Found­ing Moth­ers of Mod­ern Knit­ting

Creative Knitting - - CONTENTS - By Ta­betha Hedrick

Knit­ting is com­pletely dif­fer­ent from what it was 50 years ago. To­day, it has a long list of in­spir­ing pat­terns, larger-than-life de­sign­ers and per­son­al­i­ties and main­stream at­ten­tion. This growth is largely due to the im­pact of the women I call the found­ing moth­ers of mod­ern knit­ting: El­iz­a­beth Zim­mer­mann, Mag­gie Righetti, Bar­bara G. Walker and Mary Thomas. The com­bined ef­fect of their teach­ing styles and at­ti­tudes led the way in in­ven­tive de­sign, craft­ing resur­gence and, ul­ti­mately, con­fi­dent ex­per­i­men­ta­tion. And yet, their wise words didn’t just teach us knit­ting; they taught us about the joys in learn­ing, the laugh­ter in quiet mo­ments and the con­nec­tion we all have to each other through our knit-lov­ing hands.

El­iz­a­beth Zim­mer­mann is to knit­ting as Ju­lia Child is to cook­ing, leav­ing a legacy of cre­ative ex­plo­ration, en­cour­age­ment and fun. Her books con­tinue to be a sta­ple of ev­ery knit­ter’s li­brary, not only be­cause of the valu­able tips and tricks that they of­fer, but be­cause of how her heart­en­ing voice and quirky hu­mor in­fuse the pages. From El­iz­a­beth’s Per­cent­ages Sys­tem (EPS) to her tu­to­ri­als on rec­og­niz­ing when fudg­ing is com­pletely ac­cept­able, her writ­ings re­main just as per­ti­nent to­day as they were when she penned them.

With her dry wit and charm­ing sar­casm, Mag­gie Righetti is the teacher we all wish we could meet in per­son. She ex­plained things in such a straight­for­ward man­ner that con­fu­sion sim­ply evap­o­rated! Mag­gie was on the front lines of the yarn store re­nais­sance, when knit­ting be­came a plea­sure rather than a ne­ces­sity or obli­ga­tion. Her guid­ance on gauge changed my life, and I still chuckle when I read The Dumb Baby Sweater, pub­lished in her book Knit­ting in Plain English.

The iconic Bar­bara G. Walker is quite pos­si­bly the most fa­mous knit­ting celebrity alive to­day, hav­ing au­thored sev­eral vol­umes of stitch pat­tern en­cy­clo­pe­dias that have be­come land­marks for knit­ters and de­sign­ers alike since 1968. Her as­tound­ing in­tel­li­gence led her to think out­side the box of knit­ting norms, and she has drafted pat­terns that have opened a new world of lace and tex­ture.

Mary Thomas’s Knit­ting Book, a long-stand­ing clas­sic that has been in pub­li­ca­tion since 1938, is the Swiss Army Knife of knit­ting. In her well-known, metic­u­lous method­ol­ogy, Mary en­cour­aged her stu­dents to learn knit­ting in a pro­gres­sive, thor­ough and pre­pared man­ner. Paired with in­fin­itely de­light­ful draw­ings by Mar­garet Agut­ter, Mary’s lessons are ones you can come back to over and over again.

The found­ing moth­ers may have thought they were only writ­ing a knit­ting book or two, but the im­pres­sions of their words, their en­cour­age­ment and their in­vis­i­ble men­tor­ship is ever alive in the mod­ern knit­ter to­day.

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