I’m a bit behind on sharing some of the wonderful experiences I’ve had in the past couple of months — like, oh I don’t know…. the day an original Elizabeth Zimmermann came walking through my door?
Many of you have hopefully already read about the surfacing of this historic garment over at Twist Collective and, if you haven’t, don’t worry — I’ll be directing you to the good stuff in just a moment.
Back in the spring, the lovely ladies of Twist came a calling with a question: Would I be interested in photographing an Elizabeth Zimmermann sweater that had recently surfaced through an old family friend in New Jersey? I paused momentarily to wonder seriously if I had slipped into one of my many knitting-fantasy-daydreams. When it seemed that, yes, this was actually happening, I mustered all of my self-control in an attempt to respond in a professional manner. “Yes. Yes, that would be fine.”
The sweater, knit with a heathered green, firmly spun, single ply wool, entered the apartment with a palpable silence, and, upon immediate inspection I found myself admiring its industrious, masterful technique. Right away the sheer Integrity with which this sweater was achieved became evident: not just its obvious cleverness, or knitterly construction (EZ’s Hallmark) but rather the serendipitous balance of tenacity and care that is so clearly present as your eyes maneuver over mitered hems, prim buttonholes and directional details.
At that point I muttered to myself something colossally obvious yet seemingly so epiphanous: “Elizabeth could really knit!”
Sunday Holm recreated the sweater after it was presented to her at a New Jersey LYS by Joan Morhard Smith, a childhood neighbor and friend of Elizabeth and Arnold. Read Sunday’s account of decoding and re-knitting the original here, and Joan Morhard Smith’s recollections of Elizabeth (“Betty”) here.
What a pleasure to spend an afternoon with this sweater and its re-incarnated version. I was truly grateful for the experience.
The original sweater, so well-worn after two generations of love and adoration under Joan’s roof, is a testament to the lasting power of good materials, good technique, and a good home — all the ingredients for Knitting’s finest heirlooms. Elbow holes aside (which I find make the sweater even more endearing, if that’s possible) this garment has taken its ardent wearers through two lifetimes with strength and grace. What could be better than that?
Among the other appreciations this garment conjured up that day, it incited me to reflect on one of our loftiest and most noble knitting aspirations — to spend a life making beautiful, lasting, technique-rich garments whose value and worth can never diminish.
Adding to the the thousands of times I’ve uttered these same words before in my life, both privately and publicly: Thank you, Elizabeth.