Knitting Inspiration: Elizabeth Zimmermann and Barbara G. Walker

Happy International Women's Day from Knit Picks!

Since today is International Women’s Day, I wanted to talk about three women who have most influenced me as a knitter.  The first is my grandmother, Phyllis Fissel, who taught me to knit and who patiently cast-on and bound off for me for years before I got the hang of it. My Phyllis and Marian dishcloth is inspired by the ones she always knitted.

The second two are women I’ve only interacted with through their writing: Elizabeth Zimmermann and Barbara G. Walker. Both are national icons of knitting and handcrafts. When I started knitting again seriously in my early twenties, I found a copy of Elizabeth’s Knitter’s Almanac and was instantly taken with her warm, chatty style and the way she encouraged the knitter to think for herself when following patterns. I made the iconic February Baby Sweater for a friend’s newborn from that book. From another book of EZ’s, Knitting Without Tears, I made my first adult sweater using her brilliant Percentage System. Through her words, she helped me see that mistakes are also opportunities for “unvention,” and demystified sweater construction.

Once I had learned about bottom-up knitting from EZ, I became curious about adding stitch patterns to my garments. Here I met the brilliant Barbara G. Walker, and her indispensable collections of stitch patterns, the Treasuries of Knitting Patterns One, TwoThree, and Four. I remember looking through the First Treasury and being amazed that there could be so many patterns! To this day, I use Barbara’s books regularly for inspiration for new patterns, and to explore new techniques and skills. I always learn something and get excited all over again about the endless possibilities of knitting.

What women inspire your knitting? Let me know in the comments!

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