A Legacy of Knitting and Life

Yesterday, I finished the February Lady Sweater project that I’ve been working on. It’s only the second sweater I’ve ever made and I’m delighted with how it came out. It still needs to be blocked (which will improve the drape and allow the lace to spread out) and it’s missing its buttons but I think it came out pretty well, don’t you?

Credit goes to Pamela Wynne, the designer who created this lovely pattern from the February Baby Sweater in The Knitter’s Almanac by Elizabeth Zimmerman. She’s also kind enough to offer her work for free to the thousands of knitters who have made her pattern. I suspect along the way, she’s also taught a lot of people about Elizabeth Zimmerman and her legacy to knitting.

Elizabeth Zimmerman (known in knitting shorthand as EZ) was, in her own way, a bit of a knitting rebel. She broke a lot of rules and eventually founded Schoolhouse Press to have an outlet for her work because the Knitting Establishment (publishers of the day) only approved of techniques that she thought were unnecessarily difficult. Her books are a delight to read because along with knitting technique, she talks about her life and her family living in a repurposed schoolhouse in rural Wisconsin. A lover of nature and the outdoors life, Zimmerman knitted everywhere she went, even on the back of her husband’s motorcycle. She was a strong-willed woman who knew her own mind and encouraged knitters to think for themselves.

EZ reminds me a lot of my maternal grandmother, Eleanor Mills. Grandma was of the same generation and I well remember her knitting in the 1970’s. I hate to admit how many handmade mittens I probably lost over the years, not realizing how much work they were to create. Perhaps Grandma even watched EZ’s public TV series in the 70’s.

Having survived both the Great Depression and World War II, Grandma was incredibly self-sufficient and knew the value of hard work and making things yourself. She had a career in publishing at a time when women weren’t expected to do that sort of thing, and she reinvented herself many times over. In her 60’s, she started a new business and ended up being featured in Women’s Day magazine. She was tough and had high standards but she was also fair, and I remember from very early on, Grandma telling me how important it was that I go to college. That guidance and role model was an important influence on the person I am today.

I’m amazed as I go through life at all of the people who’ve helped me, mentored me, and guided me along the way. They didn’t have to do it, to invest their time and energy in my life; they did it out of a desire to see me succeed. The earliest and probably one of the strongest influences was Grandma Eleanor. I’m proud to say that I’m part of her long line of strong, independent women and I hope that in heaven they have internet access so she can hear me say thanks. And by the way, EZ, thanks for the knitting inspirations too. You and Grandma would have been great friends.

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