Blog #3 Meg Swansen on Valentine's Day, Elizabeth Zimmermann Knitting Hearts, and Skiing
How well I remember sitting at the dining room table with construction paper, scissors, and glue, making Valentine’s Day cards for everyone in my elementary-school class. And how exciting it was to discover that, if you fold the red construction paper in half and cut out just half a heart along the fold line... voilá !
But what if you were asked to knit a heart? Ummm, maybe cast on two stitches and increase each side of them until heart-width had been achieved. Then possibly a series of staggered short rows on each half to swing around the curved top, and, ummm, then something or other.
How did my mum (Elizabeth Zimmermann, EZ) ever come up with the idea to cast-on around the periphery of a heart, and shape it internally?
Protect your heart (or your hands)!
The Potholder with the loop at the bottom is actually two identical hearts (different colors on each side), stuffed very slightly with fabric and united with EZ's Applied I-Cord.
Several years ago we found a page EZ had written just after Valentine’s Day, in the 1970s, and included it in the expanded edition of her book, Knitting Workshop (see page 104).
Elizabeth sends her love!
As Cully was editing and doing the layout on the new edition, he became intrigued by his grandmother’s knitted heart, and, besides the detailed instructions for the prototype heart on 61 sts, he expanded the concept to include a variety of sizes from an initial cast-on of 31 sts, all the way (in 10-stitch increments) to 81 sts (see page 106 of EZKW).
Choose the size of your heart!
Here are some of Elizabeth's comments on the knitted heart:
“Don’t ask me how I invented this; I really don’t know. We were driving home from Maine, having picked up the girls after a winter’s waitressing at a ski-hotel, and the chatter was fascinating and mouth-stopping. I just kept on knitting hearts and hearts and hearts -- perhaps fifteen of them -- until this one almost knitted itself.”
Have a pure heart!
The white heart has EZ's Built-In I-Cord around the outer edges, and the center dbl-dec stitch is purled on the "wrong" side to emphasize the center line.
Give your heart to someone else!
EZ's Heart Hat is a cute bonnet on both young and old heads. For the ties, work a long length of free-standing I-Cord, apply it onto picked-up-stitches around the face, then a matching length of free-standing cord on the other end.
The girls EZ mentioned in her journal were my sister Lloie and me, and the ski-hotel was the Sugarloaf Inn.
One of Elizabeth Zimmermann, Ltd’s (the original name of Elizabeth's business) dear knitting cussies and her husband had boldly taken on the job of managing the first hotel built on Sugarloaf Mountain near Kingfield, Maine. As Maryanne and EZ casually corresponded with each wool order, Maryanne mentioned that they were looking for employees. Well, said EZ, I just happen to have two skiing daughters...; Lloie and I packed our bags.
Because overweight luggage was so frightfully expensive, we had the brilliant idea to WEAR our 40-lb ski-boots on the trip and pack our shoes. We flew from Milwaukee to Boston and had a 5 hour layover at Logan, where we tromped loudly and painfully around the airport until our tiny plane took off for Fairfield.
We became ski-bums at the newly-built Inn for the 1961-’62 season, working as waitresses in exchange for our room, board, and season lift tickets. Since we had only to serve breakfast and dinner, we had all day/every day to ski.
Try not to smoke; it's bad for the heart!
Yes, those are beastly cigarettes in each of our hands; the 1960s!
In order not to break our skiing-every-day record, the morning that the thermometer registered minus-40-degrees (Lloie remembers minus 42... and there was no such thing as ‘windchill’ in those days), we suited up, climbed to the hill and found that the lifts were running -- although there was not a single skier on the mountain. We rode up (singing Everly Brothers tunes at the tops of our lungs) and skied down. It was a bit painful to breathe on the way down, and our nostrils stuck together (each of our individual nostrils; not to each other!). Then we quickly hustled back to the lodge.
We made masses of money (upon checkout, people tipped us by leaving envelopes of cash at the front desk), but we were many miles from the nearest town and our only spending opportunity was the ski-shop on the mountain. We each bought new pairs of Kneissl skis and boots and, since we were the same size, we bought Bogner stretch pants in every color available. Of course we also had heaps of gorgeous hand-knitted ski-sweaters to share.
Wear your heart on your sleeve!
A wonderful use for hearts is elbow patches on old loved, and well-worn sweaters. The finished heart has a natural curve to it, which snugs around the elbow.
It was a thrilling season with a record amount of snowfall, and skiing was still going strong when our parents came to pick us up in May. We drove back to Wisconsin (pausing in New Hope for a few blissful hours) and our ma invented her ingenious Garter-stitch-heart on the trip home.
During that winter, Dave McCoy had brought the US ski team to Sugarloaf for a week, and he invited the two of us to ski-bum at Mammoth Mountain in California the following season -- which we did. That is another story.
Surround yourself with love!