Knitter's Almanac is probably the most personal of Elizabeth Zimmermann's books, as it includes a year's worth of essays about what was happening in her life and what inspired the patterns included in each chapter.
She writes about how the cold January winters in Wisconsin inspire an Aran sweater, knitting while the Old Man (her term for her husband) was watching ski jumping, the joys of a colorful spring and the fun of being snowed in.
Every Pattern Has a Story
The book runs from January through December, and in most months there's more than one pattern. The projects range from sweaters to baby garments and blankets, Christmas ornaments to the famous Pi Shawl, a giant circular shawl.
In some cases a large portion of the chapter is a description of the mechanics of the pattern, followed by "pithy" directions that give all the necessary steps in less drawn-out form. This is really handy, because you can refer to the more detailed descriptions if you need to or just press on with the shorter instructions.
The patterns are interspersed with stories about what was happening in Zimmermann's life while she was working on the projects. Helpful tips and techniques are also included, such as an I-cord bind off and one-row buttonhole. An appendix covers some of her classic techniques -- special cast ons and bind offs, phoney seams -- for those who might not be familiar with them.
And, as should be expected, Zimmermann shares her opinions on all sorts of knitting matters. One of my favorites has to do with knitting for babies and the insistence by many that only machine washable fibers be used:
Nothing keeps a baby as warm and comfortable as wool ... Should a clerk come out with the remark that All Young Mothers In This Day and Age (why can't they save their breath and say "now"?) insist on yarn which can be machine-washed and machine-dried, come back at her with the reply that one day, you suppose, they will develop a baby that can be machine-washed and -dried.
As usual with Zimmermann's books, Knitter's Almanac approaches readers with a warm spirit and can-do attitude that are sure to make knitters of all skill levels want to tackle these projects (and some of them really are quite easy). The stories of her cat's antics, the weather and life in Wisconsin are heartwarming and provide a fun glimpse into what her life was like and what she was doing as these patterns were being created.
These vignettes make you wish you could be sitting there on the boat or at the campsite with her, chatting about knitting while working away on some little project. The book is the next best thing.
Publication date: 1974