"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 1971.
So I need to state upfront that I have the love for this woman. Love her. Love her writing, love her attitude and love the way she taught. She had the joy!
For those of you that have never heard of Elizabeth Zimmermann she was a knitting pioneer.* Her first book was Knitting without Tears was published in the early 1970s but well before that she was influencing a generation of knitters with her wisdom and ideas through the newsletters she published from Schoolhouse Press, her company. She wrote four books - all of which are still in print.
I haven't included a picture of her as I didn't want to lift one without permission (and I wrote this late last night) but here is a link if you want to have a look. Or check out SchoolhousePress here.
Godmother to seamless knitting, she came up with a system of percentages for making a jumper or cardy called the Elizabeth Percentage System (EPS). (This system revolutionised my knitting! I use it all the time.) Elizabeth used the term unventing about many of the things she came up with as she believed that someone at some stage would have done them somewhere so she couldn't invent them. She made knitting accessible to all, by encouraging others and her belief that there was no right way and that it really wasn't that difficult.
I thought I would share some life lessons from her books to see if you will catch the EZ bug.
1. "Knit on in confidence and hope through all crises"
Look even if you aren't a knitter, how could you not love this quote. Confidence and hope are really all you need - this is absolutely a lesson for life. I think of her often when I have one kid crying because she doesn't like broccoli, another kid crying because he didn't want curry for dinner and the third one in a state of absolute devastation because she wanted a blue bowl, not a white one. Equally though I think her words apply to most crappy things that occur in life.
2. "Tight knitters lead a hard and anxious life......One is in this knitting pastime for pleasure, not for toil, anxiety and doubt so don't WORRY. If you are a tight knitter by chance instead of by choice, practice knitting loosely and it may change your life" Knitting Without Tears 1971
Again a total lesson for life. Holding on too tightly = bad. Practice not doing it. Got it!
3. It's your knitting. "There is no right way to knit; there is no wrong way to knit."
Being the fan that I am I have all of her books and have just sat here for half an hour trying to find which book has the quote "It's your knitting" in it. Frustratingly I can't find it but thinking about it, it doesn't really matter. All through every one of her books she is encouraging you to own your own project. She says that no book has all the answers. That the answer will be different depending on your circumstances. "Fudging: This is permitted, yea, even encouraged and necessary in knitting" Knitting Around. As someone who likes to get things "right" I read this at the very beginning of my crafting life and gee it was freeing. My little brain for some reason needed to hear it in order to go "aaaahhh right. I get to decide". And fudge I do. All the time.
4. "Properly practiced, knitting soothes the troubled spirit, and it doesn't hurt the untroubled spirit either. When I say properly practiced, I mean executed in a relaxed manner, without anxiety, strain or tension, but with confidence inventiveness, pleasure and ultimate pride." Knitting without Tears
Crafting is good for the soul. But only if you do it properly without pressure. She goes in to her "theories on knitting" later in the book. Don't know about you but I love a theory.
5. "If you hate to knit, why, bless you, don't; follow your secret heart and take up something else."
Be who you are and do what you love.
Wisdom and more wisdom. And one more thing. She is funny; laugh out loud funny. Do yourself a favour and go check out one of her books.
Any other quotes you love of Elizabeth's? And if you have never heard of her, did I spark your interest?
If you are beginning and think you might like to have a look at her books buy Knitting Without Tears. She teaches knitting in a way that means that you actually get the structure. Getting the structure means that you are free!
She lived a super interesting life and if you are interested in reading about that life then the book for you is Knitting Around 1989.
* She was also an Englishwoman who was married to a German fella, lived in the US, had a three kids and then some grandkids. She ran a business called Schoolhouse Press that is still run by her daughter Meg Swansen. She died in 1999. Read more on her wikipedia page.