Category Archives: elizabeth zimmerman

A day with Elizabeth, and some knitters

Yesterday I spent a very fun day at the Purple Purl, teaching a project class on working EPS seamless yoke sweaters (that’s “Elizabeth’s Percentage System,” for those out there still encountering Elizabeth Zimmerman’s writings), and colour-work selection. If I’m a good girl maybe they’ll even have me back to teach it again some time. All I can say is I thought I was going to just teach the class and have fun and then go home and keep knitting the stuff I have to keep knitting, except now I want to go and knit another one of my OWN seamless yoke sweaters, because I feel like you can’t actually have too many of that sort of thing, and anyway isn’t winter coming soon? ::cough::

But yes, it was a fun day. Everyone brought their swatches – I’d expected plain swatches in the round or flat “speed swatches,” but then there were some inventive swatchers in the group. Sasha did hers in a multi-gauge affair, noting needle changes as she went.

Oct23-EPSclass4

Then Laura did hers as a hat, which I think is pretty awesome and that Elizabeth Zimmerman would totally approve, and now I sort of wish I’d told everyone to just go knit a hat. Next time, I will.

Oct23-EPSclass5

And we talked a lot about the EPS numbers, and yoked sweater construction, and took lots of notes. And we talked about colour…

Oct24-EPSclass3

And selected yarn…

Oct23-EPSclass2

And everyone coloured in their own customized charts, and we all fondly recalled colouring in kindergarten…

Oct23-EPSclass1

Oct23-EPSclass

And then the afternoon was over and we all went home with ideas and yarn. The end.

But actually, it’s not the end, because before I left I went and looked at the “new” Elizabeth Zimmerman book, Knit One, Knit All. It’s a collection of patterns of Elizabth’s largely from the 1970s, which never got published because nobody thought it would sell. And I have to admit, I didn’t think a book of garter stitch patterns was something I needed in my life – but then I looked through the book and it turns out I was wrong, because I bought it and now I want to knit at least half of it.

Oct24-EZbook

I’m going to try to exercise a little bit of patience, though, and finish one of my current projects first. Then maybe I’ll knit a garter stitch jacket. Or just a hat to take the edge off.

Happy Monday, and I hope your knitting is waiting for you at the end of the day!

13 Comments

Filed under elizabeth zimmerman, teaching

Around and around

The Pi Shawl, she is done, and I am well pleased. I wore it out on Wednesday as a layer under my jacket (then, erm, learned very quickly to be careful not to choose jackets with little grabby snaggy parts underneath the collar – had a close call) and got to show it off at the Toronto Downtown Knit Collective meeting at ‘show and tell’, which was also super fun. Go ahead and knit yourself one of these, man. I mean, sure, it’ll take a while. But then you get this:

May20-PiShawl2

This is worked with 2 skeins (just 2 skeins – 5g left of the 2nd one) of Indigodragonfly 50/50 merino/silk, or about 1400 yards, in “One, one purple skein, Aaa Aaa Aaaah!” that I got myself last summer as a birthday present. I had a 3rd skein waiting and ready, but was glad to get to just the end of the 2nd one and not be left with a large amount of remnants. This is on a 4.0mm needle and after a solid blocking is about 5 and a half feet across. If i had to do it again, admittedly, I would go down to 3.5mm and work more rounds to compensate for the difference. The finished product here is lovely, but the yarnovers are a little wider than I’d like (this ain’t no Orenburg lace, to be sure, but you know) for full comfort. Still, I’m happy with it, and it’ll be a nice light layer or scarf to throw on when needed.

May20-PiShawl1

Elizabeth Zimmerman’s instructions for this shawl are workable for a number of different yarn weights, so you could easily do it with fingering or DK if you like, for a snugglier garment. The yarnover variation here (yarnovers worked every 6th round) is one that appealed to me since it adds just a hint of interest, but a plain stockinette version would surely be the ultimate in mindless knitting, if a person were drawn to that sort of thing. And the garter stitch border is sitting there doing just what I wanted it to – being plain more than fancy, and floating along happily at the edge.

May20-PiShawl5

So look at that. Sometimes when you put a project away for a few months, and then come back to it, you realize you really CAN finish it after all! Thank goodness.

