Wednesday, September 02, 2009

Stalking, but in a good way

I had the most thought-provoking conversation the other night with one of the newer members of the Noble Knitters group.

She's a new mother (well, new for the third time) and a relatively new knitter and she was looking interestedly at the red Baby Surprise Jacket I was knitting away on. Then she realized that Debra is also making a BSJ. And that Laurie just finished one. And that we were all talking about having made one or planning the next one. Then I told her that there's a group of Ravelry knitters dedicated to this pattern.

And she thought that was ... creepy. Like we were all stalking the same pattern in a sort of weird way.

And it cracked me up. Because right now on the internet, hundreds of knitters are knitting Baby Surprise Jackets and talking about it. And the latest Yarn Forward magazine had a picture of it in an article about Elizabeth Zimmermann. (Or really, about Meg, her daughter, but how could you tell her story without talking about the Baby Surprise?)

I guess it's just as well that she didn't see this picture of a bunch of BSJ's made by the St. Louis Knitting Guild!

In fact, what's darned amazing about the whole thing is that we're all making a bizarre little blob of a pile of knitted fabric that somehow--magically--turns into a little cardigan, designed 40+ years ago when EZ was becoming a grandmother for the first time.

She published that pattern in a newsletter and later in a book and her daughter still sells it on what appears to be a many-times xeroxed piece of paper for about $3 and ... grandmothers are still knitting it.

Creepy? Maybe, but I prefer to think of it as homage.

The first real knitting book I ever owned was Knitting in Plain English by Maggie Righetti. She's the one who taught me how to make a yarnover the right way. I had been taught to knit by my grandmother, but she was quite old at the time and really only taught me to form the knit and purl stitches. I went out (at about age 11) and bought a pattern at Woolworth's and a skein of Red Heart yarn and knit a sweater. Over the years, I continued to knit ... alone ... and probably made a lot of mistakes that an experienced knitter would have corrected immediately.

That's what Maggie did for me--she helped me figure out what was going wrong and how I could fix it. (It killed me to move to Atlanta and realize that Maggie had been an early member of the Atlanta Knitting Guild before she moved to California--I was THAT close to knowing Maggie Righetti!)

I'm pretty sure the reason I'm still knitting 40 years later is Maggie--she gave me the confidence to make mistakes and correct them and learn from them.

And that's what EZ has done for many, many knitters. She's been dead for several years and we're still knitting her patterns. The darn thing is written almost incomprehensibly, so there are Wikis and websites and Excel spreadsheets (was Excel even a gleam in Bill Gates' eye when EZ was knitting the BSJ?) and YouTube videos dedicated to interpreting this pattern, not to mention all the blogs where someone's made one in stockinette or in stripes or out of recycled trash bags or gum wrappers, for all I know.

And we're still making them. Stalking, if you will. At least I am--one almost done and two more to go, this round. (I seem to be stuck on the buttonhole row--I am paralyzed, worrying about whether it's going to fall on the correct side or not. I should probably do the EZ thing--knit one on each side and close up the offending one later. That would at least get me off the starting block.)

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