Elizabeth, Julia, and Ratatouille
“Be the boss of your knitting” rings loud and clear in Elizabeth Zimmerman’s writings. I first heard of her many years ago and felt an immediate connection as she wrote about being freed from the confines of a knitting problem or pattern. As a child, I had actually seen this motto in action as my mom taught me to sew, knit, crochet, embroider, etc. Mom readily veered from a pattern if it wasn’t in keeping with her vision of how it should turn out and she passed on to me the same attitude. As an adult, I have taken Elizabeth Zimmerman’s words to heart in all areas of creativity, including painting and drawing, which was another strong passion of Elizabeth’s. I pass on this motto to others when I teach, explaining multiple approaches to getting a desired result. This allows the individual to choose what works best for him/her. The more you know about the creative pursuit at hand, the more easily you can make decisions “outside the box”. There are even times when one has exhausted all known options, and he/she comes up with something completely different that satisfies the ultimate goal. Knowing technical things such as how/when to convert a pattern to another gauge yarn, whether to tie knots or not, how to think about color and value, and understanding the concept behind a pattern helps you unravel the answer to a problem much better than blindly following the steps of a pattern. Blindly following patterns can sometimes lead you down a dark, frustrating path…one that makes me want to rip up my knitting and toss it out the window. I want to avoid that at all costs!!
Which leads me to Julia Child, the famous gourmande, teacher, and cookbook writer par excellence. In her book, My Life in France, she comments, “I had come to cooking late in life, and knew from firsthand experience how frustrating it could be to try to learn from badly written recipes. I was determined that our cookbook would be clear and informative and accurate, just as our teaching strove to be (pg. 144)…Our objective was to reduce the seemingly complex rules of French cooking to their logical sequences…it is not enough that the ‘how’ [of making hollandaise or mayonnaise] be explained. One should know the ‘why’, the pitfalls, the remedies, the keeping, the serving, etc.” (pg. 150) Having rediscovered my love for knitting and crocheting later in life, I too am frustrated with the amazing amount of patterns that so blandly, and incorrectly, lead us in our creative endeavors. There are so many places for error to occur in the writing of a pattern: the designer’s notation, the editor’s interpretation and revision, the typing, and even in the mind of the one knitting or crocheting as she tries to decipher the greek looking words on the page in front of her. I am setting out to make a pattern which will hopefully lead you to a happy conclusion with a finished, lovely item in your hands that you can be proud of. I am certainly not beyond error!! But I’m aiming to bring you patterns that will walk you through the process of making something, and show you where the dangers are and ways to avoid them or fix them.
Chef Gusteau, another gourmand, resounds his famous motto “Anyone can Cook!” in the delightful movie Ratatouille. To this I heartily say Yes! Anyone can Knit, Crochet, Paint, Draw, etc!! Of course it does take patience, determination, and passion. Actually, if passion exists in good measure, it will be the fuel for determination and patience. We all need encouragement, the right tools, AND guides…both in person and on paper. My hope is that you will find my patterns a helpful guide down a sunny path of beauty, enjoyment, and accomplishment.