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The Opinionated Knitter

4.47  ·  Rating Details ·  993 Ratings  ·  60 Reviews
"Many knitters consider the designs in Elizabeth Zimmermann's 'Newsletters' to be timeless, from her first Fair Isle issue in 1958 to the now classic Baby Surprise Jacket in 1968. Long time fans will welcome these old friends and new knitters may discover the freedom and creativity that Elizabeth's patterns encourage." 35 designs for hats, coats, sweaters, stockings, tight ...more
Hardcover, 128 pages
Published January 30th 2005 by Schoolhouse Pr
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Stitch 'n Bitch by Debbie StollerKnitting Without Tears by Elizabeth ZimmermannElizabeth Zimmermann's Knitter's Almanac by Elizabeth ZimmermannA Treasury of Knitting Patterns by Barbara G. WalkerThe Knitter's Handy Book of Patterns by Ann Budd
Must-have Knitting Books
14th out of 176 books — 162 voters
Creepy Cute Crochet by Christen HadenKnitting Without Tears by Elizabeth ZimmermannThe Knitter's Book of Yarn by Clara ParkesAnticraft by Renee RigdonThe Opinionated Knitter by Elizabeth Zimmermann
Yarn and Fiber Books
5th out of 10 books — 1 voter

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Community Reviews

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Mar 05, 2014 Elizabeth rated it it was amazing
Oh, wool gathering...

I really LOVE this book of newsletters that Elizabeth Zimmermann wrote over the years. Her handwritten notes and personal musings are charming.
Her personality really shows through and her designs are (frankly) badass.

As a non-linear gal, I am in love. swoon.
Nov 11, 2008 Katy rated it it was amazing
I am in love with this book. Many of EZ's vintage publications only have her charming hand-drawings or black-and-white photos, while this book is full of gorgeous full color, full-page photos. It also has a goodly amount of biographical information to give the reader a bit of insight into this most-charming pioneer of modern knitting.

I haven't tried very many of the patterns (shame on me!) but I am looking forward to trying the baby bonnets, and I have a Baby Surprise Jacket on the needles righ
May 10, 2016 Julie rated it really liked it
A classic among knitters, and simply delightful!
May 06, 2016 Peggy rated it it was amazing
It's probably a little weird to write a review for a book of knitting patterns--but this is so much more!

Elizabeth Zimmerman wrote newsy leaflets from 1958-1968 which included some of the most spectacular knitting patterns for sweaters and hats. But they also included her brand of humor, and were imbued with good will, good nature, common sense and encouragement. The original news letters are reprinted in this book, as well as photos and little vignettes.

I got The Opinionated Knitter because I
Jennifer Ochoa
May 17, 2015 Jennifer Ochoa rated it did not like it
Shelves: 2014, read-kept
For advanced knitters. Patterns are written in a general way, not line by line, so I can see a lot of people needing help interpreting them. Mostly sweaters and I don't see a lot of projects I am personally interested in, but there are a few. Includes the famous (and famously hard to find) Baby Surprise Jacket.

Update 1: Trying to work a pattern from the instructions in this book is pretty hard if not impossible. Thankfully, I have websites to help. Did knitters in the 1960's not need explicit in
Moni Smith
Aug 09, 2008 Moni Smith rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: Knitters!
The Opinionated Knitter is a collection of Zimmerman’s newsletters from 1958-1968. The newsletters came about when EZ saw the printed version of her (now famous) knit-in-the-round fair isle yoke sweater published in Women’s Day. The pattern called for the knitter to knit it in pieces and then seam it up! (can you believe that?!?) So she decided to print her own patterns and send them to people as newsletters. The book contains all kinds of fantastic patterns that include the Baby Surprise Jacket ...more
Sep 09, 2015 Anne rated it it was amazing
Shelves: knitting
Elizabeth Zimmerman was witty, clever and didn't take herself too seriously, as when she advised readers that in a pinch they could replace the pin in an outboard motor with a number 7 needle. This book includes her famous Baby Surprise Jacket, but I couldn't figure out the part about narrowing for the cuffs. Fortunately, many Ravelers ( have made this jacket and are willing to share their help. Worth reading for the laughs alone.
Jan 29, 2012 Elizabeth rated it it was amazing
Shelves: knitting
Elizabeth Zimmermann is a genius. A true genius. And, since her oeuvre is knitting, some may dismiss her as unimportant. She is anything but. EZ was to knitting what Julia Child or MFK Fisher were to the world of food. She was inspired, authentic and a true original.

