can quote the exact paragraph that stopped me cold, from page 45:

Let nobody say she can't sew up a sweater--she just doesn't want to. Reminds me of the infuriating remark, 'I've always wanted to knit, but I just can't.' Pish, my good woman, you can plan meals, can't you? You can put your hair up? You can type, write fairly legibly, shuffle cards? All of these are more difficult than knitting. You just don't want to knit, so why pretend that you do? It's not compulsory; take up something else.

Well, it happened that at the time the only skill listed above I could consider myself remotely competent at was planning meals (couldn't cook, but I could plan). So I gave up until 10 years later when I encountered a cranky buy doggedly patient instructor at an Adult Education Course who taught me the basics (thanks, Mrs. DuPre). And then I returned to Elizabeth Zimmermann, who taught me how to knit. Oh, and I have since accomplished most of the above, but I still can't shuffle cards for shit.

By the way, The University of Wisconsin--Madison is launching an exhibit called "New School Knitting: The Influence of Elizabeth Zimmermann and Schoolhouse Press". Article here; exhibition link here.


AR said...

I haven't had time to go to KR in so long! Elizabeth Z kind of scares me a little. You know, like a sort of mean, but really good teacher.

Shelli said...

I've just finally read KWT, and that was the paragraph that convinced me something had to change in my knitting. I loved knitting, but I also hated it because of the pain it caused. EZ is my new hero.