I do have the Peacock Feathers shawl still waiting and on deck to come up next, but before I start that I am getting in some quality speed-stockinette time on a new Hourglass Sweater (pattern from Last Minute Knitted Gifts). It’s been on my brain ever since January when I went to Vogue Knitting Live with Lisa and she pulled hers out of her suitcase to wear one day and I immediately wanted one of my own. We’re just in sleeve country at the moment, but I’m hopeful that chugging away on this will have me a completed sweater in a brisk enough period of time, and then I can sink my teeth into some more lace knitting.

May20-NoroHourglass

Happy long weekend, or regular weekend if you are not in a Canadian part of the world! And happy knitting to all.

12 Comments

Filed under elizabeth zimmerman, finished object: shawl, lace, sweaters

The lace knitting version of crazy

So, you know how, when you’re knitting a lace-weight shawl, and you’re so close to being done that it feels like you’re really close, but then you realize you actually still have at least another two hours of knitting to go on the border? And it feels like it’s never going to end? And you’re not really sure you were thinking very rightly when you decided to start this project on a whim?

May17-PiShawlBlocking2

But then, eventually it does end, and you wash it and pin it all out for blocking (because even though it’s a circular shawl you don’t actually have circular blocking wires and are just making do with a million T-pins instead), and it looks sort of nice, like maybe it really did turn out OK after all, and that maybe it was actually a really great idea to start the shawl, because if you only ended up with exactly 5g leftover on the second skein then that’s a pretty great place to have stopped at?

May17-PiShawlLeftovers

And so you know how then you think, well, this lace knitting business isn’t so bad, now you have to immediately decide to start another one, even though you have a zillion other things to work on and you know eventually this new one will still have that agonizing almost-done-but-not-yet phase waiting for you?

May17-Pondering

Yeah. Me too.

(And if the sunshine ever returns from under these rain clouds that seem to have glued themselves to Southern Ontario, I will totally get on some proper Finished Object photos of the Pi Shawl. But it’s done, and I like it, and it was all worth it.)

14 Comments

Filed under elizabeth zimmerman, finished object: shawl, lace

So long, 2010

I’m a little late and a dollar short on my look back at 2010, and as I once again look ahead to a busy first few months of the new year (‘day job’ teaching, and of course a lot of knitting plans), I’m glad to have taken it a bit slow for these first few days of the new year. It has been restful to allow myself a bit of time to work on my current projects and think about new ones, without interruption.

I’ve also been wearing my last big project of 2010, and grabbed some photos of it yesterday thanks to Bridget, which means I can finally report on it here and call 2010 officially wrapped up.

Jan7-Yoke1

This is my fair isle yoke cardigan, worked from instructions found in Elizabeth Zimmerman’s Knitting Around. It is based on her ‘percentage system’, instructing you to do the math for your own body and essentially design your own sweater to fit. As written, the pattern instructions are for a pullover, but I decided to plan it out as a cardigan using a steek down the centre to create the gap for the button band (as described in my previous post). I’m happy with how it turned out, though I do wish in retrospect that I had used just one more button, allowing for slightly closer distance between buttons.

Jan7-Yoke3

It was an enjoyable knit, and one which really progressed fairly quickly once I dedicated myself to it (it was sadly put aside more than once, for a couple of weeks at a time), since the majority of it is plain stockinette stitch. And because I’m Like That, I decided to choose my own fair isle motifs for the yoke (and sleeve accents, for fun), which took a bit more brain time for decision-making but again moved pretty quickly once I sat down to do it. I’m happy with the final result and would be happy to knit another one – perhaps even take the foundational ideas into some designs.

My 2010 had some good knitting in it.

Mar21-Neptune7

All in all in 2010, I completed 30 projects or so – a great number, but one which is actually smaller than my totals for any of the years past. I think this is because I devoted more of my time than ever before to projects of my own design, and with design comes time spent in progress and thought before anything can be completed. I’m happy with the projects I did this year – 5 sweaters, 11 pairs of socks, 6 pairs of mittens and gloves, and many other shawls, hats, and other accessories.

