Ms Zimmermann

Ok Men

Want to look at the whole Top Down approach to knitting - so many of you have mentioned Elizabeth Zimmermann.

I have looked in the bookshops here and can't find any copies so will have to buy on line. Which is the best book for someone who wants to learn top down designing rather than just following a pattern.

I feel like I am past the baby steps now so happy to get something more technical...which one do you guys recommend??




ronhuber's picture

Actually, EZ was not a fan of top down knitting. She felt all the fun stuff (increasing or decreasing) was done too soon and then all you had was boring old sleeves and body. None of her books have a pattern for a top down sweater. That being said "Knitting Without Tears" is a wonderful book to have. They all are, but that one will give you an idea whether or not you like her approach to knitting.
Barbara Walker has a book about top down sweater design.
is a sweater pattern that I have known others to use. Once you use that one you can probably develop your own as I have done.
Hope this hasn't muddied the waters.

WillyG's picture

Like Ron said, EZ leads you from the bottom up... I managed to obtain 'Knitting Without Tears' (Simon and Schuster) for a mere $3 on clearance at a bookstore, and knit a raglan sweater from the percentage system described within. EZ's 'Knitter's Almanac' (in the US, $8 through Dover Publications) gave me the confidence to make up my own aran sweater (well, I made a vest).

Knitting Without Tears is a good introduction to EZ, and while The Opinionated Knitter has perhaps a better summary of her Percentage System for sweater design, KWT really gives you a neat basic introduction to knitting... things like gauge, washing your wool garments, the Make 1 increase, phoney seams, and name a few. And you still get recipes for four basic sweater constructions.

For top-down construction, I'd recommend Barbara Walker's 'Knitting From The Top' (Schoolhouse Press). I used her recipe to design a v-neck sweater vest for my dad. Walker's book gives instructions for designing just about anything knit top-down, including harem pants. Just sayin'. Okay, harem pants aside, I heartily recommend 'Knitting From the Top.' It really is chock full of recipes for top down designs of various sweater (and hats, pants, and skirts) constructions, and then some useful tidbits such as a provisional cast on.

But since you have to order online, I recommend looking at Schoolhouse Press's bookstore. That's the business started by EZ herself, and I daresay any book in their store is worth having. And since you're ordering online, why not do a two-fer and get Knitting From the Top and Knitting Without Tears? They'd make for an interesting comparison study, I think, and invaluable reference tools.

I'm a bottom rather than top starter because that way I can try-on and modify neck, sleeve cap and shoulder shaping more easily if it is near the cast-off edge. To allow for adjusting body or sleeve length, I use a variation of provisional cast-on, and pick up afterwards to knit ribbing.

Kerry's picture

Ron and willyg have given good advice about books. I'll just add that if you were a member of the Knitters Guild of NSW, you would have access to their extensive library. I belong to the Inner City group that meets at Surry Hills library on the second Saturday of the month 11am to 1pm. The Inner City group has a small library at the meeting but the much larger Guild library is held at Epping (I think) and books are posted to you, unless you want to go to Epping when it is open.

WillyG's picture

I take it the Guild of NSW is an Aussie thing, right?

Kerry's picture

Yes, it's the formal organisation for knitters in the state of New South Wales with the state governor as the patron. It promotes excellence in knitting through certificate courses, and also provide judges for knitting competitions at city/country style shows. Area monthly meetings also act as any other group of knitters eg knitting, talking , eating.

PaulJMC's picture

Thanks gents,

Kerry, you have mentioned the guild to me before.... Definately going to check it out.


In cielo non c'e vino...beviamolo sulla terra!

Kenny's picture

Knitting from the Top, by Barbara Walker is awesome!!!

ivmanrob's picture

EZ's daughter Meg Swanson still runs the mail order business begun by her mom (now deceased). Her website is You can order books from there, or use the contact info at the bottom of the page. Meg is very helpful and extremely knowledgeable. I love to talk to her on the phone - she's so encouraging.

I have made all sorts of things using EZ's and Meg's patterns and techniques and have modified patterns armed with what I know from what I learned from them and their books I've bought. I highly recommend Schoolhouse Press to you. I've checked out several of their videos from our local public library and really enjoyed them also.