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elizabeth zimmermanI was lucky enough to discover Elizabeth Zimmerman fairly early in my knitting journey, so I approach knitting with a fearless can-do attitude that stuns many of my friends and my rule-abiding strict pattern-follower mother. Even though I only have one Elizabeth Zimmerman book (The Knitter’s Almanac), I have viewed her as a wise and opinionated knitting grandmother that I never had. All of my grandmothers crocheted.

It was during one of my re-reads of The Knitter’s Almanac that I decided that I needed to expand my Elizabeth Zimmerman collection. That led me straight to my job as an ILL Clerk. After all, we have this wonderful resource of being able to borrow books that our library didn’t have from other libraries. There should be a library out there with copies of EZ books. I started with Knitting without Tears and a book copy of The Knitting Workshop until I realized something. Even though Elizabeth is no longer with us, we can still see her and hear her voice because there are DVDs out there. I immediatley put in a request for the Knitting Workshop DVD because I knew there was a library out there that had it (my boss had asked for clarification if I wanted the book or the DVD before because she had found both) and I desperately wanted to know the sound of her voice. Was it anything like the warm, comforting if slightly sarcastic grandmother I had imagined?

knitting workshopI was delighted to get back to work after my vacation to discover the DVD waiting for me in my mailbox. It turned out that my boss (who thinks very highly of my knitting) ordered it sight unseen because she thought it would be a good resource for the library to have. I was all to happy to get home and pop it in the DVD player. My mom even joined me for the very first lesson of casting on a little hat to work in the round.

From the first chord of music that plays, you feel instantly welcomed as Elizabeth looks up from her knitting, smiles, and welcomes you to the episode. You can’t help but grin when she almost immediately launches into a discussion about why wool is a superior fiber, how wool is a renewable resource (sheep are always growing wool), and to be careful where you buy your wool because speech has changed where the word “wool” is slowly replacing the word for “yarn” and becoming a generic term. Of course, she adds, yarn is fine and dandy to knit with if you want to knit with it, but she is biased towards using wool.

The projects that Elizabeth works you through are practical and familiar. There is enough material that even if you are a completely new knitter, you would be able to learn how to knit from this DVD alone. In the first part, you are shown two ways to cast on, how to knit, how to purl, and how to make ribbing in the round on a hat. By the time you are done with the hat, you will have mastered two colored knitting and decreasing. Then you move onto a bigger project: a sweater to go with the hat custom knit with your exact gauge.

The only downside that you might come across is that Elizabeth throws information at you and you can tell by her tone that she expects you to do it. There is no pampering or hand-holding in The Knitting Workshop. I can imagine that if she was there in the room with you and you said you were afraid to do something, she might laugh at you and tell you that it is only needles and yarn; you can always rip it out if something goes wrong. This is a fantastic way to look at things because it does teach you how to be fearless, but some people don’t react very well to that sort of tone and it could come off as snobishness for the lack of a better word.

Personally, I wish I had this DVD to learn from back when I was trying to learn to knit as a pre-teen because of the overwhelming confidence that Elizabeth portrays that you can knit. I would have felt less afraid that I was going to screw up my knitting and I probably would have learned how to purl much faster instead of convincing myself that I couldn’t do such an “advanced technique”.

If you are a new or beginning knitter who is ready to take their knitting to the next level, a knitter who wants to become more confident about their skills, or an experienced knitter who wants a refresher on basics and some nice tips and tricks from an opinionated companion I would highly recommend Elizabeth Zimmerman’s The Knitting Workshop.

Did I convince you to go out and get your own copy, but you don’t know where to get it? Don’t worry, you can get a copy of this DVD and all of Elizabeth Zimmerman’s work from Schoolhouse Press.

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