mercoledì 31 luglio 2013

Elizabeth Zimmermann - artist, designer, knitter, mathematician!

I am not going to say anything new here.. but bear with me anyway! As you all have probably figured out by now, I am a great fan of Elizabeth Zimmermann. My reasons are many, but perhaps what I like best about EZ is her mathematical efficiency. She aims to accomplish the most with the least amount of effort, resulting in seamless or almost seamless garments. Construction is the key and the amount of math that goes into all of her pieces is mind-boggling. Perhaps, the best known of her mathematical formulas is Elizabeth's Percentage System (EPS) for knitting a custom sized sweater in which every measurement is a percentage of the largest circumference of the sweater, which she calls K, for key number.
But I have discovered that math is the leitmotif in all of her designs. She loved garter stitch not only because of the lovely squishy texture it creates, or because there is no purling,  but also because "it has a wonderful mathematical characteristic: 10 ridges of garter stitch (20 rows back-and-forth) measures EXACTLY the same as 10 stitches. Thus corners may be knitted at an exact 90 degree angle (made up of two 45 degree triangular sections) a thing which cannot be achieved -- as you surely know -- in any knitted pattern based on stocking-stitch." (Knitting Workshop, p. 91). Every EZ pattern I have knitted or read is based on series of simple repetitions based on mathematical equations. She uses these repetitions along with an ingenious use of simple stitches and knitting techniques to contour the fabric as it is knit, moulding it into a hat or a sweater or a mitten. The beauty of all this is that she has done all the figuring so you don't have to!
This week I have been experimenting with a roving from the Pecunia Collection purchased through Lanaquilana.  Since this roving is very similar in weight to the Sheepsdown yarn that EZ uses for so many of her creations, I decided to use it to knit some hats from EZ's collections. While  I  have found that the Pecunia roving is a good substitute for EZ's sheepsdown, what has intrigued me most is the math in the simple repetitions used to achieve virtuously seamless hats, some quite stylish, some quite amusing, all quite warm!

I started off with the Conch hat in the 3 spiral version, of which I also inadvertently made a perfect 4 spiral version, proving that if you use the right percentages of stitches from the very start your hat will come out just fine!



This particular hat is as beautiful inside as it is outside. Here is it turned inside out - and it could be easily worn this way!









Here I turned it inside out and folded it onto itself to show off the swirls

I love this picture of the inside, you can really see why EZ called it the Conch hat!
The formula or recipe for this hat calls for casting on a number of stitches that equals the circumference of the brim. Once the brim is finished, the stitches are increased by 1 and a half. At this point the stitches are divided into even sections; then the characteristic spirals are formed by making a decrease at the start of each section and completing the section with a special increase to form the characteristic ridge... you will have to read the pattern for the rest of the story, but the results are fascinating... beautiful both inside and out, this hat is sure to get compliments each time you wear it!

My next hat was the Maltese Fisherman's Hat, which EZ "unvented" when a friend brought her back a fisherman's hat from Malta. Of course she added her own personal touch by shaping the back neck and ear flap section with short rows to make it hug the back of the neck and stay close around the ears, keeping your favorite  fisherman or fisherwoman warm and toasty!

This hat starts off with a rectangular section which is then shaped with short rows, once again using a repetition based on a simple equation of (x+1) followed by (x-1). Once the neckband is complete the crown is worked in the round and shaped with another simple repetition plus a special decrease (p2tog) to achieve an attractive ridge. The final touch to this amusing piece of headgear is the tassel. I wanted a feminine version so I continued decreasing until I had 4 stitches on my needles and continued on with an i-cord that I finished off with a chunky tassel. But if you want a more masculine hat, EZ suggests placing a button on the bottom of one ear flap and a button loop on the other. This way the flaps can be buttoned snug under the neck or, when the chill factor is not an issue, they be folded up and buttoned at the top of the head.


The last hat I tried with the Pecunia roving was EZ's Three Cornered Hat - a sort of Tam o' Shanter triangular in shape rather than round. Here again we see a numeric repetition for increases and decreases, together with the skillful use of easy stitches to give the hat a distinctive style - the folding ridge, the columns of two knit stitches used to divide the three sections.

I am now working on EZ's historic Katmandu hat - she says that the name of the hat "derives the earsit turned out to have". Originally published in Wool Gathering no. 20 which is out of print, it is now available in Spun-out no. 09 or in the book Knit One Knit All, published in 2011. Unfortunately I cannot use the Pecunia roving for this hat as it is worked in a worsted weight yarn. I have just started and already I see its contours starting to take shape thanks to a sequence of repetitions and an ingenious use of a simple slipped stitch on the wrong side! It has a knit in i-cord border and will be finished with an i-cord cast off and the application of i-cord ties.. I will surely keep you posted on my progress!!

4 commenti:

trameeorditi ha detto...

"I am not going to say anything new here.. but bear with me anyway"
per qualcuno è sicuramente un argomento nuovo e poi è bello leggere parole così appassionate!

SONIETSCHKA ha detto...

Ho fatto un po' di fatica a leggere il testo inglese, ma ne valeva la pena! Anch'io sono incantata dalla visione matematica dei suoi progetti.
Una curiosità: come veste il cappello a triangolo? Come un basco?
Un abbraccio, Sonia

Donna Lynne ha detto...

Ciao Sonia! Grazie per il commento!
Il cappellona triangolo è un basco. È molto carino! Se trovo una modella disponibile scatto una foto!
Xxoo Donna

Donna Lynne ha detto...

X trameeorditi, grazie!