If you pick up this book expecting just another book of knitting patterns or a how-to knitting book, yes, you will be disappointed. If you merely want a copy of the pattern for the Baby Surprise Jacket, then go to the local yarn shop
Aug 28, 2011 Nicole rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: Anyone who loves knitting!
Shelves: knitting
You know, it's just a collection of her newsletters to her yarn shop customers over about ten years, plus some additional text from her daughter, updates to the newsletter patterns, and some prose from EZ, but it makes for delightful reading (not to mention the invaluable patterns, which comprise a course in basic knitting and do much to guide the pattern knitter toward a deeper understanding of the fundamental adaptability of knitting). It's like a visit with an old friend you never had. Some p ...more
Jul 08, 2010 Joan rated it liked it
Shelves: needle-arts
I bought this book to make the classic 'baby surprise' sweater - which is a really interesting one piece project that is then assembled into a sweater by sewing up the arm/shoulder seems. Perhaps knitters were better at following directions that I am, but after several frustrating 'frogs' (named because one 'rip-it' out and starts over), I finally followed a friend's advice and supplemented the instruction in the book with a 'cheat' sheet. It is unfortunate that the folks publishing the book don ...more
Jul 08, 2008 Naomi rated it it was amazing
Shelves: knitting
An absolute treasury in every respect. Dozens of patterns and tricks to make each one of them look and fit perfect. Many of the patterns here are also in Knitting Without Tears, but this is the Reader's Digest version; most instructions fit on half a page leaving lots of room for other knitting tidbits, photos, letters from EZ, and comments from her daughter, Meg Swanson.

This time through I am enjoying all of the items she has for sale in her newsletter - what kinds of wool and which books and w
Jun 23, 2016 Cynthia rated it it was amazing
I LOVED this book so much that I would only allow myself to read a few pages a night because I didn't want the book to end!!
Nov 12, 2007 Heidi rated it really liked it
Shelves: craft-howto
I absolutely love Elizabeth Zimmerman. She's witty and wise and absolutely fearless when it comes to knitting. And her confidence inspires readers to do what they didn't think possible (like knit in the dark).

I bought this book for the "baby surprise sweater" pattern, and though at times I was skeptical, it turned out just like she said it would. I plan to make more.

My only complaint is that her instructions are always a bit vague. That stems from her confidence and improvisational style--she wo
Anita Themer
Feb 25, 2016 Anita Themer rated it it was amazing
Love EZ! Fantastic knitting book, written as if she is just sitting next to you chatting.
Aug 09, 2016 Emmalee rated it liked it
Shelves: non-fiction, crafts
If you want to know what EZ's patterns were like when she was running her newspaper, this is the book for you.
Nov 24, 2010 Joy rated it really liked it
Loved it. I read this in preparation for my knitting guild's celebration of what would have been EZ's 100th birthday and I loved it. I have read some of her other books before and I enjoy her musings on life as well as knitting. This book is called "The Opinionated Knitter" because that is what she wanted to call her first book, but the publisher called it "Knitting Without Tears" instead. There are lots of patterns for people who knit and lots of musings and ideas for those who don't. For this ...more
Jan 13, 2015 Ruth rated it it was amazing
Like all of EZ's books, wonderful!
Nov 30, 2009 Hope rated it really liked it
I borrowed this book, but I'm tempted to buy a copy to keep. The patterns are very good, and EZ's writing is a lot of fun. Once I'm done with Winter Holiday Knitting, I want to make a Baby Surprise Jacket - it's just too odd a thing to miss :)

