an open letter to elizabeth zimmerman

June 29, 2011

dear elizabeth,

while generally i operate in the realm of the visible, i admit to being a bit superstitious. i was raised catholic after all. and while i recognize that you were a mere mortal when you walked this earth, your impact on the knitting world was so great that many believe your influence still holds sway from beyond the grave.

when i was little, i would pray to the appropriate saint for help with those problems that were to small to bug god directly. he or she could be counted on to answer my prayer and help me out or, if need be, file the appropriate paperwork with the big man himself. (i cannot tell you how many times st. anthony saved my ass. i’m always losing shit) but as far as i know, there’s no patron saint of knitting, and even if there were, those cats and i aren’t exactly on speaking terms these days.

so i’m coming to you for help. i’ve been utterly uninspired lately, basically since i left the hospital. i feel like a beginner again, constantly making little mistakes and not having the fortitude to cope with them. it’s left me pretty bummed and has meant i’ve had a bunch of false starts.

recently, though, i found a project that actually made me pretty happy. once again i found myself working row after row late into the night with that obsessive determination that makes my whole upper body ache and leaves that special red line on my index finger. isn’t it lovely?
finally, i had a project that reignited my passion for knitting and gave me hope that i hadn’t lost whatever talent i may have had.

or so i thought.

apparently, the joy of feeling like a knitter again eradicated my ability to access basic knowledge of how knitting works. triangular shawls are kinda my thing. i’ve knit quite a few of them. they could be the only knitted objects besides a hat where i totally understand its construction. yes, this shawl is bottom up, and i’m more into center-out, but the same principles apply. yet there i sat, knitting thousands of stitches, only ever stopping to think,

“how odd it is that there are no center decreases.” or
“i wonder when the center decreases will start. maybe in chart two.” or
“hmm, that picture looks kinda different from my shawl. must be the yarn.”

nope. not the yarn. i just completely read the chart wrong and must now rip out about a week’s worth of knitting.

of course, i could point out the flaws in the chart and its instructions that led to this error, but really i have enough experience to know better. i should have caught this one.

the enormity of this particular gaff left me paralyzed these past few days. i didn’t know how to blog about it. i couldn’t face it. i’m not sad or anything, really. it’s almost hilarious how bad i seem to be at this.

but i wanna be good again.

now, i must admit that i haven’t read any of your books, nor have i knitted any of your patterns. i live a somewhat unwholesome lifestyle filled with lustful thoughts and the f-word falling from lips about as often as “the”. you’ve no reason to help me. i doubt we have anything in common. i’m an english knitter for christ’s sake!

but here’s the thing. i’ve got nowhere else to turn. i literally think my only option is to address the spirit of a dead woman who, if she ever met me, would probably frown. please, liz. just tell me what i should cast on. tell me what i need to do get back on track. i’ll burn incense, chant, dance naked under the full moon, whatever. tell me who to blow and i’m there!

because i don’t want to lose knitting. i love it.
and crochet just ain’t gonna cut it for me.

sincerely yours,


p.s. i’d appreciate it if you’d keep this particular failure between you and me. wouldn’t want it getting out that i’m not the perfect knitter i pretend to be.

15 Responses to “an open letter to elizabeth zimmerman”

  1. Kelli Says:

    Mojo ebbs and flows. Don’t think too hard about it. It will return. I miss you. Come knit with me for awhile. *kiss*

  2. Erin Says:

    OK, first off…I absolutely love your new project. The color, texture, and stitch definition look just beautiful; the picture kind of made me gasp with envy. I long to knit something like that soon, but unfortunately I suffer from hot summer hands which make wool like kryptonite to Superman.

    Secondly, I get where you are coming from: you’re in a funk. You see I had brain surgery three years ago and spent an entire summer staring at bugs on my porch. Time flew by like a timewarp in a weird movie sequence, and then it seemed that suddenly things got better. So my advice to you: embrace your funk. Do what you can do best and be kind to yourself. I don’t know you, but I do eagerly look forward to your posts/adventures/crafty ways…to me (and I am so sure many, many others), you matter!

    “Life is not suffering; it’s just that you will suffer it, rather than enjoy it, until you let go of your mind’s attachments and just go for the ride.” – from The Way of the Peaceful Warrior

  3. happymousefairy Says:

    Wow, that yarn and pattern is lovely!

    I admire your ability to be eloquent in that situation – I’m afraid I get all ranty and sullen and things (soft ones, I’m not that bad) get thrown… and my sentence construction runs away to quiver in a corner somewhere until I’ve calmed down again…

    Good luck finding a project, I hope you get an EZ answer – and thanks for giving me something to grin about for a few minutes while I break from a bit of work 🙂

  4. Bonnie Says:

    A very vexing problem. If it were me, I think I would take a nice, easy sock pattern (4-row repeat kind of easy) and some yarn that I already knew I loved in a new colorway Then I’d try to relax, knit, and enjoy the mysticism that is making a THING from sticks and string. You probably have your own version of this–knitting something smallish that you love and do very well. How about trying that before launching back into a big project?

