Knitting Around, the last book by Elizabeth Zimmermann published in her lifetime, is the companion to a video series called "Wool Gathering." While the patterns in the book are classic Zimmermann and there are plenty you'll want to knit, this book is particularly treasured by Zimmermann fans for the lengthy "digressions" that outline her life story before she became a famous knitter.
While Knitter's Almanac shares information on Zimmermann's life as a professional knitter, Knitting Around looks more at her childhood and young adulthood, including how she met her husband and how they came to move to America and, ultimately, to the schoolhouse.
While the autobiographical parts of the book are fascinating, the patterns are pretty good, too. There are some well-known patterns featured here, probably most notably the Pi are Square Shawl, which takes the Pi Shawl from Knitter's Almanac and adds a square portion to the front to make it easier to wear.
Here you'll also find the clever Bog Jacket, in sizes for kids and adults, as well as a collection of mittens, socks and dickeys, the knitted moebius (Zimmermann is said to be the first to design a knit based on the moebius), a Fair Isle yoke sweater and an Aran jacket.
The patterns include lots of black and white pictures and drawings to help illustrate techniques. An appendix explains techniques that might not be familiar to some readers.
As usual these patterns are interesting, useful and will make the knitter feel smart indeed, all good things.
The bulk of Knitting Around involves what Zimmermann called her "digressions," stories from her life growing up in England, attending art school in Germany, meeting her husband, Arnold, his escape from Nazi Germany, their quick marriage and move to America, as well as subsequent moves across the country.
She tells stories about how she learned to knit and how she came to have her knitting designs and later books published (thanks in part to Barbara Walker), what life was like raising her three children and renovating the dilapidated (to put it kindly) schoolhouse that would become the family home and namesake of the family business, Schoolhouse Press.
The book is also full of pictures of Zimmermann (including one in a handknit bathing suit!), Arnold and the kids as they were growing up. There are drawings and paintings of Zimmermann's, a reminder that she was an accomplished artist before she was a stunning knitting alchemist.
All of this might not be of much interest to people who don't care about the personal lives of the people whose designs they knit, but fans of Zimmermann will enjoy this glimpse into her life and the ability to feel like they know her a bit more even though they might never have had the change to meet her.
These digressions also are likely to make readers want to jot down their own digressions so a bit of their history will remain after they are gone as well.
Publication date: 1989