The Knitted Frau

Adventures in knitting, and other things too.


Knitting Without Tears and Knitter’s Humor

As it has been summertime, I haven’t knit a stitch in months.

I should have been knitting. I really should have. There are babies on the way! There are weddings coming up! Winter is coming!

So, finally, just as August arrives, I have decided to get my ass back in gear. I just returned from the library, hoping to have found a book with a basic stocking pattern. What I came out with instead was “Knitting Without Tears” by Elizabeth Zimmerman (August 9, 1910 – November 30, 1999).

I have heard or read many knitters referencing Ms. Zimmerman’s book, and it is considered one of the classics of knitting literature (despite mysteriously not having a Wikipedia page). It is one of the first books that handled knitting in an informal, free-form way, teaching the basics while encouraging experimentation and the development of your own patterns and ideas.

Even though I am already fairly well-versed in knitting techniques, I figured it couldn’t hurt to read it and brush up on my terms before jumping back into my projects with rusty needles. And I am SO glad I’m reading it. Ms. Zimmerman is funny. Really funny. I laughed aloud, in the library, reading a knitting book.  If that doesn’t prove how funny she is, I don’t know what will. If Amy Sedaris wrote a knitting book in the 70’s, this is what it would be. (If you haven’t experienced Simple Times; Crafts for Poor People or I Like You: Hospitality Under the Influence I strongly recommend reading them. Amy is a crafting humor genius.)

Here are some choice excerpts from her chapter one, “The Opinionated Knitter.”


On double-pointed needle guards in an emergency:

“Emergency knobs for double-pointed needles can be made from tightly-wound rubber bands, or from those rubber needle guards which are never to be found when wanted. Dorothy Case links her needle guards with wool; then they can both get lost together.”


On what you need to knit:

“Really, all you need to become a good knitter are wool, needles, hands, and slightly below-average intelligence. Of course superior intelligence, such as yours and mine, is an advantage.”


On the ingenuity of knitters:

“We could, if he desired them, make long-johns for an octopus.”


On tight vs. loose knitting:

“Tight knitters lead a hard and anxious life… If you are a tight knitter by chance instead of by choice, practice knitting loosely, and it may change your life.”


I am really enjoying reading this, and I’m only halfway through the very slim volume. If any of you knitters have not read Knitting Without Tears, I strongly suggest it. It’s funny, informative, and written by a woman whose influence on modern knitting is huge. She probably invented at least one technique that you use. The #1 cardigan pattern and the #1 baby sweater pattern on right now are her patterns. She, a humble knitter, got a full-article obituary in the New York Times entitled “E. Zimmermann Is Dead at 89; Revolutionized Art of Knitting.” How many knitters can boast that??

Now, I just need to track down her other books and my life will be complete. After I buy copies of them for my ever-growing personal knitting library.

In any case, I am full of renewed vigor and motivation to continue my projects that I abandoned back in March and get some new ones started! Christmas stockings, here I come!


And now, in closing, the personal motto of Elizabeth Zimmerman;

“Knit on with confidence and hope, through all crises.”