First, the facts:
Author: Elizabeth Zimmermann
Published by: Schoolhouse Press, 2011
1. Head, Hands & Feet
The In-Depth Look:
Another book I hesitated about buying and now can’t imagine not having.
Garter stitch, while easy, has never been my favorite stitch. I’ve always preferred smooth stockinette to its bumps and ridges. So when I heard Schoolhouse Press was coming out with a new EZ book devoted to garter stitch … I was torn. One the one hand, it was Elizabeth Zimmermann who is considered a master for good reason, but on the other … how much did I really want a book about garter stitch?
Then I had a chance to flip through a copy at a local store and, well, I had to have it. I mean, it’s not like I don’t LIKE the stitch, right? (And the fact that I’m currently making an afghan in garter stitch kind of takes the legs out from the “it’s not my favorite” argument anyway.) Besides, once I saw some of the designs, my resistance disappeared.
EZ is quoted in the introduction saying, “One can only cite the elegant appearance of Garter stitch. It forms beautifully crinkly ridges, which are handsome in themselves. They can be employed horizontally or vertically or both and enable the structure of offbeat knitted pieces to be visible and organically decorative. I like to think that the very first knitter, doodling with sticks and sinews at the sunny entrance to his cave, or peering at his knitting by the flickering firelight, doodled with, or peered at, Garter stitch; the bread and cheese of knitting, the basic stitch–surely the prototype.”
It may well be that Garter stitch is the basic, bread-and-cheese stitch, but that doesn’t mean it’s boring–especially in the hands and mind of someone as innovative as Elizabeth Zimmermann. Take that hat on the cover. It looks like it’s just knit like any other hat, in the round in a series of rings, right? But in fact it’s knitted in a spiral like a chambered nautilus shell and shaped by short rows. It only LOOKS boring and basic.
It’s that sort of thinking that takes basic (boring?) Garter stitch and raises it to a new level of Interesting. For a lot of these patterns, the finished project might look simple, but the process of making them is anything but. Elizabeth Zimmermann never took things the easy way just because it was easy. Her ambidextrous mittens are not only wearable on either hand, but she’s placed the seam so that it can be on top or on the side, depending on which hand you choose. Her Add-A-Booties start as fairly simple slippers but with instructions on how to layer them and add onto them little by little as the winter progresses until you end up with extra warm, extra padded booties. (Recycling at its best.)
There are so many genius things in here. Clever construction and creative shaping make this anything but a boring book about a basic stitch. This is Garter stitch raised to an art form.
My only real complaint about this book is the photos. They’re not “bad” photos in the usual knitting sense that they’re trying to hide flaws in the garments, but they’re often just, well, not good. There are even a few that are outright blurry–and not in that pretty, artistic way. They’re not outright dreadful, but … maybe we’re spoiled by so many beautifully photographed books these days, but I thought EZ’s creativity deserves better.
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