Thursday, August 04, 2005

Oh, Pooh

I'm perplexed. So many of you seemed to think there is something naughty about an innocent game of Poohsticks. What ever do you mean? Must you see smut everywhere?

Macho Knitting

You boys in San Francisco, Denver and New York City, and especially you smug fellows in Washington, DC can just drop the attitude, because Chicago now also has a men's knitting night. Hah! Well, it had one. Last night. And there were only two of us. But still.

A quiet (non-commenting) but frequent reader of this blog contacted me a while back and asked if I'd like to meet up and knit, possibly prompted by my endless whining that I haven't got any other men to knit with.

(Oh, stop it. I am not a mysoginist. If you read this blog regularly, you know that. Among my dearest friends I count far more women than men, and most of my heroes are more properly called heroines.

And I love knitting with women, I really do. But you know how it is. Sometimes, as the Jewish grandmother of a guy I knew in college used to say, sometimes you need to get away from the goyim for a little while.)

Anyhow, Greg (that's the fellow's name) suggested we could have fun knitting together and he was right. Hell of a nice guy. He's far more accomplished than I am, being a veteran of numerous sweaters. He has also just finished a sock so beautiful that I hid my Mary Thomas Test Sock under the sofa cushions so it wouldn't suffer from crumpled self-esteem.

Greg also brought goodies: Elizabeth Zimmermann videos. Oh my.

St. Elizabeth in Living Color

I've been that way about Elizabeth Zimmermann since I first picked up Knitting Without Tears.

It's not the first book I would hand to an absolute beginner. She explains the basics well, and in fact helped me finally to understand what was wrong with my purl stitch. But what sets her apart is a mix of uncommon common sense, solid writing, and a bravado in the face of established "rules" that is infectious and liberating. She literally changed the way I think about knitting. Until I read her books, I never imagined I could be brave enough to deviate in the slightest from a printed pattern. Now I know better.
Greg has her "Knitting Workshop" series, made for television back in (I believe) the 1970s, and brought them along.

They have to be seen to be believed. They are the opposite of the slick stuff you see on HGTV. There is one camera and precious little editing. Elizabeth just sits in front of a stack of wool and talks and knits, occasionally turning her back so the camera can get an "over the shoulder" view of her work.

Occasionally somebody (Meg Swansen?) speaks to her from off-camera to remind her to talk about a particular topic or correct her gauge calculations. (After doing the math incorrectly in her head, Elizabeth says good-naturedly, "You see, I'm simply not qualified to teach knitting.")

She does each episode in a single take.

It's like having her in the living room. It's perfectly marvelous. It's inimitable.

Greg, thank you. Let's do it again.

And so, I have a question. Did anybody who might be reading this ever get to meet Elizabeth, or take one of her classes? If you did, and you would be kind enough to tell me about it, I would be so grateful. (I don't care how long-archived this article may be when you're reading it - speak to me.)


Franklin said...

Fair enough, Tricky. You can be granola. Right now, I feel like shredded wheat. Cheerio!

Anonymous said...

Ya know? I HEAR ya on the needing the men company thing. (and I'm a woman)I'm surrounded by women all day, and the few men who do drop by the office don't stay long due to the estrogen levels that run rampant down our corridor (shudder). So, good for you for organizing something for yourself.

Anonymous said...

About the attitude, my boys' night here has NO attitude. (Probably because there are no boys). Well, like yours maybe 1 or 2 regulars. I started up another one when I managed another store, and none of them followed me here. (I think it's a good thing) - I wished I would have taken a class from the one and only, but I, like many, can only read her books. :(

dragon knitter said...

oh my goodness (swoon). EZ! the knitting goddess! wow, you lucky duck. i'm so jealous! maybe i could come up to chicago (it's only 8 hours from here) and visit you and your friend! indeed, wow!

Franklin said...

Just to be clear, darlings, I was writing tongue-in-cheek. I don't really think you all are riddled with attitude. I'm just envious.

Jonathan from Chicago, if you're reading this, say hello!

Anonymous said...

Well, having never met EZ, and being decidedly female, I guess the only point of my commentting is to nanny nanny poo poo that my knitting group in measly Buffalo boasts 3 men in its ranks. Some nights the men out number the women. I'm very fortunate

Cheryl:) said...

I would love to have some men in our knitting group!! (We have a couple husbands who occasionally sit nearby to keep an eye out on their wives)

Patience said...

I met her one afternoon in July, 1991, when I was at first-timers Camp and she and Arnold came by for a booksigning visit. Very nice people, though she was already suffering from short-term memory problems. Arnold signed his picture page at the front of Knitting Workshop and Elizabeth signed my Knitting Without Tears (first thing coming out with me in the event of fire).

BTW, I forwarded your dinner invitation to Barbara Walker's son, who's a friend of a housemate...

Anonymous said...

I'm sorry you didn't take a photo of Greg's sock.

-- Carol S.

Anonymous said...

An old E.Z. knitting workshop video? I'm UNDONE!

Reading "Knitting W/O Tears", enabled me to CUT an armhole into a sweater. My attitude toward knitting has never been the same.

All the best with your knitting night. And don't hide your "test" pieces, sweetie. If Greg can own E.Z. workshop videos, I'm sure he can be supportive. The "accomplished" don't want to work in isolation, either.

Anonymous said...

Ah, we'll have you off to Knitting Camp in the near future.

I corresponded with EZ on a nearly weekly basis for 2 years, and spoke with her on the phone. (There's a fun story.) We exchanged info about knitting (of course), life, music, politics, the name it. I still have her pound cake recipe here in my files.

Knitting Without Tears (KWT) was the first book of hers that I bought, and it really spoke to me. She really was an amazing person, and knitters in North America owe her big time. Our world is much richer because of her explorations.

Anonymous said...

I didn't even learn to knit until after EZ's passing, but my local library has the entire video series that you were watching--all 3 tapes. So I, too, had her in my living room, dropping her needles, and saying, "Oh, well, I have more here on the table."

Anonymous said...

Wow. I think you need to apologise for that one Franklin.
Ouch it hurts.
I would've been downright ready to send out a felicitous message of congratulations but the sting of the back of your hand stung me before I could get the message of congratulations out. GRIN
Seriously though, I'm way psyched about the first Chi-town Men's Knit.

Anonymous said...

I love those Zimmerman tapes. I got them last year and have learned so much from them. I wish I would have had the oportunity to meet Elizabeth Z. when she was around. I have spoken with her daughter on the phone when ordering from Schoolhouse Press. She is every bit as delightful and charming as her mother is in the videos and she has some of her own knitting books out. If you haven't been to the Schoolhouse Press site you ought to check it out. They have both the Knitting Workshop and Knitting Around on video tapes. : )

lucia said...

I have a signed copy of "Knitting Without Tears" which my Mom gave me. She got it at a book signing; I'm not sure that quailifies as "meeting" Elizabeth Zimmerman, but it's close.

Anonymous said...

I know it's a little late to be commenting on a post from a year ago, but I just found you! I don't know you and you don't know me, but we have a love for EZ in common. The Sulzer Regional Library in Chicago has a collection of EZ. I've never been there (no car), but I will someday. They have many videos and books.

KristenT said...

My grandmother (who taught me to knit) met her, and I have the signed Knitter's Almanac from that meeting.

My gran was very influenced by EZ, and she passed that on to me. The more I read of EZ, the more I feel I'm seeing more of my gran's mind. They were knitting twins, EZ and my gran.

I wish I had spent more time knitting with gran before she passed... it's one of my regrets. However, now everyone in my family claim I'm channeling her spirit while I'm knitting, so I guess she's still with us.

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