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Knitting Without Tears: Basic Techniques and Easy-to-Follow Directions for Garments to Fit All Sizes

by Elizabeth Zimmermann

Rating:  5 sheep (excellent)

I first discovered Elizabeth Zimmermann (or EZ as knitters affectionately call her) on public TV in 1972. Her weekly program on the public broadcasting channel was called The Busy Knitter. EZ was happily sitting in a rocker surrounded with shelves of yarn and with a large basket of yarn balls on either side of her. Her kitty wandered on and off the set, sometimes curling up in her lap or in one of the baskets of yarn. She just calmly knitted on, explaining whatever technique was the focus for that week.

 

Knitting Without Tears evokes that same calm atmosphere. EZ has a common-sense approach to knitting and a wonderful sense of humor. She encourages the knitter to be in charge of her knitting, rather than to blindly and slavishly follow someone's written pattern.

 

The first chapter starts with a discussion of wool yarn (her bias!) and proceeds to necessary supplies and tools. It then moves on to a thorough discussion of basic knitting techniques, including good illustrations.

 

The second chapter is devoted to stitch gauge. That's how important she believes it is to establish a thorough understanding of this element of knitting. However, when it comes to row gauge, EZ says, “I have yet to find a good use for a vertical row gauge, since vertical measurements are much easier to handle in inches.”

 

The information that changed my knitting life was EZ's percentage system for knitting sweaters in the round, which is based on the yarn and needles of your choice and your swatch. From the swatch the knitter is instructed how to find her gauge and use that information to design her own sweater. With that gauge she can figure out how many stitches to cast on. For instance, to start the lower edge with ribbing, cast on 10% fewer stitches, increasing that 10% on the last row of the ribbing in order to knit the body of the sweater with 100% of the stitches. Another percentage of stitches gets bound off for the underarm (10%). Sleeves are begun at the bottom with 20% of the body stitches. The neck opening is usually in the 30% range. Complete instructions are given, but you are encouraged at every turn to deviate from them in order to make your sweater-to-be fit its intended wearer and reflect the knitter's particular taste.

 

EZ's favorite method for knitting sweaters is “in the round”, seamlessly. Details are given for knitting a ski sweater with a dropped shoulder, raglan sleeve shaping, or a yoke or saddle shoulder all on circular needles requiring a minimum amout of seaming. This was a real eye-opener for me! Another revelation was how to knit using two colors, carrying one color in each hand.

 

Later, EZ shows how to knit caps, socks, slippers, mittens, scarves, shawls, and afghans. She explains three different heels for socks including the “afterthought heel”. You'll want to check that one out to learn how your favorite knitted socks with holey heels can be given a whole new life.

 

The book is filled with useful tips and hints for knitting and caring for the finished garment. I found that I enjoyed reading Knitting Without Tears. More than a book about knitting techniques, it exudes EZ's special approach, attitude and sense of humor (she used to write a column called “The Knitting Curmudgeon”!). She changed my attitude about knitting and was the primary influence that allowed me to actually relax and enjoy knitting for the first time in my life. I have referred to this book so many times that my copy is now tattered and stained. I particularly recommend Knitting Without Tears to beginning knitters because Elizabeth Zimmermann has a way of teaching knitting that puts new knitters at ease. EZ passed away in 1999 at the age of 89 but her spirit lives on in her books and inspires knitters everywhere.

Respectfully submitted, Judy Paulsmeyer

Buy this book from Amazon.com

 

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