Aug19-Lamplight3

Oct8-Staked4

I completed many projects that I’m quite proud of, and I’m glad for the things I’ve learned through them. I tried my hand at shawl design for the first time (and then a second time), and have been lucky to have worked with different and beautiful yarns from several Canadian dyers. I travelled to Rhinebeck once again and met up with a lot of wonderful knitting friends, new and old. I expanded by knowledge by taking more knitting classes, and taught a few more knitting classes myself. I look forward to more of all of this in 2011.

I hope your 2011 has gotten off to a good start! Happy knitting, and happy weekend ahead.

23 Comments

Filed under elizabeth zimmerman, fair isle, finished object: sweater, year in review

Cutting a Steek

This is about the point when I should really be showing off my finished fair isle yoke sweater, because it’s done and I’ve worn it and it’s lovely and comfortable. But of course, I still haven’t managed to get some finished object shots of it, so I’m a bit behind. I also need to do a proper 2010 projects-roundup, but I’ll get there soon.

In the mean time, I wanted to go back to the whole ‘steek’ thing, because I mentioned cutting the steek back in my last post before Christmas, and realized after a few of you commented about it, that I didn’t actually fully explain what a steek is and there may be some of you wondering what the heck it is, or who do know what it is but haven’t done one. Steeking, or cutting a steek, is, when all is said and done, the act of cutting up your knitting on purpose. You do this when you want to create a gap or opening in a piece of knitting that you have worked in the round, and the steek is the part of the knitting where you anticipate the cutting will happen. This is instead of what one might normally do in a styled garment, which is to work flat and turn the work at the point where these gaps normally appear – the cardigan front, the armholes, the neckline, etc. One inserts a few ‘extra’ stitches where the gap will appear, and carries on in the round.

Dec22-SteekBeforeCut

It’s pretty common to do this in stranded colour-work garments, because it means you only have to ever work the Right Side of the work while knitting in two colours at a time, and that saves you the trouble of trying to purl in two colours on the Wrong Side of the work. (Having said that, there are people – my mother included – who choose to simply work the Wrong Side anyway and omit the steek, because they prefer two-colour purling to having to do the steeking thing. It’s whatever brand of crazy you prefer).

If you’re doing this in 100% non-superwash wool, you don’t even need to reinforce it if you don’t want to, because the wool stitches cling to their neighbours well enough that it will not unravel. Unless, you know, you’re planning to really manhandle it or throw it under traffic or something like that. But there are different ways of reinforcing steeks, and in this case I did a sewn reinforcement – running two lines of sewing down the edges of the steek stitches, which is the quickest and most versatile way to reinforce a steek. (You can see the lines of sewing in the picture, above).

Back in December before Christmas, I had the wherewithal to get my sister to take a video clip while I was cutting the cardigan steek on the sweater. Because let’s face it, this is a one-shot opportunity. There’s no do-over on cutting up your knitting. I was hurriedly trying to finish my sweater alongside gift-wrapping, baking, visiting, etc – which probably explains my slightly frenetic tone of voice in the vid, heh – and honestly, the cutting up took less than a minute. If you haven’t had the good fortune to cut up a sweater of your own and want to know how it goes, well. This is how it goes.

Seriously, this is one of the best things ever. You can try it at home any time you want. Knit up a swatch – or even better, just go and find an old swatch in wool yarn, and make a vertical cut in it, and carry the bits around in your handbag for a while and see how it holds up. It’s awesome.

As for the post-steeking work, a couple of people asked how I was going to finish the steek after it had been cut, and I took a couple of shots here as well. There are naturally different options for finishing a steek, depending on what you want to do with the sweater. Elinor, who has done a yet awesomer job than me of explaining all of this, has a nice photo tutorial on the subject of reinforcing and finishing. In this case, I knew I was going to work a ribbed buttonband along the cardigan fronts. So, I mostly just wanted everything to look tidy on the inside.

Dec28-SteekFinishing1

Nobody would fault you for simply trimming the sewn edge evenly and leaving it as-is, but I decided to go one step above that. I folded down the edges towards the inside of the work, and neatly stitched them flat.

