'Knit on.....through all crisis' Elizabeth Zimmerman

Posted on March 05 2021

Over the last couple of days it has definitely felt like 'spring is in the air'. The snowdrops are in full bloom, the daffodils are starting to emerge and the sun has brightened up the skies, I've had my first vaccine jab and there is a glimmer of hope that life may begin to re-open. I know that many people have found this latest lock-down particularly hard but, apart from missing meeting friends socially, it has been a bonus having the children back for this time - despite the added washing, cooking and general untidiness which seems to follow them from room to room!
I have had plenty of time for knitting and I have even managed to watch a few of the 'Fruity Knitting' vlogs on YouTube which I really enjoy. The husband and wife creators are at the two ends of the knitting ability spectrum: Andrea is clearly a very talented knitter and it is great to see designs going through the process of making, watching how any 'obstacles' are overcome and then seeing the final project. She has interviewed Marie Wallin and has featured several of her patterns. When she was knitting 'Blossom' from the Springtime collection and I saw all those separate yarn threads hanging, I knew why I avoided intarsia!  Marie has brought out her own collection of British Breeds yarn and I am delighted to say that I will be selling these next month when her new stock arrives. I aim to put together some kits aimed at knitters keen to learn and improve their Fair Isle knitting techniques.
Image result for marie wallin blossom

Blossom by Marie Wallin


I find it really inspiring looking at other knitters' ideas and design choice and, as a result of watching the channel, I have purchased many of the books mentioned in the programmes and also taken the opportunity to look at the websites of the various designers mentioned. Husband, Andrew, is a beginner and we see him work through a hat, socks and hiking jacket design in the first episodes. They have a great rapport together and I enjoy the programmes as easy, instructive viewing whilst knitting.

I have designed and completed a couple of sweaters for myself during lockdown as well as finally getting around to finishing off garments that have been laying neglected for years. One of these was a baby's sweater by Patricia Roberts. It was sitting in a bag minus a sleeve - and had clearly been sitting there for some years! It took me various attempts to produce the missing sleeve because I had not made a note of the needles used. Accordingly, I have made a mental note to myself to write down any alterations, needles used etc for every pattern going forward. On this particular design, when I knit it again, I will knit the body in the round up to the sleeve openings and also make the neck in the round. This time I have made the appropriate notes to self and added them to the pattern folder. 

Chesil baby sweater by Patricia Roberts

Chesil Baby Sweater by Patricia Roberts


My sweaters are definitely in the 'relatively easy and uncomplicated' bracket compared to the stunning designs of Alice Starmore and Marie Wallin. The first one is a combination of Rowan Valley Tweed and Kidsilk Haze. I knew that I would get bored knitting stocking stitch for the front and back and so introduced a panel and sleeve of moss stitch which is something I have previously designed for summer cotton sweaters. What was new however, was the split collar which I absolutely love.


Rowan valley tweed and kidsilk haze designed by The Knitter's Yarn


Rowan valley tweed and kidsilk haze sweater designed by The Knitter's Yarn


In fact, I liked the split collar so much that I decided to design a sweater for beginners in Brushed Fleece. This is such a great yarn for anyone new to knitting a larger project. The brushed effect hides a multitude of sins and it is so soft and cosy to wear. Having worn the first one so much I have just completed a second, in red. Whilst I have a lot of grey and neutral colours in my wardrobe, lately I have wanted to cheer myself up a bit and I find wearing brighter colours helps whether it is a sweater or a scarf. 


Rowan brushed fleece sweater designed by The Knitter's Yarn


Rowan brushed fleece sweater designed by The Knitter's Yarn


Finally, a black sweater in Rowan Big Wool which had also been languishing. I had been so inspired by the Dolce & Gabbana A/W 2020 collection that before Christmas I had started a cable fronted sweater with a Fisherman's rib on the back. I was not keen on my original neckline and so I took it out and in went, yet another, split neck. 


Rowan Big Wool sweater designed by The Knitter's Yarn


I have a huge library of knitting books but have rarely had the time to read them. This is clearly no longer the case and so I have no excuses. I am currently reading Elizabeth Zimmermann who revolutionised knitting through her books and American TV series. She advocated knitting in the round and the continental method of knitting devising the EPS (Elizabeth's Percentage System) for sizing garments based on gauge and desired body circumference. Her daughter, Meg Swansen, has continued her mother's knitting business, Schoolhouse Press. Elizabeth's motto was 'Knit on with confidence and hope, through all crises'. Knitting has certainly helped me cope over the past year and I know, from speaking with customers, that it has helped them too and encouraged many more to return to the craft or learn knitting from scratch.

'Fruity Knitting' also introduced me to Margaret Radcliffe's 'The Knowledgeable Knitter'. This is an excellent reference book but I think I may have been very intimidated if I had been given it prior to learning how to knit. I have discovered, the hard way, that I must always swatch before starting any major knitting project where fit is important but I can't see me ever swatching the armhole decreasing section to test the edges and borders. I'm more of a 'knit and unravel if necessary' sort of a gal..!

There is a mass of detail in 'The Knowledgeable Knitter' and it would make a great present for anyone who loves the craft and is looking to improve. If you would like to find out more about Fair Isle Knitting then I would recommend Alice Starmore's 'Book of Fair Isle Knitting'. With Mother's Day approaching, now could be a good time to send out subtle hints...

Many yarn companies seem to be having a lot of difficulty with their supply chain at the present and clearly the production of yarn and working of the mills has been badly affected by Covid. In addition, our departure from Europe has caused problems and delays at the ports as well as additional costs. Unfortunately, I feel this may well affect prices going forward. I have already had a list of price increases from the supplier of Erika Knight yarns and have decided to split the difference with my customers so we both take a small hit. Apologies, I hate having to increase my prices but I really have tried to keep them to a minimum for you.

I was very much looking forward to teaching a class at Les Soeurs Anglaises in September of this year. However, the general uncertainty with regard to travel has meant that the class will be postponed until next year. Hopefully by then, all our lives will be getting back on track.

Finally, thank you so much to all my customers who send me photos of their finished projects. I really enjoy seeing your work and I am always happy to help if I can. Here is a photo from a lovely customer who has knitted the 'Stripe and Bobble Cowl' in Charcoal and Nasturtium - it looks absolutely fabulous with the grey sweater and thank you for allowing me to share.


Striped and Bobble Cowl designed by The Knitter's Yarn

Stripe and Bobble Cowl from The Knitter's Yarn

Thank you for reading and I hope you are all keeping safe and well and continue to do so.

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