Wednesday, 6 May 2009

Elizabeth Zimmerman's Knitting Workshop

My DVD arrived safely. I've been watching it over the last week - mostly when I should be doing something else. Just as I should now, come to think of it! Anyway, I'm pleased with it and glad I bought it. It's on odd little programme though. Because it is billed as a TV series, I was kind of expecting something glossy and edited - this is very, very, very homemade. If Elizabeth drops a needle, we hear it clatter to the floor. If Elizabeth forgets what she is saying, she stares at the screen until a little voice off camera reminds her of what she should be doing and saying. If the phone rings, they don't re shoot. A cat wanders into shot. 'Good heavens! A cet!' says EZ. This is disconcerting at first - but the nice thing about it is that we see Elizabeth get her sums wrong, lose her crotchet hook and tangle her yarn. Even knitting goddesses goof off!

I knew EZ was born in the UK, but I was also expecting an American, so it was a surprise to find that she was of the British genus 'posh, brain-the-size-of-the-universe and slightly batty'. Think two fat ladies and the kind of people you meet at pony club camp and guides. Think Lady Bracknell and head teachers. Think piercing cut-glass accent. 'We're going to make a het,' she announces. 'Pay attention.'

The het is the only garment you get clear instructions for - you need the book for the other garments, and that's not easy to find in the UK. I might have a better look sometime. I must be able to find one. Anyway, I still think the DVD is worth it, because having got used to the low production values and over the shock of the persona, it's easy to see why this DVD still sells. The content is knitting gold.

I think the main difference is in the approach. It is not a how-to exactly, I think only beginners who are very confident and good at numbers and picking up motor skills could start knitting with only this DVD. It's more a case of how to approach how to knit - a whole step back into philosophy. There are six hours of TV and lots of the iconic garments are shown. She talks about the percentage system and encourages you to set about figuring out your own knitting, while showing you lots of examples of inspiring knits. I'm very pleased with it, but not being that accomplished with working out my own numbers, I've already ordered my next DVD, Meg Swanson's Lupine Cardigan, which talks you through the entire garment.

I do think the instructional DVDs are worth it. How much is the yarn for one garment? How bitter is failure? If I could afford it, I'd have them all now!

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