Speaking of Elizabeth Zimmerman (Book Review)

I’ve been doing a bit of Elizabeth Zimmerman knitting lately, so I was extra supportive of having a look at an EZ commemorative edition for a book review. The folks at Dover sent me over a review copy of the Knitter’s Almanac, revived in full-colour hard back form for a fall 2010 release, on the occasion of her 100th birthday (or would have been 100th, were she alive today). It’s a lovely edition, and worth considering, I would say, particularly in the gift-giving season that quickly approaches.


The patterns in here are identical to those found in the original edition of the Knitter’s Almanac (published 1974), and include a few favourites like the Pi Shawl (that I’m currently working on and starting to see the end of), mitred mittens, and even a pattern for knitted leggings (or, “nether garment”) which in some moments I consider casting on for because seriously, hand-knitting leggings. Totally what winter ordered up. (Possibly also: extreme motivation to never gain weight and maintain current size forever and ever.)

There are a few new things in this edition, most notably the inclusion of colour photographs (many new altogether) of finished items, which is a remarkable change from the black & white photos and might well help many knitters view these patterns in modern context. Another is the re-printing of the adapted free online pattern for the “February Lady Sweater,” which you might find helpful in print form just in case you’ve been living under a rock and haven’t encountered one of the thousands of online knitters who have already knitted one of these.

I came only recently to the discovery of who Elizabeth Zimmerman was and what her contributions to the knitting world were like. My own knitting life has happened in a world which did not include her living presence. And so what I like the most about this revised edition, is the inclusion of a written preface by Meg Swansen (Elizabeth Zimmerman’s daughter), an Introduction by Stephanie Pearl-McPhee (The Yarn Harlot), and a letter to Elizabeth Zimmerman by Barbara Walker, both in praise of Elizabeth and her writing. Because of course, she wasn’t just writing patterns, she was writing to knitters about bringing confidence and self-assertion to their knitting lives.

So while the book itself has been glitzed up a bit in this commemorative edition, in a snazzier and sturdier hard-back edition, the purpose is entirely the same as it always has been. I rather like how Stephanie describes it in her introduction: “My own love of knitting and my belief that it was clever and worthy was reflected in those pages. I believed then, and I believe now that knitting is so much more than it appears, so much more than the sum of its parts.”

Thanks, Elizabeth! And happy 100th birthday.


  1. “I believed then, and I believe now that knitting is so much more than it appears, so much more than the sum of its parts.”

    Mmm, I couldn’t have worded it any better. Great job.

  2. I recently took a knitting class and learned about Elizabeth from my instructor. I then purchased a couple of her books but I am going to ask for this one for Christmas. I wished I had know about her years ago while she was alive but better late than never. Thanks for the review!!!

  3. I’m so thankful that she wrote so much of what she thought about knitting, so those of us who missed her in her lifetime can still benefit from her sense of humor and adventure in knitting.

  4. I gave up knitting in the early 80s for a number of reasons, one of which I divorced, and only came back to knitting after finding out about a coming grandson. I quilt also, but a serious shoulder injury prevented that for about 18 months. Knitting saved me and a friend gave me EZ’s book Knitting Without Tears and a kit for a Baby Surprise sweater for my coming grandson. My life changed forever.

    EZ’s books, I have them all, gave me permission to adapt, change or restructure my knitting. I wish that I had known of her in the 80’s. Sometimes her books bring tears to my eyes, simply because I am so grateful that I finally found her writings and all the writings. The blogs that give information so freely, the young designers like you Glenna, who answer questions, design patterns that people want to knit and wear, and keep knitting fresh for the rest of us.

    I am grateful for all that you do…and all that the others do as well. For those that coaxed me into spinning…well that is a whole other ball game all over again. But I am a better person for relearning skills and learning new skills now that I am older and wiser. Thankyou.

  5. […] Read more from the original book review : Speaking of Elizabeth Zimmerman (Book Review) « Knitting to Stay Sane […]

  6. ginaquilts · ·

    I love EZ! Every time I read or re-read one of her books, I learn more about knitting. I can’t follow a pattern to save my life but I can understand how she knits and make up my own patterns.

  7. I committed to spending 2010 ‘with’ Elizabeth. Knitting her patterns or using her philosophy to modify and knit other designers’ patterns. I’ve learned so much. We are lucky to have her.

  8. Nebraska Knitter · ·

    Nice book review. On a completely different topic, I’m finishing up my second pair of socks using your pattern with the 3 x 1 ribbing. Thank you for such a great pattern. The socks look great and I have enjoyed knitting them!

  9. I keep thinking I should order her DVDs, because my favorite aspect of her teaching is her conversational tone, as if it’s natural that we’re all just sitting around over a cup of tea practicing and learning new techniques!

  10. Phaedra96 · ·

    One of my goals in knitting is to be able to use one of her patterns–and understand it! Since I just started knitting a couple years ago, I do have a ways to go! Just to be sure I will do so; I purchased all of her books and wish I could run across some of her origional newsletters–just because.

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