The knitting world has been all abuzz with the long-awaited release of Elizabeth Zimmermann’s posthumous Knit One, Knit All – and with good reason. I received my copy two weeks ago and have been savoring the freshness of each page. The book is very inspiring and I feel particularly touched by the ‘evidence’ of Elizabeth’s process that is included – scraps of paper with scribbled notes and half-drawn sketches, alongside landscape watercolors from her home or abroad. To me, this window into her thought process and inspirations is especially exciting.
Today, in celebration of her new publication, I have something very special for you. I’ve been sitting on some notable photographs for quite a while, waiting for the right time to share them with you, and this week the timing feels perfect.
Back in September of 2009 when I had the wonderful opportunity to photograph EZ’s newly discovered Green Sweater, there were a few other EZ artifacts that came along for the ride. Joan Morhard Smith, who as a child called “Betty” (EZ) the Crazy Knitting Neighbor Lady, had been the recipient of plenty of EZ’s wool creations when growing up in New York City, and brought the Green Sweater to the public eye two years ago. As she was readying the Green Sweater for its trip to Brooklyn for our photoshoot, Joan found two wool hats tucked away with it. Both had been conceived and knitted by Elizabeth, and were brought along because Joan thought I “might be interested.”
The funniest part is that she pulled them out just as she was leaving, almost as an afterthought. “Would you like to see two hats Elizabeth knit for me?”
With a conscious effort towards self-control, I respectfully said yes (with minimal limb-flailing). She then pulled out two colorwork hats, worked in natural wools. In the waning afternoon light I asked Joan to hug the window so I could get a few quick photos of her wearing the hats before she left.
The first was a ‘pillbox’ style with a turned picot hem and simple, rhythmic motifs worked in cream and heathered grey. Just before beginning her crown shaping, Elizabeth worked a purl row to create an angled turn and flat top. The turned hem at the base of the hat was folded and joined with a three-needle bind-off, but purling the stitches together rather than knitting them. This created a simple ridge at the top of the doubled-hem which I loved.
The second hat is fantastic. A small hat with a tam-like shape, worked in cream, brown and grey.
The pattern alternates between grey stripes and brown floating ‘lice’ stitches, worked on a background of cream wool. The crown shaping is the most exciting part: a combination of round ‘yoke’ shaping that transitions to a small 7-wedge decrease which incorporates colorwork for the brown star-like design. The beret ‘nub’ at the top of the crown is simply a loose piece of brown wool, or perhaps two strands felted together to create a slightly thicker piece of yarn that would stand up on its own.
Both hats are simple ideas, but have the imprint of a great mind. They were both so charming in design – utilitarian in purpose but with details that kept the knitting (which was most likely improvisational) interesting. I felt so fortunate to have gotten to inspect them closely, and now, to share them with you.
I’m grateful that we’ve been given more EZ to celebrate with Knit One, Knit All. If you’d like to grab a copy of your own, head on over to Schoolhouse Press, where I imagine they are going like hotcakes.