What the heck is it?

Although I have been a long-time knitter (35+ years) I am always interested in learning new things and trying a different technique. A few years ago I became an acolyte of the Elizabeth Zimmerman cult and have been happily knitting my way through various EZ projects. When I heard about Jacqueline Fee's "The Sweater Workshop" (originally published in 1983; 2nd edition in 2002) based upon EPS (Elizabeth's Percentage System) and the kooky looking Sweater Sampler I couldn't wait to give it a try.

After owning the book for over a year now, I finally got around to knitting the sampler while on vacation this week. Let me say that this little project is the most fun and educational piece of knitting I've ever produced! After finishing this puppy I am truly confident that I can design and knit any sweater (and really, any project) with absolute ease.

I would highly recommend this book and the Sweater Sampler to any beginning to intermediate knitter -- it covers the following techniques, knit in the round (although she also gives directions for flat knitting alongside): garter stitch; stockinette stitch; K1, P1 ribbing; twisted rib; K2, P2 ribbing; stripe in ribbing; knitted belt; cardigan border with placket and buttonhole; sweatshirt pocket; increases; knit stripe; purl stripe; raised stripes; decreases; two-color knitting;swiss darning (duplicate stitch embroidery); knitted i-cord; lacing round ; plain hem (with knitted in initial monogram); cast-off in ribbing; knitted i-cord cast-off; lace cast-off; afterthought pocket; short rows. I used one skein of Patton's Merino Wool and a few scraps of same for the color work, with size 7 US Knit Picks Options 16" circular needle and Takumi Bamboo DP needles (also size 7 US). The directions are very clearly written and easy to follow, step-by-step, with clear illustrations.

When you finish this little project you are truly on your way to becoming a master knitter and will be able to tackle any project or pattern with ease. And you can always pull out the sampler and look at it closely to determine what a technique is supposed to look like or the effect it has on your knitting. It is told that when Jacquie presented the Sweater Sampler to EZ she put it on her head like a hat and laughed heartily. I laughed a lot while knitting it too; it is a funny little thing with great value to me as a knitter.

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New York Built's picture

OK, Boys, listen up to this man.

Brian, you have mirrored the advice and counsel of one of NYC's best knitting teachers I know, Barbara Kerr, who five years ago made a similar recommendation to me, 'Let's make a Baby Sweater and do an Einsteinian Thought Experiment of "What if?'' while we're at it.'

That little tell-tale was my guide for two years, and shaved four years off my do-it-yourself learning curve.

I recommend to all newbies, beginners and those who have never done it because knitting garments is "too tough"...try this little thing, big man.

For anyone who wants to audaciously and fearlessly go where every knitting man should be;
for anyone who wants to take on almost any knitting project with confidence;
For anyone who wants to heartily laugh at the overwhelming absurd, simplistic, ill-designed and downright stupid current world of men's knitting projects - DO THIS ONE THING!

The lack of creativity and thought boggles me. But I can make my own, and I wish all the rest well. They shoulda, coulda, woulda made BETTER, or even, THE BEST.

Champagne for my real friends, real pain for my sham friends."
– Francis Bacon

Every person I encounter teaches me more about myself. Without whom not.

It works for women knitting for the men in their lives too!

gardenguy42's picture

Thanks Mark! From a former New Yorker now in Florida exile, LOL.

I have actually designed and knit a cardigan and am just about finished with it and it was unbelievably easy after finishing the sweater sampler. I'm getting ready to weave the underarms, steek the front, and add an i-cord border and it's finished. I can't believe all those years I wasted with patterns that didn't make sense to me, piece work, and the dreaded seam sewing when knitting seamless garments is so much easier and more intuitive.

Power to the male knitters! We can surely design much better stuff than is available now. Jared Flood is a good example of how the EZ approach frees the mind to do extraordinary stuff!

"You must be the change you wish to see in the world." -- Mahatma Gandhi

"You must be the change you wish to see in the world." -- Mahatma Gandhi

New York Built's picture

Regarding empowerment, I recommend the following for all men to add to their essential knitting library. If woken in the middle of night, and quizzed what was the core of knitting truth, I would proclaim....

ANY one of EZ's books. ANY ONE. You will learn more from her than you know now. And READ IT. Don't look at the out-of-style garments. Read carefully so you don't trip over her acid-tongued dismissal of stupid ideas or folksy Ma and Pa Kettle humor. Her ideas are simple, intelligent and direct.

Barbara G Walker's "Knitting From The Top Down". You will be taken to another level of thought from, next to, above and wrapped by EZ.

Priscilla A. Gibson-Roberts (truncated often here to PG-R) and Deborah Robson's "Knitting In The Old Way." The two pages on combined knitting alone was worth the cover price. I have never knit a pieced garment, and I never will. These gals will change your approach, your knowledge base and your knitting life.

Mary Thomas's Knitting Book. There's been a few new things invented since 1938, but this book keeps selling year after year. I invite you to discover why it's still in print.

"Champagne for my real friends, real pain for my sham friends."
– Francis Bacon

Every person I encounter teaches me more about myself. Without whom not.

Joe-in Wyoming's picture

Here, Here!!! Well, said, Mark. I don't own PG-R's book but have read it. Same with Fee's Sweater Workshop. [Heavens, I remember when it was the new sensation! Yikes!!] I love EZ's books for her down-to-earth wit, wisdom and plain fun as much as the things she taught me. One of which was to knit on and be willing to risk having something turn out horribly wrong, since all knitting teaches the knitter something new. After all, it's just knitting. -- Books, knitting, cats, fountain pens...Life is Good.

Books, knitting, cats, fountain pens...Life is Good.

mrossnyc's picture

I made the sweater sampler as one of my first 'projects' when I was teaching myself how to knit 6 years ago and I have to agree with you. The experience and clearly written instructions make understanding the techniques very easy.

From there, my first sweater was using PGR's Knitting in the Old Way, a full yoke sweater the % system. The next two sweaters were from patterns, one was modified considerably, the second, not so much. I'll be posting pics of it in the next couple of days since I've just finished piecing it together. I've got another one on the needles using PGRs book (a saddle shoulder seamless sweater). Hit a little stumble with the shoulders but I think I've figured out what to do.

In the process of researching saddle shoulder techniques though, I was reminded of EZ's Knitting without Tears and am thinking that I'm going to do a couple of the sweaters from that book, followed by some from Barbara Walker's Knitting from the Top.

While I've read these books, I haven't created any projects from them and feel it will only make the instructions clearer.

Anyway, for anyone else reading these posts, I think these books mentioned here are amazing and I wouldn't have learned what I've learned without them.

Cairo's picture

I really like the picture of that sampler. Now, did you just eye that all, or was there an actual pattern for it? Because I'd like to make one myself.

gardenguy42's picture

The pattern is in the book "The Sweater Workshop" by Jacqueline Fee. It is very easy to follow. Good luck!

"You must be the change you wish to see in the world." -- Mahatma Gandhi

"You must be the change you wish to see in the world." -- Mahatma Gandhi

Thank you for posting about the book! It looks very interesting and I have gone a head and ordered a copy.

TheKnittingMill's picture

Thanks for the heads up about the book. I'm a BIG EZ fan and the sweater sampler sounds perfect for where I'm at in my learning curve! Great job on the sampler! I'm definitely going to add this book to my knitting library.

“Properly practiced, knitting soothes the troubled spirit, and it doesn’t hurt the untroubled spirit either.”
-- E. Zimmermann, Knitting Without Tears