Dec28-SteekFinishing2

And then, you have a finished sweater. It’s pretty great. The only problem is that it’s entirely possible that once you’ve cut one steek, you’ll have the bloodlust and will want to cut up something else. Which means that you’ll have to go off and knit another project that requires steeking. But then, I suppose that’s not a problem after all, is it?

Happy knitting!

14 Comments

Filed under elizabeth zimmerman, fearless knitting, steeks

Gradual but steady

I have reached that stage of the holidays where, despite the fact that my load is relatively light compared to many others with enormous families, I have come to terms with the fact that not everything I wanted to get done is going to happen before Christmas, and I’ll just let finished things happen where they may. Some of the cookies will be post-Christmas cookies. I’ll finish up the Lord of the Rings re-viewing maybe on Boxing Day. I’ll be getting on a plane tomorrow and that’ll be some nice key knitting time right there.

Dec22-CaramelsAndKnitting

My grandfather’s socks, the only knitted gift that is a real must on my list, are on the go and are likely going to be the only thing I’ll work on for the next few days. I started them yesterday (ahahaha yeah, I’m a bit behind) in between stirring the pot of caramel I had going while attempting to make caramel marshmallows. (You know, because I somehow burned half of the simple sugar cookie recipe, but managed to make caramel marshmallows just fine? Yeah, I don’t know either.) Needless to say, those took basically all afternoon yesterday, but they are delicious. And a few little bags of them will be gifted, which is extra awesome.

I’ve also been so close to finishing up my Elizabeth Zimmerman yoked sweater that have been letting myself spend time on it this week in the scant couple of days that I’m at the homestead in Hamilton, because there is a sewing machine and I’ve been mostly by myself (my parents are living abroad this year, in Australia, and my sister and I carry on to relatives in Edmonton for Christmas festivities), which means I get to do things like make caramels and cut steeks whenever I darned well please. And I’m really looking forward to a) having a new winter sweater to wear, as well as b) finally finishing one of the ongoing projects I’ve had lingering for a couple of months and being able to move on to a new sweater or something else according to my whims.

Dec22-EZyokeCardigan1

I picked this back up again a week or two ago after neglecting it for a bit, and it’s only just gotten interesting in the last few days with the addition of the fair isle patterns on the yoke. It’s been the sort of project that I haven’t displayed much of on the blog because it would have amounted, essentially, to a sequence of photos of more brown stockinette knitting. But then, suddenly, poof, the colour-work portion came up and I was buoyed to get it done. The buttonband and neckband are just going to be basic ribbing, which means the steek edge is going to be visible on the wrong side of the work (as compared to a folded-over facing), so I elected to do just a simple sewn reinforcement. I sewed a line of stitches down each side of the middle of the steek…

Dec22-SteekSewing

Dec22-SteekBeforeCut

…and then cut right down the middle.

Dec22-SteekFinished1

Dec22-SteekFinished2

And that was that. Done and done. I tell you, steeking never gets old. And because this sweater is worked all at once in the round, all I have now is the ribbing for the buttonband, a few ends to sew in, and I’ll be done. Of course, there is the small matter that I forgot that I will need buttons, to sew onto the buttonband. But I’m sure that’s just a small matter, right? Buttons will magically materialize somehow? Um…maybe? I’ll be on the lookout. And will be sure to report back when it’s all done for good.

Whatever stage of holiday or non-holiday knitting, craziness, or both, you may be at right now, I wish you the best this week. And I’ll toast you all when I have a drink with my knitting later on tonight. And tomorrow. And probably Christmas Day and the day after that.

Happy knitting!

17 Comments

Filed under elizabeth zimmerman, fair isle, fearless knitting, steeks, sweaters

Hit or Mess

As I continue on these simultaneous and co-dependent paths of Knitting Things and Also Designing Things That Other People Might Want To Knit Too, I am learning that sometimes there is a fine line between creativity and frustration. Sometimes I get hit with five ideas at once and I love them all to bits and pieces and want to cuddle them and make everyone love them as much as i do, but then I don’t have time to act on all of them at first and then the ideas Must Wait and then I get Impatient. Other times I find myself having nothing to knit that does not involve making a set of decisions before progressing forward, or ripping out and re-doing, and the Creative Process starts to look a lot like Walking Around With A Black Raincloud Over My Head. (Or, that could just be today’s weather. Whichever).

