Tag Archives: ELizabeth Zimmermann

How I Knit

I have been knitting for almost 60 years.  I learned as a small child, sitting on my mother’s and grandmother’s laps.  Although their relationship was strained at best and despite the fact that they came from different parts of the world, they both knit the same way: holding the yarn in the left hand, making new stitches with the right (working) needle, and purling so the working needle moves counter-clockwise to scoop up the yarn.  The yarn is mounted on the working needle so the stitches to be knit on the next row have the leading leg to the back.  If this stitch is then knit through the back leading leg, the result is a nice even stockinette stitch.

This method of knitting has come to be called a variety of names: Eastern uncrossed continental, combined, anarchist, and often, wrong.  I prefer the easier and more descriptive name, Purling the Easy Way.  It is base on continental or picking, with the yarn in the left hand, and the working needle scooping up the yarn to make a new stitch.

My second knitting project, after the inevitable garter stitch scarf, was a complex Aran sweater, using imported Irish yarn that had some lanolin left in the wool.  No one told me multiple cables were difficult, and with some help from Minnie, the local yarn shop (LYS) owner (whose lap I also sat on), I worked my way through the sweater.  I learned two things from this experience: that something is not difficult if you knit stitch by stitch, and buy (or reserve) all the yarn for a project when you begin.  I ran out yarn for the second sleeve and could not get the same dye lot.  The second lot was significantly different (since it was undyed perhaps it was from different sheep or shepherds).  I never wore the sweater because the colors didn’t match.

But I digress.  As I kept knitting through junior and senior high school then college and law school, for the most part I knit in isolation.  Occasionally I would meet up with someone else who knit and it was such a novelty that we never actually got around to compare how we knit.

Then in the 1970s I came across a book called Knitting Without Tears by Elizabeth Zimmermann.  I discovered that I knit “the easy way”.  Finally it made sense to me why my decreases all looked the same and half of them were different than pictures in pattern books.  In my knitting, knit 2 together (K2Tog) and  slip, slip, knit (SSK) looked the same. For both maneuvers I was knitting two stitches together through the back loop, but not twisting the stitches, which resulted in a left-leaning decrease. I didn’t understand why for some of those decreases I had to slip the stitches first and put them back on the (left) holding needle. I didn’t know how to make a right leaning decrease.  EZ explained that although it was easier to purl this way it was not the standard way, and would require modification of directions in most knitting patterns.

So I set about a journey to understand how knitting worked, how to modify what I did and “unvent” ways to make my knitting look like the pictures.  None of these modifications are rocket science or even particularly complex.  And to this day I don’t understand why knitters insist on purling with a flipping finger or wrist twist when The Easy Way is so, well, easy.  I don’t hate purling; I even will knit garter stitch in the round (knit one row, purl one row).

This blog will primarily devoted to Purling the Easy Way, including working preparation rows on the wrong side of patterns including lace, so that on the right side rows all the stitches are mounted as they will be worked, with no removing or remounting.  Ordinary patterns and maneuvers can be worked without damage or pain in the left hand by twisting or flipping and there is no “rowing out” on purl rows.  Your knitting quickly motors on with elegance.

Along the way I will probably add other topics close to my heart, including how to modify patterns to fit, my thoughts on knitting needles, and a variety of other topics in knitting.  I hope you will join me in this journey and that it will help make your knitting life easier and more fun.