  5. Frankie Says:

    Love, love, love your letter to Elizabeth Z! 😀
    You sound like you’re in a knitting slump — happens to all of us from time to time I think. I’ve found that my only way through one is to knit a truly mindless project is some yarn that I love. It makes me remember why I enjoy the process so much and helps me find my focus to take on a challenge. I’m really sorry your current project has you vexed — the picture of it is so lovely. I wish you many, many years of knitting happiness to come and may you enjoy some lovely summer knitting.

  6. kris Says:

    You are trying too hard!!, Relax and it will come back , you have had a bad spring season, let summer work her magic, relax sit in the sun start with something easy, and work your way up, Remember that we aren’t patient before we KNIT , it’s because we KNIT.

  7. brooke Says:

    i think there is a knitting funk going around.. i had it too, kinda like a bad cold…..until yesterday, when I purchased some lovely debbie bliss and a book of baby patterns. I am knitting an adorable little sweater vest for a baby boy due july 13th. I’ve got to get my groove on and quick. it was pure delight to cast on and the ribbing has these cute little cables in it…too cute! Never mind I have a cape thing that needs to have a bizzillion stitches picked up and beads pre-strung; never mind the mary janes for my own granddaughter just sitting in my bag.. nope, this baby argle sweater vest is the bomb! getting out of my funk…. drink lots of fluids, pray to st. liz and you will be fine.

  8. Chancy Says:

    I know everyone else is offering knitter’s consolation…but that’s not why I’m here. (Although I do sympathize. Really, I do.) I’m here to say that the fact that you inquired as to who you had to blow in your letter to EZ is f-ing hilarious. In fact, up until that moment, I thought: I’m sure EZ would treat this letter with the unmost sincerity it deserves and all this apologizing for the f-bombs is silly. She wouldn’t mind at all. And then that “who do I have to blow” moment happened and I inwardly laughed and realized that I couldn’t vouch that she wouldn’t mind that one. She just may have been from the wrong era for that one, but I’d like to picture her cracking up along with me and saying “Knit on through all crises–even knitting ones….and I’ll ask around about the, ahem, blowing.”

  9. Nancy Paris Says:

    Dear Steven,
    I was wondering what was going on with you. Post sickness syndrome, I’m guessing.
    I’m not making a plug but . . . have you seen the Spud and Chloe stuffed toys? I just finished the barn cat, and I finished Spud a couple of days ago and I am tellin you, this has been one of my most enjoyable knitting experiences yet. Spud could wash the ennui out of anyone.

    Nancy Paris

  10. Cheryl Says:

    I recommend spinning.

  11. linda cannon Says:

    I really picked up on Saint Anthony “oh my gosh” what would we do without him? i still have things I keep asking about from him. Just back track and keep plugging along.

  12. Anonymous, too Says:

    Other than going batshit crazy and knitting some humongous thing banned by the Geneva Convention (beaded seatcovers for Aunt Agnes’ schoolbus?), I think there are two ways you can go right now:

    1.) Take a rest. Read some knitting books, maybe work out some color schemes and buy the yarn. Maybe swatch a little. Wait for St. Elizabeth Z. to slap you upside your head and force you to knit a Baby Surprise Jacket.

    2.) Knit something very easy, yet rewarding. A rectangular scarf in a texture stitch with luxurious yarn. A little blanket for your favorite kid’s baby doll. A simple sleeveless vest for Nurse Mom. Maybe some chemo caps or newborn blankets for charity. Then, ease into something larger or more complex.

    Hang in there. You can do it.

  13. Juliet in Grand Rapids Says:

    I’m kind of in a funk, too, but I know it’ll come back. I think that it’s the recovery. Sometimes, you’re just heading along the road and along comes a mack truck and suddenly you’re off track. You were poked and drugged and your life was saved, no less! When you are plunked back down on the track, you’ve lost your bearings, your clock, your itinerary, even your purpose is in question… this all takes time to come back. You have knitting to help you get there (or not). ‘Tis the way of the world. Take your time, love yourself, and accept the appreciation of those who love you. That’s what’s important.

    (And Nancy, right you are about those Itty Bittys! I can’t wait to cast on Spud, and then the kitty and another one of those reversibles from IB Toys. I’m not sure it would be Steven’s inspiration, but it’s important to remember to knit through all crises as EZ says.)

  14. Alyssa Says:

    I’ve felt like this lately, too. So I cast on something that EZ would be mostly proud of: a garter stitch baby blanket. (The caveat EZ would not like? it’s in acrylic, not wool.)

    Best of luck to you!

  15. Linda Says:

    My knitting mojo is completely gone. Up in smoke. Now I know to offer up a prayer to St. EZ to find it for me.

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