Over on ravelry, an "Opinionated Knitter KAL" has begun, beginning, well, at the beginning. Elizabeth Zimmerman's The Opinionated Knitter compiles her self-published newsletters from 1958 to 1968, and the pattern from Newsletter #1 (mailed in September 1958) is the Fair Isle Yoke Pullover.
For those of you who are not knitters, Elizabeth Zimmerman is a genius. Unlike many designers of her era (or of the present, for that matter), she aimed to make knitters more capable by asking them to do a little math and think a bit. I read somewhere that while most designers assumed that women can't do math, EZ assumed that they could, which, of course, we can. And we are not talking about quadratic equations, for goodness sakes! (At least not yet.) The challenge and the pleasure of her patterns is that they do not give line-by-line directions, but rather assume that you, being a knitter after all, can figure out what she means. Throughout her many books about knitting and every single pattern is this wonderful sense of her voice--as though you and she are having a little chat about knitting. And what knitter among us does not fantasize about chatting with Elizabeth Zimmerman?
These newsletters were edited by her daughter Meg Swansen, a knitting genius in her own right, and the heir to Elizabeth Zimmerman's Schoolhouse Press business and knitting reputation. Along with facsimiles of the typed (and presumably mimeographed?) newsletters are Meg Swansen's comments and suggestions, making connections between these particular documents and patterns and EZ's wider corpus of patterns, discoveries, and innovations.
I was initially nervous about starting with a Fair Isle sweater. I have done a number of stranded projects, but never anything sweater-sized, and because I do not feel that my two-handed gauge has evened out, I am worried about how the stranded part will look. But hey: there is no time like the present to work things out--I mean, to take a little risk with the knitting.
I ordered some Shetland wool from Schoolhouse Press for the project: this is a smidge tricky, because there is no color card for these yarns, and one is never sure how accurate a reflection of the actual colors the online pictures will be. So my blue and my pink are both a bit different than I expected, but they will work and look good together.
I am not sure whether I will need to order some more of the charcoal. EZ's pattern is for a 36" chest, and I am making mine as a 38" chest. But we'll see.
For the Fair Isle Yoke Sweater, MS suggests adopting some of EZ's later discoveries, and I am planning to incorporate the short-row shaping for the back (in order to make the back of the neck opening taller than the front, and so more comfortable). I am also considering incorporating a bit of waist shaping, but I am not sure yet about that.
Either way, I have swatched and determined my needle size, casted on, and begun the bottom edging. May your 2011 be full of opinions!