EZ takes a very three-dimensional approach to knitting. If something should curve, she shapes it with the stitching. She very clearly understands that knitters want to knit, so there's very little sewing up in these patterns. I definitely plan to track dow
Sep 26, 2007 Cayenne rated it it was amazing
EZ amazes me. She amazes me with her humanity, her self-confidence, her generosity, her life philosophies. She was definitely one of those "salt of the earth" sorts of people. I never knew her, but I feel as if I know her very well through reading her books. She was a very gifted knitter and she used that gift to help others. She is one of my heros. I mean, she and her husband would dye Easter eggs, hide them from each other the night before, and wake up Easter morning to an Easter egg hunt. How ...more
Feb 25, 2010 hidwood rated it it was amazing
Shelves: craft-books
This book is fabulous! I knew how to knit before reading this book, but this book and its author turned me into a knitter. I was only about half way through the book when i decided to knit a sweater for my dog - without a pattern! This is something I never would have considered before this book. Elizabeth Zimmermann's book gave me the confidence to experiment and have faith in myself. It was inspirational in other ways as well, giving the reader a dose of philosophy sprinkled through out the kni ...more
Mar 15, 2012 Sara rated it really liked it
The queen of knitting, this is one of the essential knitting books. I seem to be unable to read it word f or word. I'd love to be taught the EPS method, but I seem to have problems with learning it from a book. I think it is because we are so media oriented nowadays, that we are spoon fed information. This book includes the classic Baby Surprise jacket and an adult version. I should really knit this someday. It's on my knitting bucket list!
Apr 26, 2011 Manda rated it it was amazing
Love love love EZ's style. I think because some of the first things I read about knitting were by her or by Stephanie Pearl-McPhee I picked up their somewhat laissez faire approach to knitting, but I understand a lot of people learned in a much more structured environment and grew to be afraid of "doing it wrong." She is a good antidote for that. My summer project will be the first sweater in this book, the Fair Isle Yoke Pullover.
Apr 24, 2011 Kari rated it it was amazing
This is lovely. A knitter being a knitter. I know that only makes sense to knitters. We will try to knit everywhere. In the car, in the store, but on a motorcycle- that one is beyond me. Elizabeth's designs are lovely, timeless. The fact that these patterns are timeless means that they are still wonderful and wearable even after all these years! So I recommend this to knitters and those who know them.
Mar 12, 2009 Sasha rated it liked it
Shelves: nonfiction, crafts
I love this book, but I find the patterns hard to read. They're in typewriter font, written idiosyncratically... I never thought I would prefer the sterile code of regular patterns, but I find that now I do!

However it's really fun to read EZ's newsletters and journal entries, as well as the notes from her daughter & co. This is the first EZ book that I've read.
Feb 22, 2008 Kirstin rated it it was amazing
Shelves: want-to-buy
Some people walk to the beat of their own drum, that was Elizabeth. Reading this reminded me of a few other friends of mine who may or may not knit but they certainly don't knit to a precise pattern.

Elizabeth showed me as she showed so many that it's okay to strive towards being an individual, to be someone you would admire.
Jun 10, 2010 Shannon rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: knitters, crafters
Was there even knitting before Elizabeth Zimmerman? It's not that her techniques are ingenious, though they are, and it's not that she revived some forms of knitting, which she did. It's that she has absolute faith in every knitter to create, to improvise, to design, and to enjoy. And she makes me smile on every page.
Oct 24, 2011 Carrie rated it liked it
I thought I would just leaf through this and look at the patterns and, maybe, read bits and pieces about patterns in the book. In short, I thought it would be like a regular knitting pattern book. It wasn't and it was wonderful. Even more chatty than her other books and full of whimsy and inspiration.
Jeanette Noechel
Jan 15, 2014 Jeanette Noechel rated it it was amazing
Classic, excellent!
Aug 10, 2012 Jessica rated it it was amazing
Shelves: onhand, knitting
elizabeth zimmermann is the godmother of smart knitting. her patterns are oriented towards the math-literate, and this collection of her newsletters offers a great view into knitting's past, and a wonderful treasury of easy-to-understand don't-worry-about-coloring-outside-the-lines patterns.
Jun 02, 2008 Bianca rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: Anyone who knits.
Thanks to Geeta for sending this book my way. It's a must-have for any knitter's library--not just for the classic patterns, but for the window it provides into an earlier moment in knitting history and culture, and especially for EZ's writing which is clever and humble at the same time.
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An influential knitting pattern designer, teacher, and writer, Elizabeth Zimmermann advocated knitting techniques to speed progress and simplify pattern creation. She enthusiastically championed Continental knitting, where the working yarn is carried in the left hand, as opposed to the English or American style where the working yarn is carried in the right hand. She also advocated knitting in the ...more
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“(knitting while on a motorcycle)
"For several years she knitted in secret (my father would not approve; she was to concentrate on motorcycling and LEAN into the curves, etc), and used a small circular needle (socks and mittens) in order to keep the knitting in her pocket until they were under way; then she leaned back slightly so Gaffer couldn't feel the movement of her hands.
On the interstate one day, they were slowly passing a semi and my father happened to see the truck driver laugh and point out my mother's knitting to his passenger. Whoops-”
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