This weekend was such an occasion/process for me. This month I assigned myself the task of knitting a Fair Isle Yoke cardigan from Elizabeth Zimmerman’s instructions, knowing that it involved relatively quick worsted weight knitting and that I had the yarn in my stash all ready to go, and therefore that this should be pretty easy as far as my knitting life was concerned. But of course, because my knitting brain tends to reject things that seem too easy, I also assigned myself the task of inserting a fair isle panel near the cuffs on the sleeves, even though this wasn’t in the original instructions. I was also motivated to do this in the interest of saving yarn – I have a limited amount of the dark brown (main colour) in use for the body and sleeves, and so inserting other colours onto the sleeves is a way of extending the lifespan of the dark brown skeins.

Nov22-EZsleeve1

Of course, this also meant choosing fair isle motifs to go on the sleeves, AND front-loading the decision about what colours to use for said motifs (rather than waiting until after the sleeves and body were done, and making said decision after having started the yoke). I procrastinated on this step like CRAZY. I let the sleeve cuff sit there, barely started, for a week. I gave myself 9 different shades to choose from, even though I only needed 4-5, which of course only made it harder for myself. And then when you add in the voice that says “make it better, make it more than that, dummy,” even simple tasks become challenging. I got there in the end, after a few tries and after convincing myself that it really is totally OK if it’s something fairly simple and not seven different kinds of complicated, but truthfully, I probably wouldn’t have agonized over it so much if I wasn’t also agonizing over other things.

Nov22-WillowV1

Take this wee mitten cuff, as Exhibit #2. It’s almost half a mitt, even, and I was really enjoying working the motif on it, and I also rather like the colour. But the more I kept knitting it the more I started to re-think it, and am not entirely convinced of the stitch count for the fit, the complexity of the motif, or even the matchup between the pattern and the colourway.

So, another thing that feels like a mess is going to get ripped and restarted, and I’ll start again and it’s going to be better the 2nd time around, but by the end of Sunday I was really starting to wish I had some knitting to turn to that didn’t involve the entire fate of the project being left to my decisions. And then, I realized that I do! I do have such a project. I have the Pi Shawl. Which is stockinette and easy, and, um, also now in the five-hundred-and-mumblety-mumblety number of stitches phase.

Nov22-PiShawl

And now I’m not sure if I don’t actually prefer the mess.
Go figure.

18 Comments

Filed under design, elizabeth zimmerman, fair isle

Now or Never

So, I’ve been poring over my Elizabeth Zimmerman books for what seems like ages. (For real – there was a while where they were bedtime or bathtime reading. It’s sort of like knitting without actually doing any knitting.) About a month and a half ago I finally caved and started a Pi Shawl, because I had all manner of laceweight yarn kicking around to start something with, and I couldn’t stand waiting it out any more. It’s coming along, albeit slower now that I’m at the longest rounds that are over 500 sts.

The other project I’ve been coveting is the Fair Isle yoked sweater, with instructions in the Knitting Around book. I’ve also had the yarn kicking around, and knew straight out that I want mine to be a cardigan (steeking involved, but of course! mmm, delicious steeks), but have been stalling out due to other ongoing projects. So I told myself I would start it in November, and give myself a month. Tons of kntitters choose November as “National Sweater Knitting Month” or NaSweKniMo, a la “National Novel Writing Month” or NaNoWriMo. Sometimes it’s the deadline that gets things done.

Nov5-EZyoke1

Well, I didn’t start it right on November 1st, but November 3rd was good enough, and I’m a few inches into the body. It’s a lot of stockinette right at first, which is a bit hard to keep interesting, but on the other hand it’s good because this gives me a bit of stalling time to figure out exactly which colours I’ll use on the yoked part. I’ve got lots of options, just haven’t settled on the specific order yet.

I love knitting. You’re never short of fun decisions, I tell ya.

Nov5-EZyoke2

A few others on Twitter are following along with their own Elizabeth Zimmerman project for the month of November – come join in if you like! We’re using the hashtag #EZnovember and are entirely at our own whims otherwise.

Happy knitting this weekend!

14 Comments

Filed under elizabeth zimmerman, sweaters