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.”


Author: Jessie Colleen

I am a gal in my mid-twenties living and knitting in upstate New York.

2 thoughts on “Knitting Without Tears and Knitter’s Humor

  1. EZ is amazing! She changed my knitting life…her books also convinced me to teach myself continental which moves me through projects, especially the larger ones, ten times faster. Enjoy your knitting and reading! :)

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